Sean Cronin on Building a Better Organisation and, In Turn, A Better Society

I remember being an impressionable 11 year old sea scout. I was quiet, rarely ever outspoken. I thought that being different was weird, and if I tried to express myself in any way I’d be an outcast, I’d be labelled. One of the reasons I’ve always loved scouting is that whenever I’m at a camp, an event or just going to meetings every week, I have a platform to express myself and be whomever I want to be without having to fear exclusion or alienation.

“Scouting Ireland is a very open environment for all of the young people involved in it. During all my time at scouting events I have never really come across serious cases of exclusion. Now obviously there is the occasional joke that goes too far but these are generally few and far between. As a whole scouts is a place for everyone to be themselves and people are accepted for who they are.” – Big P (16)

Fortunately, I was never really a victim of bullying but yet I’ve always maintained a sort of righteous anger whenever someone is discriminated against for something that has no negative effect on anybody else. Where I’m from that happens way too often.

I remember looking up to all the ventures and rovers and thinking they were the shit (we are). I used to want to be like them and now, looking back on it and seeing it from a young scout’s perspective, I realise the massive influence we, as older youth members, have on these kids at that impressionable stage in their lives. Being a mentor on Camp 3 was the first camp I really felt responsible for how scouts treat others and themselves. I felt at least as long as they were under my supervision I would strive to ensure they’d be comfortable in being themselves and expressing themselves. And where I could I’d try boost their self-esteem with small things like, I dunno, saying “your hair is deadly” or “that hat/jacket is sick” or “you’re class at playing guitar” etc. If I’d had heard anybody putting anyone else down, I would’ve dealt with it, but luckily I never had to.

It’s an indescribable feeling really, knowing that you’re influencing kids to grow up to be accepting and tolerant people. Scouting Ireland is one of very few organisations that would give you an opportunity to do something like that, and the feeling you get in return is incredible – that feeling of contributing to a better world, in a way.

“I suppose I get most out of helping young people to understand how to communicate with each other, what’s appropriate, what’s not etc. I had like, forty kids in my care at CampTHREE and I banned them all from using all words that I think are offensive – retard, faggot, the n-word etc. It was cool, I felt like I was shaping these people to be how I always wished people my own age group would – kind and understanding and aware” – Shane ‘lil shayne’ Morgan (17)

If you know me then you probably know that I’m a huge hip-hop fan. Music is a massive aspect of communicating with and influencing the youth. When it comes to understanding yourself, expressing yourself and not being afraid to live your life despite social or political oppression, there are two tracks in particular that stand out to me.

“If a cool guy shits his shit’s still gonna stink, if a cool guy’s cool in the middle of the forest, man nobody fucking cares, so why don’t you just be the you that you know you are, you know, when nobody else is there?” – Kyle on ‘Wanna Be Cool’ (p.s check out Chance The Rapper, he basically nurtures the youth of Chicago with free concerts and open mic events)
“I used to get called “Oreo” and “Faggot”, I used to get more laughs when I got laughed at, oh you got a mixtape? That’s fantastic, but everybody thought it was jokes though, they half right, the joke is, I got flow so don’t act like, you ain’t sittin’ there with your friends like, it can’t be, I know Donald Glover, he weak man, he campy” – Childish Gambino (Donald Glover) on ‘Firefly’

Karl Marx wrote that ‘modern work is alienated’.  He said that work can be one of life’s greatest joys but you must see yourself in the object you’re creating. I suppose that could be tied into Youth Empowerment; Ventures and Rovers taking control of camps and events being run for Beavers, Cubs and Scouts.  It’s our project and we can see ourselves in the product of our work as it starts to take shape. There isn’t a better feeling than being a part of something big, then taking a step back and thinking ‘wow I helped do that’.  It is an amazing thing, as a 16 year old, to feel that not only am I contributing to building a better Scouting Ireland, but also to a better society.

“I definitely feel like I’m making a contribution to the development of Scouting Ireland, every time I go to a national event I feel like my voice is being heard. You don’t just hear about the higher ups and then never see them; you talk to them and joke about camping. You start to know which people you can contact for every question and query. The actions we take in Scouting usually reflect on the area around us and I get to see the effects of our efforts nearly all the time” – Caoimhe FitzGibbon (17)
“I feel like I am making a contribution to Scouting Ireland, but with camp three much more so society. There were about six hundred kids on site, many who saw me and heard me being very openly gay. I felt I got the chance, in a way, to show any little kid struggling with their sexuality that it’s not something to be insecure about, that it’s not something that’s gonna stop you from living your life and working events like this and being taken seriously. That was fucking cool.” – Shane ‘lil shayne’ Morgan (17)

In my opinion Scouting is one of the best things a young person could be involved in. It teaches young people about communication, working together and so many practical outdoors skills. But I’m sure everyone will agree that the best part about your involvement in Scouts is all the funny/happy/stupid memories over the years. I remember going to the Phoenix in 2012 in Larch Hill, it was my first time ever going to a big national event like that. I was 13 years old and one of the bases was an offsite one, we were given DART tickets and let loose by ourselves in Dublin starting off in Bray. I thought it was deadly being given that freedom at that age. It was like 8 in the morning so nobody was on the streets and the first person I saw was Katy Taylor’s dad and I distinctly remember saying “Hey I saw you on TV the other day” and he just gave me a thumbs up. My friend Lorcan and I were the chefs and it took us 2 hours to cook a chicken carbonara (in fairness, it was on an open fire). We got butter on the walls of the tent making sandwiches.

These are memories you keep with you forever, and staffing these camps now is so rewarding in that I feel like I’m creating an environment for kids to create moments like the ones I had, the ones I treasure, memories they’ll sit around and laugh about in years to come. It’s just an incredible feeling when you become conscious of the part you are playing in younger people’s lives, and it feels like building a butterfly effect – the kid you just complimented on his guitar playing skills might be the next Jimi Hendrix.

“When I run a night in my troop, if I can make one youth member laugh I can go home content in that I am making a difference to Scouting Ireland. Creating a positive attitude to anything in life results in a positive energy from this attitude. If the word ‘Scouts’ results in a youth member smiling and thinking of happy memories then I can rest assured that Scouting has a long life ahead.” – Katie Spillane (19)

(Click on the images below to view a gallery of different Ventures on what Youth Empowerment is to them)

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