This weekend I went to Ferny Crofts Scout Activity Centre to take part in three days of workshops with the aim of improving Scouting in Hampshire. I also met new Hampshire Scout Ambassador James Ketchell (Twitter: @CaptainKetch), learned some more about him and waved him off on his Scouts Cycle down to Lyons Copse in Shedfield. We also did some work on media and the future of County Scouting (and came up with an idea for a new badge). Next HSYC meeting is in October and I can't wait. The stuff below has been stolen from the Youth Council leader's blog (without her permission, but she wont mind);
Three small but very strong words.
This weekend was a big weekend for Hampshire Scouting, not only because we had one of our bi-annual youth conferences, and the annual scout winter camp, but also because we launched our first ever Hampshire Scouting Ambassador.
A year ago this weekend, we held our Hampshire Scout Youth Conference. At this conference we had a guest come to speak to us about the national ambassadors for scouting, which inspired some of our young people that we should have a local ambassador for Hampshire Scouting. Nothing happened for a couple of months, people are busy we are all volunteers etc etc....so I asked if I could find someone...
Turns out, that there is this really cool adventurer who lives in Basingstoke (I'm reliably informed it is north of Winchester and still within Hampshire boundaries). Some random guy who had a motorbike accident, so decided to row the Atlantic Ocean solo (like you do!?). Apparently a simple row like that isn't enough, so he gave Everest a go as well. Standard really, I mean, who hasn't climbed Everest these days...?
So, this random guy from Basingstoke did a couple of talks to some random Explorer Scouts. They loved him. County Commissioner loved him (he packed chairs away at the end of the night as well!). Leaders loved him (kept the young people entertained all night).
Dropped him an email, turns out he was cycling across America at the time, but was definitely interested and would have a chat when he got back. I thought I would check him out for myself, so off I drove to the north of the county for a fundraising dinner where he was speaking. Shocked that he looked nothing like his twitter pic (which is of a guy on a mountain - Everest - in a down suit with a ginger beard and a Nepalese flag), but impressed that he is actually much hotter than his twitter pic demonstrates. Note to self - never judge a person by their twitter photo.
Anyway, he was pretty good actually, so tried him out on some cub scouts - went down a storm. Tried him out on some district commissioners - worked like a dream. Tried him out in the county team - they think he's wonderful. Bingo. We had found our man. Captain Ketch.
So, we decided to think of a unique way to launch our first scouting ambassador here in Hampshire. As this crazy ginger bearded explorer has decided that his next challenge is to cycle around the world, we decided to put him through his paces in a Hampshire world tour. Gathering a group of cyclists, we set a route for our new ambassador to weave through Hampshire visiting scout huts for challenges and pit stops.
The big weekend started with Captain Ketch giving his Everest talk to the youth council, and then they had the chance to come up with challenges for him to complete on his world tour (interesting ones, including "doing gangnam style on a bike", "cycle with 10 james'", and my personal favourite "take Fi to Nandos"). The young people also designed ideas for an ambassadors challenge, and provided final decisions for the way the badge should be run and implemented, as well as how much it should cost and that the money raised should be donated to Captain Ketch's charity he supports - ELIFAR (every life is for a reason).
The main event started early on Saturday morning, with a tweet from Chief Scout Bear Grylls, wishing Captain Ketch good luck. Riders gathered and left Ferny Crofts at 8am, with 25 people on the first leg and 50 scouts clapping and cheering on the way out. The riders arrived at Hythe Ferry and 13 took the journey for the second leg, to Totton. In Totton, the Captain was greeted by a small group of cubs and beavers, who were excited to show him around their new scout hut, as well as give him an Atlantic themed stop which included fish finger sandwiches and a quick row on the lake.
There are very few people I have met who have had the ability to turn a child's confidence round quite so quickly. Captain Ketch got out of the boat and was walking towards his exit, when a small Cub Scout was stood behind him with his Dad, tears rolling down his face, and mumbling out "I'm too shy". Captain Ketch turned around and bent down to meet this cub's sad tears with a great big cheesy grin. A small pep talk and special photo shoot later, and the tears are replaced with an equally big cheesy smile. Hands shaken, smiles exchanged, and promises made, leaving this one young person feeling like the most special and most valued 8yr old in the world.
It was at this point that I was going to leave the ride, for my readers will not be surprised to learn I am about as good on a bike as I am at quantum physics (useless). Infact I wasn't even going to be cycling but got talked into doing the first leg, and then the second.. So I'm at Totton, and I'm getting lots of positive encouragement from the hard core cyclists, telling me the next leg is "all downhill Fi!".
I should have known they were fibbing. It wasn't all downhill at all. There was a very long and annoying and slow windy uphill bit. Ok so I'm not talking a massive incline, infact in a car it's probably barely noticeable (unless you were in a mini and then you would notice it). I'm not naturally gifted at anything adventurous, and unfortunately for me I had 12 men cycling with me and pushing me to my limits. I lost count of the amount of times I said "I can't do it" and "I want to stop". Annoyingly, I found someone more stubborn than myself, who would not let me stop and insisted on moving the seat in the bike and teaching me to use my gears and how to get on and off a bike properly. No matter how much I told him I don't like him, he still pushed me up the hill. Literally. Pushed. Infact, pushed to the point where I was egged on to complete the fourth leg of the ride as well as the first 3. The last time I rode a bike was a very long time ago, but that wasn't a problem for Captain Ketch. He just carried on pushing me, talking to me, and empowering me to do something that I would certainly not normally feel confident enough to do.
I left the journey at this point, having ridden for the first 23 miles. The riders then went on to visit a group in Whiteley, and to the 1000 people at scout winter camp, where Captain Ketch gave a presentation to 400 people packed into a marquee, about his exciting adventures. All I could do from here was read the tweets coming in on #scoutscycle, and some of the best included:
"@captainketch my son has just got back from scout camp and says I have to follow you as you are amazing! Thank you for helping winter camp"
"@captainketch ...lovely to see my son inspired and have a new role model..."
Now I'm not putting words into mouths, but I would hedge my bets that these people feel pretty proud to have met and been inspired by Captain Ketch, and proud to have him as an ambassador for Hampshire Scouting.
Most of all, I'm proud. I'm proud that not only did I cycle on an actual bike, but I'm really proud that Hampshire Scouting has found an ambassador who genuinely cares about young people and takes the time to engage with them. Someone from within our own community who enthuses and inspires, turns tears into smiles, and dares people to dream. I couldn't have asked for anything more.
Fi Durrant, Assistant County Commissioner (Youth Involvement), Hampshire Scouts
Originally posted on fidurrant.blogspot.co.uk.