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National Volunteer Week

volunteer-week

National Volunteer Week is here and Scouts Canada is proud to have over 16,000 of the most dedicated volunteers.  Over the last year, despite all of the challenges, our Scouters did what they do best; pivoted, adapted and found unique and creative ways to continuing Scouting safely.  

Many of our Scouters had to move to Scouting online, which was new for everyone.  Here are just some of the amazing stories of how our volunteers implemented online Scouting programs that kept kids coming back week after week.

Alex



Heather-Roney



Avatar



Richard



Josephine Meessen



Andrew Stainer



Christopher Shannon



Laura Ward



Stacy and Sheena



Leif



Gregory Willson



David-Walker



Loretta



Tristan



1st-Niagara-Beaver Colony



Heather Eyestone



Joel Desrosiers



Mark



Other Volunteers



Craig Latto



Thank you to all our Scouter Volunteers!

After three years of Scouting, Alexis Park understands that the Cubs in her Pack prefer meeting in person. She also knows she wants to continue organizing meetings for the youth even if they are virtual meetings. Learning how to run an online section has involved exploring online resources and other tools. But she’s found a great balance between providing the opportunities for Cubs to connect with friends while moving forward on their Scoutcraft. 

Alexis organizes their meetings around work on Outdoor Activity Skills and Personal Achievement badges and always includes a fun game. While badge work is the primary focus, the youth also built Cub Boxes containing items like compasses and rope, which can be used during meetings. She stresses, however, that they do not overdo things and keep expectations small, while celebrating that learning is happening continuously. And every meeting starts and ends with a traditional Grand Howl.  

The biggest challenge has been getting the parents to engage with the program. But with weekly email communication, the Pack has developed great parental support and Cub attendance has been steady. 

Alexis’s best advice: 

“Try not to overthink online meetings and focus on having fun and the youth learning their skills… Having the Cubs just see the Scouters’ faces is most important, knowing that we’re here for them.” 

Andrew Stainer has used his short time as a Scouter to help sustain participation of Burnaby Southwest Rovers in virtual meetings during the pandemic. The focal point of meetings has been activities that are fun and casual, such as playing video games on the Discord virtual community platform. They have also engaged in a pretty lively online moot, lifting everyone’s mood during the dog days of the pandemic.  

One of the greatest benefits of virtual Scouting has been joining and playing with other Rover crews across Canada. The team-building aspects of playing games amongst themselves have been beneficial, generating new and deepening connections between youth.  

Andrew’s best advice: 

“Make sure you have multiple event nights so everyone can attend based on different schedules.” 

Making use of a diversity of technology has defined Gregory Wilson’s approach to virtual Scouting with his Cub Pack. Their online meetings during the pandemic have incorporated several programs including video conferencing software, Google Maps, Kahoot! and Scratch. These platforms help Wilson keep meeting topics varied and personal development aligned with SPICES. Participation and enthusiasm have remained high. 

One of the keys to the success of their meetings is ensuring that all Cubs are involved and have input into meeting topics. Those who struggle with the software are offered tech support by youth with more advanced computer skills. And Scouters make sure that everyone’s voice is heard, from the quietest to the most talkative. 

Gregory’s best advice: 

“Keeping an eye on the participants and actively engaging all of them is important to have a successful program.” 

 

After pulling off a successful virtual Linking Camp in the Spring, Heather Eyestone and her fellow Scouters have turned to organizing weekly virtual meetings since September. Content is developed from resources like DHLC and shared experiences from national Scouter Mug-Ups. Planning and polling for meetings is done using Jamboard and meetings are held via Zoom. Older youth are also encouraged to help put the meetings together to ensure Youth-Led participation. 

In addition to having fun, the focus of activities is developing the skills needed for the return of in-person Scouting. This has involved sewing a piece of winter gear and many cooking challenges, but sometimes with an added twist. Instead of a traditional mug up, for example, the youth were challenged to make campsites out of pretzels, graham crackers, marshmallows and jellybeans. It was a fun and tasty way to explore how to set up a campsite. 

Heather’s best advice: 

“Make sure you also share the load with your fellow Scouters. You may even have a youth willing to put together some program to share.” 

Heather Roney has been committed to maintaining the consistency of meetings for her Troop and all Group sections. Badgework and progress on OAS skills are one facet of the challenges included in virtual meetings. However, she believes in emphasizing fun and game-playing to help balance the impacts of pandemic-related stress and lack of freedom experienced by youth. 

Zoom meetings draw on a variety of technologies including Kahoot!, music bingo and online escape rooms. Activities have included a Meet My Pet Night and a five-week Jeopardy Tournament of Champions with questions written by Scouters. They included Jeopardy-style questions about knot-tying and Leave No Trace, as well as general knowledge questions involving Harry Potter and video games. Required supplies for meetings are delivered directly to the sections.  

Scouters post completed challenges and projects on a private Facebook page. This is a space where the youth and their families can communicate with each other. So far participation has been enthusiastic and enrolment numbers are strong. 

Heather’s best advice: 

“Enlist older sections to help plan meetings for the younger sections. The Beavers and Cubs love to interact with the Scouts and Venturers. It also piques their interest to see how much fun the older youth are having.” 

Once the pandemic was declared, Christopher Shannon and his fellow Scouters decided that continuing with their meetings would provide an important sense of normalcy for their Cubs. They organized online meetings to align with the activities already scheduled for the year. These included building mason bee boxes from kits assembled by Christopher and his son, and lots of knot-tying. Knots were taught step-by-step during a weekly Zoom meeting and then mounted on knot boards.  

Christopher has tried to ensure that there is lots of room for the youth to use their imaginations when planning and scheduling meetings. At an online camp they were invited to create sleeping arrangements like forts or backyard tents and then explain their lairs to the others during the virtual mug up. 

By maintaining these fun modified activities, the Scouters have continued to invest in the lives of the Cubs, as well as the real value of Scouting.  

Christopher’s best advice: 

“Be patient and have a plan. Even for online, it’s important to have a scheduled plan.” 

David Walker and the Scouters with 1st Blueberry’s Pack and Troop knew immediately that they needed to continue meeting virtually after in-person meetings were stopped last spring. They experimented with formats, including a mix of Zoom meetings, email challengesFacebook and picked-up suppliesParents clearly preferred less screen time and more time outside, so they decided to keep virtual get togethers short. 

Over the past year, the most popular activities have been the pioneering and cooking challenges. In one, the youth had to construct a ‘hobo stove and cook lunch on it. The youths are provided with the opportunity to share and review their attempts with others online. A small prize is awarded for the most successful attempt.  

To support the sharing and review, Walker set up a private Facebook page for the Scouts. This has proven extremely popular with their families and encouraged new families to join in with the activities. 

David’s best advice: 

“Keep the online portions short, concentrate on the Scouting skills, and have the youth check back to review their attempts.” 

 

Joel Desrosiers of the 1st Dorchester group (Tri-Shores Council) has been volunteering with Scouts for over 22 years.  As the pandemic started closing down in-person Scouting throughout the country last spring, Joel decided to support other Scouters by creating the 2020 Canadian Virtual Jamboree.  Building off an existing Genesis Ventmoot website, he created program-specific material for Beavers, Cubs, Scouts and Venturers.   

Over the course of the first lockdown in April 2020, Joel posted materials and programming for 20 days-worth of Scouting to keep his fellow Scouters engaged and to help kids keep Scouting.  What’s great about the Canadian Virtual Jamboree is that the program areas can be completed independently, allowing for personal progression and growth following the Canadian Path guidelines.  All of the programming falls in line with the SPICES, Program Areas and Personal Achievement Badges, which is bonus for youth in all Sections. 

Currently, Canadian Virtual Jamboree has over 3000 youth tuning in not just from Canada, but from all over the world, including the United States, Scotland, England and Australia.  It’s been a truly positive experience and yet another reason Joel loves Scouting! 

 

Laura St-Jean is fairly new to Scouting and like most Scouters, she pivoted to virtual meetings when the pandemic hit last spring.  She and her fellow Scouters did all the usual things: sent emails, asked the kids to pick suggested activities and tried to work on Personal Achievement badge challenges, all while staying apart.  Overall, there was some - but not encouraging – participation, and everyone was clearly missing the weekly face-time with the kids. 

After a few weeks, Laura and her Group decided to switch things up and tried a hybrid approach to virtual meetings.  They invested in a Pro Zoom account and prepared separately packaged kits that parents could pick up. They asked the Scouts to work on their projects on their own then to share their results at the next meeting.  It was a huge success and participation increased. 

All of this helped the kids keep in touch with each other while school was out and to maintain a sense of normalcy during a very confusing and strange time.  Keeping these ties with the Scouting Group from the beginning of the pandemic ensured there were many who returned to Scouting after the summer and helped to keep their sense of camaraderie strong.

Taking it ‘one meeting at a time’ and adapting has they go, has helped Laura’s Group remain committed to Scouting.   

For Loretta Kasperski, continuing to volunteer with her 1st Bancroft Scouting Group has proven to be a great boost to her mental health over the last year.  Seeing the smiling faces on Zoom each week from each of the kids was all the reward she needed. And despite the additional work involved in planning and organizing Scout meetings virtually, knowing that she helped put those smiles there was worth the extra effort.  

Her Troop has met weekly on Zoom and posted challenges to Facebook.  They’ve done virtual camps and had guest speakers including scientists, illustrators, wildlife experts and event Santa!  She has noticed that for the youth in her Section these weekly virtual meetings allow kids to connect in a fun way and to see each other’s faces.     

The youth in her group look to Scouting as a place to be valued and to be among friends. In these crazy times Loretta is more than happy to be able to offer that.

With some Scouters having more than 25 years of volunteer experience, the 1st Niagara’s Colony leadership team lost little time in organizing virtual Beaver meetings during the lockdown. Their desire was to sustain the routine of weekly meetings and offer youth the continuing social benefits of getting together with their friends. The Scouters were also yearning to, well, Scout.  

The youth had lots of ideas about what they wanted to do, when asked! A full online schedule was created in September 2020. The biggest ingredient of their meetings is fun. This has been delivered through Beaver Buggy races, at-home camping, visiting a farm in New Brunswick, treasure hunts, North Star and Going Up presentations, crafting and games like Simon Says, Red Light Green Light and Brown Line Boogie.  

Throw in some work on personal achievement badges and Outdoor Adventure Skills badges and you’ve got a Colony of busy, eager Beavers. Reaction from the parents has been enthusiastic. More Beavers than ever before are participating in meetings, and there is now a wait list of youth wanting to join the Colony.  

Team’s best advice: 

“If you’re having fun, the youth will too. Let them guide you, set expectations and go forth.” 

 

Despite only having one year of Scouting to his name, Mark Gallagher was not deterred from stepping up when the Cubs of 1st Mount Albert needed him.  Along with his fellow Scouters, Mark pivoted his Section online and made sure all the kids were having fun.  

 

With their fall camp in jeopardy due to the pandemic, they decided to try a virtual camp.  Mark and the Cub Scouters went all out!  They made sure to have a great line up of fun activities and learning experiences.  They even worked with local restaurants that were offering discounts.  They incorporated opening ceremonies, videos, and how-to's, mixed with skits and jokes to keep all the kids laughing.   The evening ended with a fire and naturally more great skits.  They built a website to follow and invited the whole community to join.  It proved such a success that Scouts from Cuba, the US, England and even Australia joined in! 

 

It was important for Mark and the rest of the Scouters of 1st Mount Albert to make sure that the youth in their Section could have a sense of ‘normal’ and also have something to look forward to. It brought a community of Scouters together and provided an amazing experience that might not otherwise have happened without for the pandemic.     

 

Mark’s best advice: Despite all the work to prep for the virtual camp, the joke time was the biggest hit! But that's Scouting; you can plan, plan, plan but the time together is what makes the memories. 

 

As the 1st Paris Troop in Battlefields Council moved to online meetings, Scouter Rich Burgess knew that it was not only important for the Scouts to stay connected and to, continuing building on their Scouting skills, but to also have some social time during lockdown.  The impact was immediate and the Troop gained a sense of connection and purpose in an otherwise unpredictable and disconnected time. 

Using Zoom, Rich and his fellow Scouters encouraged his Troop to continue to set up regular meeting dates and times and to lead their activitiesKahoot (an online trivia-based game) became a staple for the group and soon the youth began developing their own Kahoot questions and games to share at each week’s meeting.  Looking at his own network and local resources Rich was able to support the virtual meetings with interesting guest speakers. 

Rich’s best advice: There are a lot of online game platforms that are appropriate for youth and can be tailored for virtual Scouting. 

With more than 29 years of combined Scouting experience between them, Sheena Weber and Stacy Happell of 1st Port Coquitlam Beavers and Cubsknow a thing or two about being creative.  Moving their Beaver and Cub Sections online during the first part of the pandemic meant creating a few guiding rules while also staying flexible to keep the kids coming back each week 

 Among the rules, Scouters prioritized minimal parental involvement.  They knew that parents were already struggling with work and online school, so they didn’t want to add to this stress when it came to keeping kids Scouting.  As much as possible, Sheena and Stacy made sure to plan activities that required minimal parental involvement, ideally that the kids could do themselves.   

 

Keeping activities or projects at low or not cost was another guiding principle for the pair.  Raiding the recycle bin or just finding items from around the house that kids could re-imagine was the name of the game.  For one assignment kids were asked to build a plane.  The results were fabulous, with kids making intricate drawings of planes and building them from paper and packing foam. One youth used the time to work on his plane with his dad as a woodworking project!  

Sheena and Stacy also made sure to try and get kids off their computers as much as they could. The best example of this was having the kids write, direct and star in their own movie to share with the rest of their Section’s Troop.   

For the pair, continuing to Scout during the pandemic has been a challenge, but they’ve heard from parents that it’s been meaningful for the kids and gives them something other than school-work to doFor them, that’s the reward and motivation that keeps them Scouting year after year. 

The MedVents and MedRovers of Central Escarpment Council are unique within Scouting and Scouter Tristan Wellings is also pretty unique, too. Tristan joined the MedRovers in Peel and then four years ago founded the NPEMA MedVent section.  He’s gathered together and volunteers with an amazing team of Scouters, some medically trained, that includes doctors, nurses, search & rescue experts, first aid trainers and midwives, along with other experienced Scouters who advise and encourage quality programming. 

These Sections are uniquely focused on first aid training and support.  Normally the Venturers (age 15-17) and Rovers (age 18-26) of these two sections would take part in face-to-face meetings, first-aid training sessions and practice scenarios, but naturally the pandemic has all but halted those. The youth in Tristan’s groups are highly motivated, so they were eager to continue to meet virtually and continue their training.  Over the summer they were able to provide youth-to-youth training as part a program organized by the Sick Kids Hospital (Toronto).  To ensure the youth in his groups remain engaged he’s helped organize healthcare focused guest speakers, connected with other Venturer groups within Canada and helped his Venturer’s prepare modules and other learning tools for the younger sections.  He’s most proud of how the youth in his groups 3D printed face shields as part of PPE that was provided to other groups. 

Despite all the challenges of the pandemic; the stress of isolation and online schooling, the youth report having a strong and happy connection to MedVents and MedRovers, and for Tristan, that makes all the effort worthwhile. 

 

For Laura Ward, transitioning her group to virtual Scouting was tricky at first.  They had a smaller turnout than usual for their virtual meetings, but when they decided to work on some of the original plans the Cubs had made earlier in the year, things started to run smoother.  The Scouters made up kits for the kids and they would work on them during the online meetings. Bee houses and knot board kits were a big hit with the Cubs.  In the summer they planned virtual camps with kids each showing off their camp set-ups; on trampolines, in the living, out in their own backyards.  By Remembrance Day, the Scouts invited guest speakers from the military to join their virtual meeting and share their experiences.  And by the end of the year, all the kids received a bag of all the badges and crests they had earned throughout the year.   

Getting the youth involved in the planning, although already an important part of Scouting, proved even more important for Laura and her fellow Scouters to ensure the youth felt included and engaged.  As with most things in Scouting, Laura enjoys seeing how proud the kids are of themselves when they complete a task or activity.  It’s what keeps her volunteering at Scouting year after year. 

 It only makes sense that while the younger Sections of Scouting were pivoting to Zoom and Google Meets, the older sections, (in this case the Rovers of Pacific Coast Council), all jumped on Discord to keep connected and keep Scouting.  Peter Mills initiated an online Moot for Rovers, not only from within British Columbia, but welcoming everyone from across Canada. To help keep Rovers together and engaged, there were open invitations for game sessions and just to stay in touch, laugh and connect during this tough time.   

Peter’s best advice: Rovers are a social age group, so you’ve just got to try and keep trying and staying connected.   

 

Sometimes, you have to do things outside of the box. Those were Josephine Meessen’s thoughts when the pandemic started last year and everything started to move online.  With previous experience as a Girl Guide leader and 11 years with Scouts, Josephine was used to being thrown the odd curve ball, but this was different.   

Working with the Scouters in her Beaver and Cub Section, Josephine moved her Group to virtual Scouting almost immediately in March 2020.  Over the last year everyone has committed to building an exciting and robust virtual program for the youth.  She encouraged Scouts in her Section to keep an open mind and to think outside the box, like herMost of the kids were already doing online learning for school soScouters decided to push their weekly meetings to every two weeks, which proved effective. 

It was sometimes hard to get a read from the Scouts as to whether virtual Scouting was really having an impact, but keeping the lines of communications open with the parents was key. When she heard from parents how excited the kids were when they received their monthly Scouting meeting packages, she knew they were on the right track.  

Finding out what the youth want to do each week and finding a way to make it happen is one of the reasons Josephine loves the resiliency of Scouting.  

For Leif Bloomquist and the Scouters of 18th Willowdale in the Greater Toronto Council, switching their meetings to virtual when the pandemic started in March 2020 turned out to be a huge success.  Youth in the Group were full of great suggestions for activities, games and topicsScouters did their best to facilitate and went above and beyond to make sure Scouts were engaged and having a great time. The Group brought in guest speakers on topics from aviation, to debating, candle-making and even fireworks!  These were a hit with everyone!  They also linked with other Groups for meetings and weekend events such as game nights and virtual camps/sleepovers.   

Leif could see how important the weekly meetings were to the youth in his Section; it was often the only time they could interact with their friends and peers outside of school.  Parents have also commented on the success of the weekly meetings and appreciated the effort Leif and all the Scouters in his Section have put in to continue Scouting during the pandemic. 

Leif’s best advice: Scouts is not school. The activities also don't have to be the only focus - just giving the youth a safe meeting space to share and connect with each other socially is invaluable, especially during lockdown.   

Scouter Craig Lotto started Zoom meetings for his Beaver Colony in September.  This required thinking about how he and the other Scouters could work with their section’s youth and support thewhile in separate locations. This was especially import and for the ‘hands-on’ Beavers. One solution: monthly deliveries of craft kits and goodies to help the Colony stay engaged. They also depend on feedback and ideas from the youth. And the impact of maintaining virtual connections? “Large,” in a word. 

Craig’s best advice: 

“Keep an open mind. When doing crafts, give them more than they need so that their imaginations can grow.”