Opinions

On The Voyage Of A Pathfinder with Greg Andersen

I’ll be honest. I threw myself into Scouts because I watched a TV show about it and felt I would develop into a hardworking, strong, macho-man. I, despite resting my faith in the Boy Scouts of America, was wrong.

I never became that strong manly-man who in the show rescued people from burning buildings, or ascended mountaintops in a dramatic, action-packed and poorly filmed montage. In hindsight, I never wanted to be that person, instead I wanted to be the person who could look at themselves in the mirror and say “I’m happy.” And for many people, that is quite the feat.

So off I went, on a journey of Scouting, where I was met with rope, canvas and the infamous neckerchief. There were badges and woggles and uniforms and mountains and no matter where I looked there was always something new and exciting. It was a world filled with oodles of journeys, journeys, that unknown to me shaped me into the person I am today.

But what does one mean when they say “I wouldn’t be who I am without Scouts”? What does tying knots and paddling down a river have to do with forging ones identity and how can a group of people be so in-touch with who they are, all because of Scouting?”

It’s all very simple. It’s the road.

Regardless of what path of Scouting we take, be it an adventurous one, a political one, a volunteering one – we all walk down the same road. It’s a big bendy road with trees and lakes and beautiful scenery and full of smaller paths that lead off into all directions – your job as a Scout? To find the path that makes you feel at home.

As I said – it’s all very simple.

We get too caught up in the ideology of a ‘true’ scout. You know… that macho-man who climbs mountains and saves cats from trees and people from near death experiences, but that isn’t who I am. And I don’t consider myself anything less than a true scout because of it. And neither should you. A ‘true’ scout wears a neckerchief, is sprinkled with a little pride and stands on the shoulder of giants.

And that’s what we do. We are a family of these exceptionally gifted people, who make the world a better place, for ourselves, or for other people. A family brought together by one common promise – to do our best, and with that become anybody we want to. A family that, without discrimination take in people from all walks of life, because, like a family, we look out for each other. I am so very lucky to be a part of this family, to be a part of some purpose to the greater good.

And in this little family, I guess, was nothing more complex, than the fact that I became a little more human.

Conor O’Sullivan on How “Blood Isn’t Everything”, and Building a National Family

 

I’ve been in scouting Ireland since I was eight years old. During my term in this organisation I’ve made some friends for life. Some I will cherish till the day I die and have changed the world I live in. My perspective of the world and the opportunities I have are much broader than any other regular teenager. When I, or any scout, are away on camps or weekends we don’t have our family to fall back on. We can’t tell our mother that we are lonely, we can’t tell our father about the girl we like, we can’t ask our brother about formidable decisions and we can’t consult our sister about our fashion sense. We are alone when it comes to being around our own flesh and blood, but blood isn’t everything.

 

“Don’t walk in front of me…I may not follow

 Don’t walk behind me…I may not lead

Walk beside me… just be my friend” Anonymous

 

When we go away we are thrown out of our habitual routine into our scout lives, where some of us completely change. I gain confidence and charisma when I am away, and I am always backed and affirmed up by my scout friends. They become my family. They pick me up when I’m down, they look out for my best interests, they tell me the truth no matter how hard it hurts and they will always lead me through the darkness. They’re the greatest people in the world, and I don’t think I could go through a single day without talking to at least one of them.

 

“Scout friends are basically family, you can’t live with them and you can’t live without them…occasionally” Dara Murphy

 

I think the distance helps in a way, makes it more special; events become invaluable re-unions, where every second is treasured, every opportunity made the most of, because we’re constantly aware of how temporary this sense of belonging it is, how little time we have before we’re separated again, thrown back into the real world. We try to get so much catching up done in such little time that it almost seems pointless to those not in scouting, but to us it means the world. It’s indescribable.

 

“Through scouting I gained another family, a big, weird national family” Ben Raymond

 

I’ve had friends come and go but through thick and thin, my scout friends, or should I say scout family, have stuck by me.  This is something that every scout, young or old, can relate to in some way.

 

 “When I go to scout camps and meet new people it feels like I’ve known them for ages, everyone is so accommodating and welcoming it’s like a second family really, there’s always those few scouts/ventures/rovers/leaders that you don’t see very often but are the most attached to and seeing them every now and again at events or even meeting up outside scouting stuff it’s the best thing ever. Just thinking that if I never went to these camps or if I didn’t continue scouting altogether I wouldn’t have this kind of family, it’s weird.” Séan Cronin

 

That’s what differs scouting Ireland from most youth organisations around Ireland, and even the world. We are all united in one sole purpose, be it to pitch the tent in front of us, to help younger members cook themselves some pasta, or even as ambitious as to make the world a better place; and that’s what I believe was one of Robert Baden Powell’s primary motives for establishing this international community.

 

Yes one can ‘be prepared’ by having all the right equipment and know-how, but the most prepared person will have friends and family supporting them in their endeavors, backing them up. And this same person will constantly look to expand this family, to accommodate new people and to learn from them.

 

Conor O’ Sullivan

Ballincollig 49th Cork

(With a little help from Catherine Noble, 3rd Wicklow and Seán Cronin, 9thWicklow)

“I was going to stay home and dream about killing myself, but I had to run Beavers that night.”

I was going to stay home and dream about killing myself, but I had to run Beavers that night.

In Transition Year I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety and since then I have been on medication that mimics the lack of dopamine and serotonin in my beautiful malfunctioning brain. I hated life, every part of it. I wished that I would just die and it would all be over. In that situation, you don’t see the good in life. I felt I was a hindrance to everyone, people faked friendships with me and my counsellor was too busy to be dealing with someone like me. It’s frustrating because on a good day you see how your mind is playing tricks on you, but when you’re depressed you just see sludge. During my Leaving Cert I wished that I would die, I didn’t care about anything. Every day was a massive effort, an insurmountable mountain. Physically and mentally I was drained. There was such pressure on me to pick a career and start focusing on points, points and more points.

I would like to say that scouts changed my life. I would come home from school on a Friday evening, wrecked and pissed off and just massively down. I’d go down to scouts and run the beaver section. They just lightened up my life. Yes, I adopted a different persona around them and pretended to be happier than I was, but that really helped me – believe it or not, often when you’re that low, pretending to be happy and acting like things are okay actually has a proven positive effect on your mental disposition. They reminded me what happiness felt like.

Scouts was always the one place I felt that people liked me for who I am. For me that’s no makeup, tracksuits, jackets, hair scraped back, and onesies. It has made me develop as a person. I love my scouting friends. Unbeknownst to many of them, they have given me the courage to speak up, act out and make memories. The beauty of life is mirrored in scouting. Everyone is appreciated and listened to. I have spoken to so many older Scouts and had the craic, only to have my mind blown when I discovered they managed like, eleven companies. Sometimes you come across toxicity, but at those times you remember the reason you are still involved. I joined as a six year old because my father was a leader. At the age of nineteen, I’m still involved. I love every minute of it, every aspect; the uncontrollable sleep deprived laughter on a camp, sipping tea in a log cabin spilling your heart to people you met a few days ago, how acceptable it is to never not wear tracksuit pants.

Scouts is a worldwide movement. We want to make positive changes around us, and we want to create a better world. And thanks to Scouts, that better world still has me in it.

Katie Spillane

Image credits to Zara Bloomer

15 Venture Challenge Observations by Neasa Cumiskey

The Venture Scout Challenge is a huge event on the Venture Scout calendar. It sees teams of two walking 100km in 5 days, completing a number of challenges, dining on a budget of €4 each per day, and surviving without killing your partner. Challenge is not only a prestigious accomplishment to have under your belt, but also a fantastic experience that brings people closer together. However, there are some Challenge observations and rules that remained unspoken until we were left to discover them ourselves. Allow this list to be an aid to anyone hoping to do Challenge in 2016 or thereafter, and please do not take everything I say too seriously.

15 Venture Challenge Observations (as told by half of Team 1)

  • Do not spend the week leading up to Challenge nervously researching the ever-changing weather in Ireland because it will somehow terrify you into bringing shorts, sunglasses, and Ugg boots on the journey, just in case.

  • The moment you and your partner get deserted at your designated starting location is the very moment you will remember that you’ve forgotten your toothbrush or something equally as important at home.

  • You will never experience true horror until you are walking through a series of abrupt turns on the road and nearly get flattened by several merciless cars.

  • 100km by foot while carrying nearly your entire body weight on your back is agonising. Try using a skateboard to pull your rucksack alongside you or, if you’re feeling extra adventurous, use a donkey.

  • It is inevitable that as the days go on your odour will become somewhat offensive. This is a reminder that the words “Would you like a shower?” will be like music to your ears.

  • If it rains, somehow, somewhere, a part of your tent will leak. Even if it doesn’t rain your tent will probably leak. It’s better to just accept this before it happens.

  • You will never want to look at rice or pasta with disgusting 49c sauces ever again. These become your main meals on the road and you will crave Dolmio sauces all day, everyday.

  • The diversity of animals you encounter on the road will resemble that of a zoo. For example, my partner and I happened upon copious amounts of dogs, followed by a house with a peacock on its roof.

  • Do not take a pop up tent with you on the road unless you have a PhD in Advanced Origami and are willing to apply your doctorate every morning.

  • Someone will bring a guitar to Base Camp. They will only be able to play “Wonderwall” and they will play it proudly, much to the dismay of everybody else.

  • On the topic of Base Camp, you will find that the campfire loves you and wants to be close to you. It may be cold but don’t sit too close to the fire because looking like you, and your singed eyebrows, have been left in the oven for too long is not a good look.

  • While walking, you will remind one of a feral animal. People you meet will probably feel sorry for you and offer you food like you actually are one.

  • Once you are nice and toasty in your sleeping bag, you will immediately need to use the toilet. This sounds bad already, but is a lot worse when rain is involved.

  • At some point you will vow never to go camping ever again and question your entire existence. Additionally, people will think you are insane for doing Challenge at all, especially when you tell them you aren’t doing it for charity, but for a woggle.

  • On the road, you will find yourself praying for time to hurry up so you can get to Base Camp and see everyone. What you won’t realise, however, is that the time spent there enjoying yourself will go so fast that if you blink, you’ll miss it.

“A Scout Seeks Justice For All” by Sinéad Callanan

As members of a global community, young people who have promised to be kind and brave, and, well, humans, we have all been affected by what has been happening in Syria and the wider world. How could we not be? We are supposed to be committed to ‘creating a better world’, and right now the world seems to be just falling apart around us.

But what can we do? It all seems so far away, and we can feel a bit helpless. But, as Scouts, it is our duty to ‘do our best’ to help. We are all part of the same global community. We have promised to help other people. The Scout Law tells us that we need to take action; Scouts are Kind, Scouts are Brave, Scouts Seek Justice for All. Clearly the time has come where just sympathy for refugees no longer cuts it – we must start living our law and promise.

Of course, Scouting Ireland, and indeed Ireland, might not exactly ‘be prepared’ for this crisis, but if we take the example of our fellow scouts around the world, we can still make a positive impact on the lives of refugees. For example, Scouts in Lebanon are giving relief and support to thousands of the Syrian refugees in their country. As well as providing them with basic supplies and services, the Scout Federation of Lebanon are working towards the integration of the refugees, and helping them to feel comfortable in their new country. Similarly, in Germany, Scouts are providing immediate relief (for example, scout troops are volunteering in refugee camps on a huge scale), and making plans for sustainable involvement in helping refugees to feel at home in Germany.

But I suppose you could still be asking, what can we do? Ireland, compared to Lebanon and Germany, won’t have nearly the same influx of refugees, and they haven’t even arrived yet. But there is still plenty we can contribute! First of all, we can talk about it. We can be vocal about our support for refugees coming to Ireland, and about our fellow Scouts helping elsewhere. We can start a discussion about how we will be able to help and encourage the refugees who do come to Ireland, and about how we could make Scouting accessible to them. We can talk to our friends, family, and even our younger members about it, and encourage them to explore and understand what is going on. The most important thing is that we do something.

For some ideas and inspiration on what we could do, and to get the conversation started, check out the Lebanese Scouts and ‘My tent is your tent’, and ‘Helping young people learn about refugees’.

Sinéad Callanan,

Monaleen/Milford 33rd/40th Limerick

Katie Spillane on the Complexities of “Inside Out”

Towards the end of this Summer, Scouting Ireland ran a competition to be in with a chance to see the premier of Disney Pixar’s latest animation, “Inside Out”. If you haven’t seen it yet, well, do. Not only is the animation glorious, but the story line is sweet and poignant. After watching the movie, I couldn’t help but notice how important a film it is for younger people, and also the significance of Scouting Ireland happening to run a competition for it.

Inside Out is a film about the life of Riley, and the emotions in her head; Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger. The film follows Riley as her world is turned upside down when she moves house and we see how her emotions change in accordance with this upheaval. But it is not a simple story line personifying emotions for the sake of humour or twee sweetness; Inside Out addresses many mental health issues in a simple, nuanced way.

For example, depression. When Sadness becomes active, every time she touches a memory of Riley’s it turns blue. Not just the memories, but the headquarters, the train of thought and the consoles (the remotes that control Riley’s actions) all turn blue. Each part of Riley’s personality become tainted with blue, then grey and then they begin to fall apart. Her personality islands (Riley’s unique traits) crumble, machines stop working properly and the train of thought becomes really slow.

Like an anxiety disorder, whenever Fear is in charge of the console he is continually making lists of what can go wrong, over-thinking the hundreds of possibilities. Fear is repeatedly imagining the worst case scenario and acts jittery at the console. Sometimes he is forced to shut everything down because he gets so worked up over it – as a result, everything stops working and he keeps hitting the Panic button, over and over.

Joy and Sadness fighting over the console that’s in charge of Riley’s emotions is akin to bipolar disorder; When Sadness is in charge, everything begins to crumble and turn blue. Then, when Joy takes over, she gets really excited and tries to make up for what Sadness has done so she works overtime, resulting in everything working twice as fast and does silly things that she shouldn’t.

And lastly, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). When there is a problem with the machines and computers in headquarters,everything works twice as fast as it should, or sometimes not at all. The train of thought does not come in once a day as it should, it comes every few minutes on different tracks. The mind workers don’t do their job properly and send random memories and thoughts back to headquarters, replaying them over and over, making it far more difficult to concentrate on what is going on.

Portraying mental illness is very difficult task, one that requires a great amount of empathy and understanding, yet Inside Out manages to convey what it’s like to a, primarily, children’s audience. For the mature audience, we see how memories are forgotten, how our emotions can interchange with one another and how we can even lose our imagination (spoiler, sorry). Overall, the movie portrays emotional and psychological complexities in a funny and entertaining way that is accessible to children and has paved the way for lots of important discussions that need to be had with kids about emotions. In a way, it has broken down taboos.

Hat’s off to Scouting Ireland for, perhaps unbeknownst to them, educating the winners of that competition about mental health.

Katie Spillane