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JIS News

Chief Commissioner of the Scout Association of Jamaica, Rev. Barrington Soares, says the organisation is looking to revolutionise the local movement to attract more young people.
The movement, which has had a long and vibrant history in Jamaica, has been on the decline for some years, an issue that is of concern to Rev. Soares.
As part of its 100th anniversary celebrations this year, the scouts association will be working to transform its image, in order to present a modern and attractive front to young people.
“The principles remain the same, the basics remain the same, but it is how it is formatted and is being packaged to be presented to our young people today (that will change), so that they can see that scouting is something that they can be part of and share in,” Rev. Soares tells JIS News during an interview at the Association’s headquarters, Camp Road, Kingston, recently.
“So, though we have not changed the principles, we have changed the way it is going to be presented, and this is something that is coming out of the Inter-American region and the World Bureau for Scouts,” he explains.
He says there has been a drastic reduction in the number of schools and churches with a scout troop over the years. In 1962 there was no high school in Jamaica without a scout’s troop, however the Chief Commissioner lamented that, nearly 50 years later, there are less than 2,000 registered scouts, islandwide.
“We believe that there could be approximately 3,000, but when you talk about registration. we don’t have 2,000. Most of our high schools do not have a scout troop,” he says.
The Chief Commissioner pointed out that one of the main reasons for the decline is a lack of leadership, in terms of individuals willing to volunteer their time to mentor the young men.
“We strongly believe that if we can get more persons who are willing to volunteer to help mold the minds of the youngsters, using the programmes of the scout association, we could see some changes in our society,” he suggests.
He further says a part of the problem lies in the fact that with the increase in crime and violence, many parents are reluctant to send their children to scouting activities, as they fear for their safety.
“We have a camp site at Kintyre which we can’t use, because it’s in a community that has become very volatile,” he states.
The Rev. Soares says the movement has contributed significantly to the development of the Jamaican society over the years, by helping to guide the principles and actions of young men.
With this in mind, he believes it is critical to revitalise the society in the hope to reach out and impact the lives of Jamaica’s youth, many of whom have fallen into a life of crime and delinquency.
Chief Scout, the Governor-General, His Excellency Sir Patrick Allen, concurred with this view recently, stating that the Scout Association of Jamaica is an essential movement for young people.
“Research has shown that young people are better able to build essential skills and competencies in an environment that is safe, and where they feel valued and cared for. It is, therefore, important that, as they mature, they are supported and mentored by adults, families and members of their community,” the Governor-General says.
He said that the Scout Association continues to provide young men with strategic emotional and motivational support, while creating opportunities for growth and learning.
He adds that by encouraging youth to observe the Scout’s Oath, which promotes duty to God and country, duty to other people and duty to self, the Scout Association of Jamaica has filled a significant vacuum in the lives of many youths, and has encouraged them to believe that, with hard work and commitment, they can achieve their goals.
It is this legacy that Rev. Soares believes must be maintained, and so he informs that a part of the plans to revive the programme is to set up a scouting course in the teachers’ colleges.
“We are restructuring the programme and seeking to get into all six teachers’ colleges, and it is hoped that when we have done that, the teachers would have been trained to a level that when they leave the institution and go on to (teach) at various schools, they could do scouting there for us,” he says.
The Chief Commissioner says the plan is to get scouting back in the nation’s schools.
“Our target is that each district, by September next year, should have at least two scout troops in a high school and two scout troops in a primary school, along with what we have already we would then boost our numbers to somewhere in the region of 5,000, and we can build on that,” he says.
He points out, however, that finances have been a concern for the Association, as many young people are unable to afford the $500 registration fee. He is, therefore, hoping that Corporate Jamaica will be able to assist in the future.
Also, throughout the year, the organisation will stage several events to mark its entry into Jamaica from England in 1910, at the district, parish and regional levels.
Rev. Soares tells JIS News that on May 9, there will be a special church service at the St. David Church in Plowden, Manchester, where a plaque will be erected for the founder of the movement in Jamaica, Rev. Joseph William Graham.
An international jamboree will also be held on July 23, at the Essex Valley Agricultural Showground, St. Elizabeth, and a national Scout/Girl Guide luncheon is slated for December 14 in Kingston.