If you are involved in Scouting, you may know of the team of Ugandan Scouts who decided to ride their bicycles from Kampala to Rinkaby in Sweden last summer, as their way of getting to the 22nd World Scout Jamboree. What you may not know is that the team undertook the challenge in order to complete (and smash) the requirements of the “adventurous journey” Section of the Award. When I met them at the gates of the Jamboree in July, I congratulated them as Vice Chairman of the World Scout Committee. This evening I was able to congratulate them again, and present them with their Gold Award certificates and badges, this time as Secretary General of the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award. This picture shows Adrian receiving his Award.
There is a strong link between Scouting and the Award in Uganda. Young people participate in the Source of the Nile Award through schools, universities, the Red Cross and the Girl Guides, but by far the largest partner organisation is the Uganda Scouts Association. Through this partnership, the Source of the Nile team hopes to have as many as 100,000 participants a year within the next five years. They are on target to achieve this ambitious target.
I felt doubly proud, therefore, to attend a Gold Award presentation and discover that so many of the recipients were in Scout uniform. Proud, of course, in the achievements of some wonderful young people, but also proud that the Award is truly positioning itself as the youth development programme of choice within the membership organisation I know and love so well. When the Chief Scout, Maggie Kigozi, spoke at the end of the evening, she welcomed me ‘home’, remembering that I have been invested as a Scout in just two countries – the UK and Uganda.
Engagement in youth activities is very, very popular. The challenge for the Award is to attract enough leaders and resources to satisfy the demands made by the young people who clamour to join in activities. By partnering with the Scouts, it has immediate access to people who understand volunteering. The Scouts are now looking at how they can incorporate Award Leader training into their own basic training and wood badge for Adults. They see the Award Programme as the perfect way to develop their members aged between 14 and 24.
They are not the first Scout Association to adopt the Award in this way. The UK Scouts and Scouting Ireland have both done so. Strong relationships between the two organisations exist in Canada, the Caribbean and much of the Asia Pacific Region. The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Challenge for Young Americans has recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Boy Scouts of America.
But it is in Africa where I think there lies the greatest potential for mutual benefit. The Award programme provides an excellent progressive training scheme for Scout Associations who do not have the necessary infrastructure to develop one for themselves. Sadly, the Award may be seen as a competitor for young people’s time and commitment in some countries. But with a little negotiation, goodwill and co-operation between adults, young people can reap the benefits of what really can be a perfect partnership.