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Thursday, 28 August 2014

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Scout group is truly at the heart of its community

THE noise of youngsters blowing off steam is almost deafening – not that the committed leaders of Second Ulverston Scout Group are concerned.

It is Friday night and, far from loitering on street corners, as is the reserve of some youths, this group of children, aged 11 to 14, are indulging in some good, old-fashioned fun.

The sense of togetherness and friendship is palpable, as is the feeling of community sprit which courses through this organisation.

It is truly at the heart of the community.

No proof is needed. The whoops of delight that emanate from the scout hut, or the pictures of the many field trips and community activities that members enjoy, take care of that.

If it were, however, the simple fact that 70 youngsters are on the waiting list to join is enough to show exactly what this organisation means to Ulverston.

The scout group is based in humble settings, on an area of land off Priory Road. The group owns the building and is self-sustaining, needing around £4,500 a year to operate.

Gavin Knott is group scout leader and has dedicated 22 years of his life to the cause.

He said: “Being a part of the scout movement is very rewarding. We are helping to positively shape the development of the young people who are part of our group. I think I can tell the difference between those who have been through scouts and those who have not. Being a part of what we do helps develop and shape the group’s members. It allows them to take part in outdoor activities and fundraising.

“There was a period of time when the popularity of being a cub or scout dropped, I think because people saw it as old-fashioned or because parents did not want their children to be part of a uniform group. But that is changing now and we are seeing more and more parents signing their children up.”

The scouting experience starts at the age of six, when youngsters are eligible to become beavers. By the age of eight, they move through the cubs and, aged ten-and-a-half, they become scouts, where they will stay until the age of 14. At this point they become venture scouts.

The Second Ulverston Group has 40 beavers, 30 cubs and 30 scouts – and they could easily almost double that number, if they could crack the problem that is a shortage of people prepared to become full-time leaders.

Full training is provided and, although some weeks as little as an hour’s commitment is needed, the time spent working on things group-related means up to four hours a week will be spent by the group leaders making sure all is in shape.

Mr Knott said: “For me it is hugely rewarding to be a part of children’s development. It is as simple as that. We could do more if we had more people willing to become leaders. At the moment some of the children on the waiting list will never become beavers due to a shortage of leaders, and that is very sad.”

On a more positive note, the 70 children lucky enough to be a part of the movement are keen to be at the centre of the community. As well as their own fundraising activities – they have a flower sale on at the moment to boost funds – they will be helping out with the Hospice’s Walk to Remember in May. They will also be carrying out a bag pack at Booths on April 14.

The young members themselves perhaps sum up in as succinct a way as possible, what it means to be a member of the Second Ulverston Scout Group.

Jessica Oliver, one of the few – but expanding number of – girls at the group, is 14 and a pupil at Ulverston Victoria High School. She said: “My dad introduced me to the scouts and I love it. We do lots of interesting things; when the weather is good, we go out for activities. If it is bad, we stay at the hut. It’s a way of making lots of friends and I love it when we go camping.”

Jacob Harris, aged 10, was a cub before moving into the scout group.

He said: “It is enjoyable, fun and challenging.

“I really like the camping and the activities.”

And a final word, perhaps, to 10-year-old Francis Smith-Ward, a pupil of St Mary’s school who summed up the group and scouting experience in three words. “Enjoyable, adventurous and fun”, he said.

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