Anonymous, 27

Scouting […] taught me how to learn, not what to learn.

Anonymous, 27

Home was tough, likely tougher than most. A house of far too much drink, continual abandonment by an absent alcoholic workaholic father, serious financial problems and sexual abuse. I guess it was easy for the latter to slip by in the mess of this so-called “perfect middle-class family”.

School was a farce. What a pantomime – every day an exercise in deception, hiding the fact I was scraping D and C, yet working so hard while my friends excelled. It was six years of acting worthy of a TONY – I was the queen of the fake smiles. Years later, on meeting my principle he remarked that he was always in awe of my younger brother and me. He said, our continual ability to walk out of the house in the morning, leave everything behind us, lacing smiles on our faces and bringing joy to school with us amazed him (and he didn’t even know the half of it). How was this possible?

I went to my first Scout meeting as a favor to a friend. She really wanted to go but wouldn’t go alone. As it turned out she left after week two. I may have joined for her but I certainly didn’t leave with her.

My Scout Group was a place that was welcoming, where I was encouraged to be myself and my best self at that. I excelled with support and guidance. Scouting is where I found educators interested in learning alongside me – who taught me how to learn, not what to learn. Scouting is where I escaped as a child. It is one of the safest places I have, even now as an adult, ever had the privilege of. It is a place where everyone is welcome and accepted. I had support and care away from home stresses and worries. Smiles were real smiles.
The key ingredient was the volunteers who supported me in Scouting. My leaders were only ten years older than me when I joined – 21 years young but so old in my eyes at the time. They chose to give up their weekends and Friday nights – spending them in a dusty old community hall or in a leaky tent on the side of a mountain range with 30 young teens. They, who were also Scouts, gave so much to us in their care. From encouragement in leadership roles to a safe journey home when a drunken father could not be relied on, to ensuring that if the babysitting money wasn’t enough to pay for the trip they found a way to make up the difference without a fuss. There was no being left out for a lack of money.

My home life may have been a school of hard knocks which could have left irreparable damage but I believe Scouts helped me get through it, accept it and led me to grow from it. It taught me I was in control of me and my life. It showed me what independence could be for a teenager – and that is liberating!

Today, I am overeducated and underpaid in a job I choose to do every day that works toward making the world a better place. I am happy. I know I can handle whatever this world throws at me until I can’t but that’s ok I have others, my Scout family, to ask for help.
Scouting kept me safe.
Scouting kept me happy.
Scouting kept me sane.
Scouting made me realise my own strengths.
Scouting made me think and question the world.
Scouting let me choose to be independent.
Scouting let me choose my path.
Scouting allowed me to know me.
Scouting allowed me to be me.