A Scout is never taken by surprise; he knows exactly what to do when anything unexpected happens. – Robert Baden-Powell
In an earlier column article, I did mention that getting awards, be they scouting, state or national, are moments to savour for scout leaders.
However, these awards are just motivation for them to move forward in committing their time and energy via the noble act of volunteerism in the movement. With or without awards, scout leaders will go on actively in their community efforts; after all, it is this commitment that enables scouting to move forward as envisioned by our founder Lord Robert Baden-Powell, better known as B-P.
Volunteerism in serving the community and connecting to many people with the same goal and wavelength should be the real driving factor for our scouting involvement as leaders. But for the cub, boy and girl scouts, awards in the form of badges and certificates are vital impetuses for them to go further.
It is for this reason that in Malaysia, we have the scout badge scheme. For example, the Proficiency Badge System is to develop in each boy or girl scout the taste for hobbies or handicraft, one of which may give them a career and not leave him or her hopeless and helpless when going out into the world. It is a sort of encouragement for them to take up a hobby or a skill in particular. Besides, it can be helpful in forming his or her character or developing his or her skill.
This starts with the Cub Scout whereby their Progressive Badges will start with Keris Gangsa (Bronze Dagger), followed by Keris Perak (Silver Dagger) and then Keris Emas (Gold Dagger). For both the cubs and older scouts, they are given time to get their Proficiency Badges such as in cycling, collection hobbies, craftsmanship, cooking, mini gardening, reading and many more.
There are also Knowledge Badges such as First Aid, General Duties, Housekeeping, Lifesaving, Cooking, Camping, Trekking and dozens more. These are for boy and girl scouts.
There are many Hobby Badges and Service Badges too comprising every field and sector. These are opportunities for the scouts to fill up their uniforms with badges and at the same time obtain and develop their knowledge, skills thereby broadening their experience.
By virtue of having to obtain as many badges as possible, the boys and girls are usually occupied by their involvement in scouting activities, both indoor and outdoor. But it is the latter that most of them look forward too.
During our young days, as tenderfoots, we had to master the knots, bends, signs and others, especially when going outdoor. For the present groups of scouts, they are no different because to really invigorate the B-P spirit, there must be activities held in the field, by the river, in the woods or jungle.
In 1907, B-P organised what’s known as the “experimental” camp on Brownsea Island, off the coast of Dorset, England to put some of his ideas into practice. He brought together 22 boys comprising some wealthier children from private schools and some from ordinary working-class homes, and took them camping. It was the start of the Scout Movement; an event now commemorated with a foundation stone on the island.
A year later, the movement started its footing in Penang, which later spread to the rest of Malaya. For the record, 1908 was the year scouting reached Malaysian shores.
In 1934, Malaya welcomed Lord Baden-Powell and his wife Lady Olave Baden-Powell when they visited Penang, Kuala Kangsar and Kuala Lumpur. By 1913, the movement had made its footing in Kuching, Sarawak through the efforts of Reverend Thomas Cecil Alexander. But it only became active in 1930 and the rest is history.
Kids from the rural areas are born with skills to get them adapted to jungle life and as such are born scouts but this is not so with their urban counterparts. Being district commissioner in Serian and Bau gave me similar findings pertaining to the urban boys and girls whose jungle outing then was almost zero.
For that matter our camps in Krokong (Bau) and the foot of Bukit Semuja (Serian) were their initial jungle camping (staying overnight) which really opened their perspectives and horizons.
That also enlivened the Scout Law Number 4: A Scout is a friend to all and a brother to every other Scout. When I was DC in Kanowit, Saratok and Julau, most of the scouts were rural youth.
It is during camping that the boys and girls are exposed to the real outdoor life that perhaps relates to those 22 boys of Brownsea Island in 1907. They cook, laugh, sing, play games and sleep accordingly.
They practise responsibility, self-discipline in making own camps, beds, clean camps, fetch water, dig toilets, look for firewood and other chores necessitated, making scouting a real fun.