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Scouts and Guides in Abu Dhabi
Time Out looks at the scouting and Brownie groups in Abu Dhabi 2 Comments
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While it might conjure up images of dodgy shorts and something called a woggle, Scouting is still an incredibly popular pastime, with several groups thriving in the area. And it’s not all about the boys, with Brownie and Guides groups for the girls quietly building up a following in the UAE for the past 40 years.
Ever since founder Robert Baden-Powell held the first Scouting encampment at Brownsea Island in England in 1907, millions of youngsters have been donning the distinctive uniform and learning to love the great outdoors. So what’s the secret of its success? And why are today’s kids still enthusiastic about something that involves good old-fashioned fresh air and exercise, with not a Wii remote in sight?
We spoke to the District Commissioner for British Guiding in Abu Dhabi, Adele Steel, about its enduring popularity. ‘Guiding moves with the times,’ says Adele. ‘It’s been going for 100 years, and the movement’s come a long way. It has always had a focus on taking responsibility for yourself and trying new things while having fun, but it’s not all about childcare and homemaking like it was in the early years. Now they have badges in computer studies and science.’
Adrian Waite, Group Scout Leader for 1st Abu Dhabi Scout Group, agrees: ‘At the heart of scouting are principles of young people doing things for themselves. I found that very appealing when I was a kid, and I think young people still do today.’
So what sort of activities does it take to entice the modern-day youngster away from the PlayStation? ‘There are now internet based jamborees and a wide range of activities that were not available when we were Scouts,’ says Adrian. ‘All these are in the programme, alongside the traditional Scouting skillset for self reliance – camping, navigation, cooking, and the community focus of Scouting that has never changed, and hopefully never will.’
And it’s not just the times that have been changing for the Scouts and Guides, with Abu Dhabi’s desert terrain a far cry from the grassy fields and nature-filled woodland of Brownsea Island, meaning activities have been altered to make the most of the region’s environment. ‘As we are a British Scout group operating abroad, we try to make use of the local environment. Scuba diving, kayaking and desert camping replace some of the common UK activities, simply because of what’s available to us,’ adds Adrian.
With a century under its badge-laden belt, the movement has already proved it can stand the test of time, and the inclusive attitude and groups that cater for all ages means there’s a place for all the littl’uns. ‘A leader once told me you can do anything within Scouts, but you do it “in a Scouting way”,’ adds Adrian. ‘I think that means learning, applying and taking responsibility, but above all making a choice to have a good time doing whatever it is you are doing.’
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