In a world of Playstations and iPods, there is a large group of youth keen on the outdoors, learning to build fires, engaging in physical activity beyond the playground and establishing a bond of brotherhood and sisterhood. These are the girl guides and boy scouts.
Far from being an antiquated tradition, South Africa’s boy scout and girl guide groups are thriving. They form part of the scouting movement established in 1907 by Robert Baden-Powell, a soldier in the Boer War, who sought to create an organisation of support and camaraderie among young boys.
Some 100 years later, there are 27 000 active girl guides across the country. Guiding offers girls a support system that continues for life. It’s about helping girls develop self-esteem, leadership skills, coping and life skills, confidence and the ability to take care of themselves.
The six tenets of development that guiding aspires to are spiritual, mental, physical, moral, social and emotional. Every exercise and activity feeds into developing one or more of these dimensions of self.
Where do you start?
Girls start off as teddies, become brownies, then guides and finally rangers. Each branch is different, with its own programmes, activities, exercises, uniforms, badges and so on.
The programmes are tailored to generally appeal and fit each girl’s personality. Girls are divided into groups of about six and spend a year together learning about each other, becoming friends and learning how to work together.
A program of inclusion and support
But guiding goes beyond creating a buddy network. Guiding can help introverted children come out of their shells and learn to interact with others. The programmes also make provision for disabled children. Guiding removes the rivalry factor, so every child ends up doing what is best for them and is awarded for it.
The scouts includes male and female members, numbering over 50 000. Scouts are challenged to do their best, they learn character development, life skills, get to spend time outdoors and make lasting friendships.
The benefit of girl guides and scouts
Spend healthy time outdoors
Parents like the fact that scouts and guides spend healthy time outdoors. Groups normally meet once a week and spend their time hiking, camping, canoeing, sailing, playing sport and engaging in building and agricultural activities.
Develop life skills
Children develop life skills, too, learning about recycling, alternative energy sources, learning first aid and working on community projects.
The award system
Each challenge culminates in the awarding of a badge. Guides and scouts can earn these for anything from learning how to build a fire, to pitching a tent, arranging flowers, completing a game and loads more.
It is a comprehensive programme with visible outcomes and achievements, from start to finish.
Girl Guides Association South Africa (011) 795 3767/8 - www.girlguides.org.za
The South African Scouting Association (021) 683 3910 - www.scouting.org.za