Focus Weekend, the Grassroots Fund & Meerkat

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Focus Weekend

It would have been Damboree Focus weekend this week, and as Current Front Man, I have been procrastinating on wanting to write something to mark it’s passing, and wondering what to say…

We’d been looking at running the focus over two weekend as we’d hoped to have Scouts involved this year,  we’d lined up Scout Radio to do one weekend, and we’d been planning our Damboree Alumni Weekend in September with BushScout.

It’s hard when we had such plans for this year, as many of you will also have had, and it’s all gone to pot.

Now might be a good time to start planning your Summer camps for 2021. It will also give your members something to look forward to when they return, and you can even get their help picking venues, and planning the programme, to give it a totally youth led feel.

Our badge criteria won’t change significanty for 2021, so if you want to include a Damboree or two in 2021, support your local sites. If you’re a District or County Campsite, and you would like support running Damboree Weekends for your campers, then let us know, we can point you in the direction of some people who are now experts on Damboree locally.

Our Focus Weekends will be 11th-13th, and 18–20th June 2021, all being well.

Grassroots Survival Fund Update

On April 29th we announced the that any badge sales for 2020 would go into a pot of money that would find it’s way to supporting the survival of grassroots scouting. We’ve still not finalised how, it may be a donation to the HQ fund for doing so, or handling grants ourselves through our District Exec (I don’t want anything to do with the decisions on that one). We’re at £342 now, and we’ve updated our thermometer to show that. If you want to buy a badge, or one of the prebuilt sets of badges, then they can be bought from out shop.

Our raffle later this year will also contribute to that pot, as will our auction.

Grand High Meerkat

In 2017 a certain Grand High Meerkat approached those of us who make up the Team to help him “fix” the fact that despite the rules for Beavers camping changing in 2015, that the message wasn’t getting through.

He felt strongly enough about doing Nights Away right to take positive action.

As we watch society change around us, with #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo, #ClimateEmergency campaigns all being driven by social media, it reminds us of the power of grassroots when it takes action to correct something that needs fixing.

Andy Sissions, Grand High Meerkat, put his social media presence to powerful use in starting a movement to change (or correct?) perceptions of Nights Away, and getting it right, and getting it right for Beavers.

Andy, when he was Current Front Man for Damboree, proved you don’t need to be a HQ driven initiative to make a real difference to members, you can do it without wanting to break records, large complicated programmes or create swathes of merchandise. Just a badge, an idea, an event, and a really catchy name.

Meerkat has admitted on numerous occasions that he couldn’t do Beavers (Something about being a trip hazard?), and that he had huge respect for Beaver Leaders doing what they do, ensuring that the Scouting journey starts Beavers in good stead, and gives Akela a headache in having confident and competent new Cubs. If Scouting gets Beavers right, (and hopefully Hedgehogs soon too!) then every other section leader wins along the way.

Andy decided a number of months ago that this summer would be his last as a Scout Leader in Kent, Covid has brought that to a premature end, with his public departure announced earlier this week.

The Damboree Team, the team he put together, in which I now keep his seat warm, wish him well on his hiatus and politely remind him that were it not for his vision, a large volume of Beavers would not be getting their first night under canvas until Cubs still, and nearly 350 Beaver Leaders might not have their camping permit, because of out-of-date attitudes and ageism that pervades in some areas of Scouting.

That is his fault, and blame lays squarely on his shoulders for that.

That is the legacy of the Grand High Meerkat, giving confidence to others to challenge something when it is necessary to do so, and speaking without fear or favour.

For that, UK Scouting should be, and I hope is, grateful, even if they could not stand him personally. I say this because the Grand High Meerkat has undoubtedly changed many lives for the better, which will ripple for years to come.

He’s changed mine immensely, for which I am grateful…..most of the time…

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