From North Berwick to the World – Connecting the globe in lock-down

Doing Scouting in lock-down was always going to be a challenge. So much of scouting is about the outdoors and adventure, having fun together outside; the antithesis of home schooling and social distancing. At 1st North Berwick Bear Cubs, we were determined to do something, and so, with some apprehension, we gave ZOOM a go.

Initial efforts were worthwhile but ultimately second-rate substitutes for the real thing. Our sessions tended to be quite didactic. Inspiring slide shows about travel or sailing stimulated some good discussion, but ultimately reminded us of what we were missing. Online games worked well, but could be chaotic. In these disorienting early lock-down days, filled with worry and uncertainty, the main point was just about getting our young people together, even on a screen. The thrill for us was in seeing their smiles when they logged on. We couldn’t know what they, or any of us, were going through, with their families and loved ones, but for an hour or so each week, we were back together as a pack. We quickly realised that this actually was more important than the content, or the session plan. Our apprehensions about how the cubs might cope with the technology were quickly proved groundless. It turned out they were far more technically competent than we were. But gradually we too became au-fait with screen sharing, annotation controls (important if you don’t want your nice slides to be scribbled on by our fun-loving youngsters) and messaging. And dare I say it, the ‘mute all’ function does have its benefits…

By the time we got to lock-down number 2 (or was it 3?) we had realised that there was opportunity also in this new, virtual way of meeting. No longer restricted by geography, we could involve guests from further afield. We had a virtual drumming session led by an instructor from England, a presentation and discussion with a Rabbi from Edinburgh. And if this was possible, why not think bigger still? Why could we not connect with the world?

One thing led to the next. An initial text exchange with a contact at the international Rotarian Association in India, informal WhatsApp discussions, connections with Scouting Groups in India and Africa. Soon we had an organising committee and a monthly programme of international ZOOM presentations over those dark months of winter lock-down. First up, in January, the Guides and Brownies from Zimbabwe, sharing with us an inspiring video presentation of their community and culture. Then, in February, a brilliant demonstration from the Scouts of India of their activities and way of life. A veritable jamboree of colour, music and creativity. My favourite was the ‘tiger dance’. A bit like our campfire songs, but with added spice! In the live discussion afterwards one young child from India, asking a question about Zimbabwe, referred to ‘Zim-Bombay’.  We all smiled. It is the little things that bring you together.

Then, our turn in March and some pressure to meet expectations given tour-de-force showings from our new friends in Africa and India. We were also running into technical issues. For the India presentation we had exploded the ZOOM 100 person capacity limit. Thanks to the Rotarian Association in Zimbabwe we now had a new platform, with 300 capacity. 

The Bear cubs did a fabulous job, producing numerous action packed and creative videos, an inspiring montage of life in East Lothian. From harbour wall jumping to Auld Land Syne, to castles, landscape and culture, we enjoyed sharing something of our way of live and our shared Scouting values. Our Akela, Nigel did a nice piece from the Scout hall (still out of service in these Covid times), including a brief history of the local scouting movement, and we combined with footage of group games and activities, camps and song, a reminder of what we are about, and what we will soon do again. There was a live drawing activity- combining multi-cultural themes from all of the presentations- and an international take on the game, ‘Captain’s Calling’. Then at the end some inspiring words from Andrew Sharkey, our Chief Commissioner and guest for the occasion. We invited each other to our respective countries, for real campfire songs, just a soon as we can. Lots of smiles from the cubs. In the meantime, Zambia are up next on ZOOM, then Malawi and Mozambique…The World it turns out is quite a small place, really.

Ben Kemp, 1st North Berwick Bear Cubs

A big ‘thank you’ to everybody who has contributed to this initiative. In particular, to the International Rotarian Association and the Rotary Club of Chitungwiza, Zimbabwe, without whose invaluable support it would not have been possible. 

Pentland Explorers

Congratulations to Pentland Explorers who celebrated the easing of lockdown by simultaneously ascending several hills in the Pentlands.

Following Covid safe guidance, each group met and hiked separately to their assigned hill, all arriving around 8pm. There then followed a rather unique light show as they signalled to each other. Explorers from DEPEVAK, Borestane, EDGE, Tormain and Wildfire climbed Capelaw, Bells Hill, Harbour Hill, Harlaw, Caerketton, Black Hill, and Allermuir. Explorers from Penicuik joined in on Carnethy, Scald Law and Turnhouse. A total of 97 Explorers, 17 leaders, 9 adults and one fog – our biggest turnout yet, in line with guidance and with risk assessments done through OSM

In addition, Tormain Explorer Unit took advantage of being outdoors for the first time in months by carrying out some investitures at the top of Bells Hill.