CORAL GARDENS, St James — There is now an active move by the Scout Association of Jamaica to attract more adult volunteers.
During a recent conference held in St James, the organisation’s Chief Commissioner Garth Russell warned that a shortage of adults involved in the leadership of the association is impeding its growth.
“The kids are interested, from age seven right up to age 18, and that’s the cohort that we focus on. It’s the adult leaders that we are having a significant challenge with,” he told the Jamaica Observer after the opening ceremony for the 113th National Leaders Conference.
“You do have a lot of kids who, once you hear that there is a scout troop, they want to be there. It’s the adults who are absent. We want more adults — more females, more males, it doesn’t matter; we just need more adults,” Russell added.
He explained that teachers are now the scout movement’s main source of leaders but some have had a challenge balancing their responsibilities in the classroom with their commitment to the organisation which students join as an extra-curricular activity.
“After teaching throughout the week, [they] sometimes find it difficult to carry on with the activity thereafter,” Russell lamented.
The challenge gets increasingly difficult after the primary school level, he said.
Meanwhile, the effort to widen the pool of volunteers comes with its own complications.
“We want to get outside persons to also volunteer to be leaders, but in the school system — where most of our groups are — the schools are not very keen on getting persons from the outside. They would prefer to have their teachers,” Russell explained.
He said they are exploring ways to get communities involved.
“For the older ones now, age 13 upwards, those being high school kids, we want like the churches and the communities to form these groups so that these older ones, they can enjoy the scouting section,” said the chief commissioner.
“We have been going out to recruit leaders and also the Ministry of Education and Youth, in the past two years, they have been pushing too, to have the schools identify persons from the schools who can be trained,” he added.
Russell assured individuals who may be interested in volunteering that support would be provided and the role is not overly challenging.
“The association will train these adults to run the programme. It’s not a difficult programme, it’s a fun programme and it’s a programme that persons can do in their sleep, so to speak, it’s just that you have to be dedicated to it,” he explained.
Established in 1910, the Scout Association of Jamaica seeks to build character in boys and girls while teaching them how to be good citizens. Businessman Mark Kerr-Jarrett, who was the guest speaker during the recent conference in St James, lauded the organisation for the work it has been doing.
“It teaches them how to be a good citizen, it teaches them how to respect and help people who are weaker than them and not to prey on them. It teaches them honour, it teaches them integrity and resilience,” he said.
Kerr-Jarrett also made a donation to the association during the event. The amount was not made public.