What has being a Scout done for me? | scouting

It’s currently the summer holidays so I think it’s the perfect time to look into opportunities for September either for kids or for yourself, so I thought I’d talk a bit about my time in Scouts so far as both a youth member and an adult volunteer. Yes, I’m probably a little bit biased, but I can genuinely say that I don’t know where I’d be without it.

I joined the Cub Scouts when I was 10 and I was the only girl in my pack at the time (and was then the only girl Scout a year later) because some of my friends were in it and I fell in love with it. I was one of those kids who thrived on reward, so getting badges was my favourite thing, and I just enjoyed having friends somewhere that wasn’t school. To be honest, that’s a bit of a lie – I still thrive on reward and I still love getting badges, although as an adult you don’t get half as many!

Scouting has seen me at my worst and at my best, because it’s been one of the only constants in my life over the last 8 (nearly 9!) years. It saw me through when my best friend passed away; during all my symptoms of chronic and mental illness and this year they’ve celebrated how far I’ve come. My group have done everything they can to make as much as they can accessible, and I’ve had so many cool experiences.

The main campaign for Scouting at the moment is #skillsforlife and I’ve gained so many skills. People think of Scouting and just think of skills like map-reading, pioneering and things like that, which I have learnt (and still fail at), but it’s more than that – leadership and communication and trust. I’ve achieved my Silver Duke of Edinburgh award and I’m on my way to Gold and becoming a Queen’s Scout, which has been my goal since I was a much younger Scout.

The opportunities I’ve been offered have been incredible. I’ve been in Gang Show twice – a Scouting variety show happens all over the country – performing for a week each time in a proper theatre. Last year I went to Belgium and went to several of the war memorials for the anniversary (and a chocolate factory, so my ultimate goal now is to be a chocolatier), and next year if all goes to plan I’m going to Canada.

I actually still think about the waffles I ate in Belgium, so I just thought I’d make you hungry even though it’s not hugely relevant here.

But apart from these big experiences, there’s the weekly meetings which are just as important to me. I was a Young Leader for two and a half years, and in September I’ll have done a year of service as an adult. I’ve run several badges with the Cubs – Chef, Disability Awareness, Scientist – and I like to think I’ve made an impact on some of their lives, even if it’s just one thing they’ve picked up along the way.

Scouting is absolutely my second family, and I don’t know quite where I’d be without them. I’ve loved every camp, every experience and I honestly think that every child should have the opportunity to be part of an organisation like it – Scouting, Guiding, Cadets or anything else. It gives kids skills that they won’t learn in school, and experiences they probably won’t find anywhere else. It’s fun, it’s challenging and it’s a family. If you’re an adult, I’d 100% recommend getting involved as a leader – it’s so fulfilling and you’ll be changing the lives and mindsets of so many kids.

You can find a group in your local area if you click here. Pop your local group an email and I’m sure they’ll welcome you in with open arms! And if you’re not convinced by me alone, there’s plenty of testimonies available on the website too.

Could I do more than my best? (post results ramblings) | education

I’ve already written this post once, the day after results day. It was raw and angry and harsh, and a lot of it wasn’t me talking, it was anxiety and annoyance at an education system that I fought against for two years for what felt like nothing. It’s a complex thing, but I feel more at home with myself again now I’ve had time to process it.

Two years ago, I opened an envelope that I genuinely believed was the end of the world. It wasn’t, but I was over the moon. This year, I knew it wasn’t the end of the world – I’ve worked hard to try and overcome the concept that a few letters on a page are all that I am – but I was gutted. And it’s sad, because I’m happy with three out of my four grades, but I automatically discarded those from my mind before I’d even processed them. A few days later I’m upset that I felt no need to celebrate on Thursday, because I know there is more to it than that piece of paper.

I have spent two years fighting an education system that isn’t for disabled and chronically ill youth like me. Although my school have been as supportive as possible, my body has not really been able to cope with 7-8 hour days, or my memory with the density of the subjects I chose – I honestly wish I had done my A Levels back when AS was 50%. It sounds dramatic, but I spent full days in such intense pain that I could barely see the board, and some days my fatigue was so bad I couldn’t read a sentence out of a textbook. I missed weeks off school to be in hospital, and the equivalent of several more in appointments.

I have to remember that these exams pitted me against hundreds of thousands of students, the majority of which will not have experienced these issues. The ones who did may have done better than me regardless, but this isn’t me making excuses – it’s me forgiving myself, letting myself realise that I did the most I could, and that’s okay. Being able to write for 2 hours upwards with chronic wrist, shoulder and back pain; keeping focused and not dizzy for that amount of time – I won just by getting through all my exams, and sixth form in general.

For me, I think part of the reason I felt so upset was because I knew that there would be people I’d either let down, as well as the people who would judge me. Since my GCSE results, I’d been almost put on a pedestal by some of my peers that I didn’t want to be on; shushing me if I expressed concern or anxiety about my grades. And I felt like I let down my teachers and the sixth form support team, but they (naturally) told me I was being silly. My chemistry teacher is a very matter-of-fact person, but with the most human of emotions, and that makes for someone who can talk sense into me. I couldn’t be more appreciative.

It’s cliche, but those grades truly don’t tell my whole story, just like everyone tells you before you get your grades, but you can’t see it at the time. I’ve done three hours of volunteering a week during both years, working with teenagers at school and the Cub Scouts. I did assemblies about mental health and a talk about my disabilities to the entire staff body. I never shut up about things I was passionate about, had debates in class, educated people on feminism and ableism and sexualities. I wrote essays on topics I was fascinated by.

I did three subjects I love, and I still love them, regardless of the grades. Maybe chemistry was a wildcard, and I knew it was risky – but I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. In general, I loved my sixth form experience, and the piece of paper I received on Thursday doesn’t tell you any of those other things.

Four letters at the age of 18 aren’t the end of the world. It’s time to start new adventures, and there’s already several opportunities coming my way. I did my best, and that will always be enough. And I know, that everything will be okay.