It is unfortunate that BSO has probably been impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic more than any other part of the UK Scout Association. In January we had the first China-based BSO Groups forced shut by the pandemic and I’m pretty sure that BSO Groups will be the last to reopen, possibly long after UK-based Scouting restarts.
The health of BSO has always been inextricably linked with the global economy and I’m afraid that another sad aspect of this pandemic is that the job security of the expatriate population will be hardest-hit in any global recession. I have asked District Commissioners to consider the impact this could have on their Scout Groups so we can manage any contraction in numbers. This is a horrible time for families and if job security is an issue, then please reach out to your Scouting friends for support as we must help each other and please keep your Group Scout Leaders informed if it looks likely you will be forced to move away.
And there have been some positives! We should all be proud of the impact that we’re having within the wider Scout Association. Whilst some of our Groups were closed a full three months earlier than the UK, we were able to develop and deliver online programmes across all sections. This demonstrated to the rest of the Association what virtual Scouting could look like and we were able to provide best-practice guidance across the UK.
The other positive is that we now have several countries where BSO operates that are starting to emerge from the lockdown. Local Governments and national Scout Organisations are providing guidance on how organisations like ours can restart providing face-to-face meetings and activities. This is providing some invaluable insight into how some 8,000 UK-based Scout Groups could be restarted. However, please remember that we are all part of a much bigger, UK-based organisation and our Groups are covered by the UK Scout Association’s rules, regulations, charity law and insurance. We are in a tough place as we are required to conform to both UK Scout Association regulations and your local regulations. The current ruling from The Scout Association is that no face-to-face meetings can take place without specific permission from the Area (via District Commissioners). We really want to see our Groups restarting and will champion your case to reopen when the time comes but we must abide also by the Scout Association’s rules. Restarting section meetings without permission introduces significant legal and insurance risk which is why our Scout Groups must seek written/email permission from the Area before restarting section meetings.
When the lockdown commenced, many of us jumped right in with an admirable enthusiasm to the creation of online programmes and virtual meetings. We’ve seen loo-rolls and scarves being thrown in every direction, an Area-wide St George’s Day camp (with a Uke playing AC!), Middle East and RoW District camps, virtual Area-wide Everest climbs, campsites in living rooms, balconies, gardens (and in one case a raft on a swimming pool!), scavenger hunts and much, much more. The effort that have gone into this is both fantastic and inspirational. I have enjoyed seeing the amazing parental feedback and their gratitude on the activities you’re delivering. I consistently hear that the online meetings are the highlight of the week for their child and for that you should be very proud.
I would like to finish by directly quoting part of a beautifully worded email sent to Middle East District members by the DC, Jane Warne, just a few days ago which echoes my thoughts exactly…
I would like to send my heartfelt gratitude to each and every one of you, for the time and dedication you have given and continue to give to this amazing movement that we all belong to. Being an adult volunteer with The Scouts is a wonderful thing, please do not ever forget that or under estimate the impact that you have on a young person’s life. Our movement follows a set of guiding principles that are embedded in over 100 years of history, each of which is wrapped around the development of young people. Scouting is about embedding skills for life, not just as a hashtag, but as a genuine investment that makes a very real difference to the confidence, personal development and prospects of young people.
But for me, scouting is so much more than that. For me, it is about you. You the adult volunteers, who tirelessly give up your time to run those meeting nights and push yourselves out of your own comfort zones, in order to support young people. It is about friendships that are made and can last a lifetime. It is about your personal development and the laughter you have in your scouting journey. It is about investing in people and recognising all that you do, week in, week out.
Yours in Scouting