In a world where every little helps, volunteering is crucial to the wellbeing of communities.
I’m a volunteer and have seen first-hand the positive impact that giving up some of my free time has made to others, but I have also noticed the positive impact it has made to me.
I do a few hours every week behind the scenes to support the many volunteers who run the weekly activities for the children and young people in my local Scout group. It’s fun, challenging and rewarding, and it’s great to be part of something that makes a positive benefit to my community.
But I’m benefiting too because I’m having to learn new things and take on new challenges, which will be great for future jobs, and I’m getting to know local people who are fast becoming friends.
This week, the Scout Association launched Scout Community Week, a reinvention of the famous Bob-a-Job week of yesteryear. Twenty years after Bob-a-Job week seemed to fall out of favour with society amid health and safety concerns, the updated version offers all the benefits of getting these projects done once again, within a safe and fun environment.
Society is valuing volunteers more and we feel there is a place for it. Sponsored by B&Q, the focus with this annual project is on community engagement and mutual contribution. Projects include a group restoring the Lewis Chessman, another is helping with a local community food-growing project and a few others are conducting beach and local area clean-ups.
The Scouts involved in this will have the opportunity to actively participate in their communities, learn about the area and history, and also have fun with their friends. The hope is that Scout Community Week will make a big positive impact on communities where Scouts live.
But it doesn’t stop there. Scouting is a worldwide movement with 31 million members and we proactively encourage them to learn more about the global community through a programme of activities and opportunities designed to teach them about foreign cultures and places.
Many also participate in international expeditions, allowing them to contribute to the countries as well.
Last year, a large group of youngsters from across Scotland, including many from Edinburgh and surrounding areas, spent a month of their school holidays in Malawi where they helped the Malawi Scout Association build a mill for its national campsite. The mill will allow both the Scouts and the local community to generate an income and help feed their families.
Scouting is all about personal development through fun, challenge and adventure. We believe that through fun, friendship and trying new skills and experiences, our members are able to fulfil their potential as individuals, responsible citizens and members of their local, national and international communities.
We do this by providing them with a programme of activities that stimulates interest in the world around them and encourages them to find ways of contributing, be it through planting trees, clearing up their school or teaching the elderly how to use a computer.
It seems to be habit-forming. In a report released last year, it was found that Scouts volunteer more than the rest of the population and contribute to communities’ development and economy by sharing skills and voluntary workload. I am certainly seeing evidence of this in the children and adults I deal with every week. They are enthusiastic, conscientious and seem to have a positive world view and ethic. They are always eager to jump up and offer to help, whether it be to fellow Scouts or the wider community.
From where I stand, this can only be a positive thing for the communities in which they live and work.
n Scott Burton is assistant group Scout leader at the 100th Pentland Scout Group, located near Tollcross, Edinburgh. Visit www.scouts-scotland.org.uk/join for more information.
• Scout Job Week was launched at Easter 1949, building on the popularity of Good Turn Day, which Scout movement founder Lord Baden-Powell introduced in 1914
• Boys were paid a shilling – commonly know as a bob – for their good turn
• Typical jobs included washing cars, gardening, shopping and dog walking.n At its peak in the 1980s, bob-a-job week was worth £100,000 a year across the UK to the Scout movement.
Happy to help: Modern-day Scouts work in the community
• Scout Community Week was launched this week, 20 years after health and safety concerns were blamed for the demise of “bob-a-job” week
• Boys – and girl Scouts – now typically receive £1-£2 and often more per chore. A shilling in 1949 would be worth £1.34 in today’s money
• Common tasks include bag-packing at supermarkets and volunteering
• Today the Scouts are as keen to stress the benefits of volunteering for youngsters as they are to raise vital funds