To mark Scout-Guide Week in Guelph and area, a batch of local luminaries were asked about memories and lessons learned as past members of the movement. Scouts Canada Wellington area communications officer Dean Post rounded up some local former Scouts and Guides. Public relations intern at Scouts Canada’s national office Afuwa Renner asks the questions. The answers are varied fond remembrances.
POLICE CHIEF BRYAN LARKIN
Bryan Larkin grew up scouting in Montreal, where he learned great skills and developed values that he can relate to his current role as the Guelph Chief of Police.
What did you like most about being a Scout?
I was a Beaver Scout from 5 to 7, later on became a Scout and then a Venturer Scout from 14 on. After that I became a leader. What I really enjoyed from that experience was learning about community service. Being with the group was something I looked forward to every week. I always enjoyed the camping and the outdoors as well. It taught me about the environment, civic duty and about leadership. I have fond memories and great values from that.
When you were a Scout, what event changed your life?
Our Scout group would run a Christmas hamper drive every year. I have fond memories of going door-to-door, collecting food, packing them and giving to those in need. Growing up in a middle-class family we didn’t have to do without, and it taught me that some people didn’t have that.
What major milestones did you overcome during your time as a Scout or Venturer Scout?
The community I lived in didn’t have Venturer Scouts. After our community had hosted Community Venturers from the U.K., a number of the senior Scouts were interested in launching the Venturer Scout Group in our area. We developed our own neckerchief, we had to write the charter, write the constitution, we worked with our adviser and we were successful.
What is your most memorable moment while growing up Scouting in Montreal?
I would probably say my most memorable moment was working as an overnight camp counsellor at Camp Jackson Doddes on the shores of Lake Tamaracouta. As a youth, another highlight was the Kub Kar Rally. I loved painting, setting up and trying to build the best car.
How has your contribution as a counsellor at the Tamaracouta Scout Reserve shaped your values/goals/life?
I started working at Tamaracouta when I was 15 years old. As a counsellor we had a lot of duties. The experience really taught me about teamwork and managing responsibilities. We use to do fire drills, and everyone had a task. Say there was a fire drill in the kitchen, we would practise the drills and compare times to other years to identify what we could improve; that encouraged leadership and teamwork. As I was away from home for the summer, I was taught valuable lessons like how to do laundry and learned to be more independent. It was also about relationship building, since I was sharing a cabin with people I didn’t know.
What values and skills did you learn in Scouting that you can
attribute to your current success?
Leadership, right from the get go! The scouting movement is based on developing leaders. From planning our weekend outings to camping to community food drives, those experiences instilled values of leadership and public service. I owe so much to the scouting movement for developing that in me.
MAYOR KAREN FARBRIDGE
What is your most treasured memory from when you were a Brownie or a Girl Guide?
There were various social activities we did with each other, but the most memorable was singing carols door-to-door with the other Brownies. I was very fortunate to grow up in the country, and through Guiding there were lots of opportunities to get out in the local environment. Another memory was when we went to see an ice skating show at the Maple Leaf Gardens in downtown Toronto as a group.
What fear did Guiding help you overcome?
It helped me address fears of public speaking. For instance, when you’re a Brownie you recite the promise in front of other Brownies, other parents and so on. This helped me gain confidence in speaking in front of people.
What type of influence did being a Brownie and a Girl Guide have on your current leadership style?
I learned about helping others, service to others and taking responsibility. I am in a leadership role which is all about service and making a difference. To achieve badges you must push yourself to set goals and stick to them. By doing those two things, we learned how to be courageous, persevere and challenge ourselves. From that, you develop a feeling of empowerment that you can achieve your goals while respecting yourself and others.
How has being a Girl Guide shaped your values, goals, or life?
Guiding introduced some really solid values, but it was more than that. Guiding allowed me to learn how to express those values in everyday life and align them with my goals.
When you were involved with Guiding, what were your favourite things to do?
I started Guiding as a Brownie and continued on. I loved getting together with a group of friends and experiencing new challenges, such as camping or cooking. I still have the cookbook I created to help obtain a badge. I love culinary arts and still use that cookbook today.
When you were a Girl Guide, what activity did you find yourself doing that you were initially too afraid to do?
Camping and exploring the outdoors, because my family wasn’t a camping family. Learning how to pitch a tent in the pouring rain was a huge challenge.
What was the best thing that happened to you when you were a Girl Guide?
Reflecting on my Girl Guide scrapbook and sash badges that I still have, I recall how much Guiding helped develop my confidence and the beginning of my leadership skills.
What values and skills did you learn in Guiding that you can attribute to your current success?
I learned that each of us, individually and collectively, have a responsibility to make a difference in our world. I have carried this value with me, and, as a longstanding city councillor and President Emeritus of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, I continue to serve my community and have had the privilege to make a positive difference worldwide.
What is your favourite memory from when you were a Girl Guide?
My favourite memory was going to camp – learning how to make bannock, swimming and hikes. One camp in particular, Camp Camus (Sumac backwards) comes to mind as being memorable. A second memory that remains strong is marching in parades. In Bramalea we marched in at least two per year, and it was always fun waving and looking for people in the crowd.
When you were a Girl Guide, what big obstacle did you overcome?
Swimming. I was not a strong swimmer, but it was a requirement to attend camp and I worked hard to overcome my fear of the deep end.
What motivated you to be a Sparks leader?
My daughter was the key motivator. I have three sons, and my daughter would always remark on how much more fun their Beavers, Cubs and Scouting activities were compared to Sparks and Brownies. Although I have always volunteered in many other activities, being a leader meant that I could focus the events and activities according to the consensus of the group. The Sparks program encourages girls, ages 5-6, to try a bit of everything in a safe and fun environment. Sparks can anticipate, but are not limited to, visiting neighbourhood landmarks, discovering the outdoors, sleep-overs, exploring arts and singing.
How has being a Girl Guide shaped your values/goals/life?
I have been a lifelong volunteer in so many organizations, and in many roles I am required to do presentations or public speaking. Confidence comes from early experiences where you feel validated and heard. Earning badges and setting and achieving goals helps to build this sense of accomplishment.
How has Guiding inspired you to take care of the environment?
Appreciation for natural spaces was one of the most significant ‘take-aways.’ As our society has transitioned to higher density urban living, it becomes more and more important to offer young children the opportunity to experience the natural world, to develop a respect for the elements and the beauty of sleeping under the stars. I was in Guiding in the 1970s, when environmental awareness was not on the radar, and yet we still earned badges to grow a garden and build a birdhouse, skills still useful today.
What values and skills did you learn in Guiding that you can
attribute to your current success?
Confidence, goal setting, cooking, public speaking and time management. And, never underestimate the importance of being able to build a fire and cook a meal using a tin can stove.
Author Dorothy Scott started as a Brownie and Girl Guide in Canada, and then the family moved to England where she found Guiding was more challenging. She enjoyed learning and taking on responsibilities, and at the age of 92 she still keeps in touch with dear friends she has met through Guiding.
What was your favourite thing to do as a Girl Guide?
Camping. Each patrol was responsible for the whole of their camping experience except for pre-booking the site, which would be some remote field. As patrol leaders we were responsible for organizing our own food and cooking it, setting up our patrol tent, collecting firewood, digging latrines and seeing that everyone in the patrol took part. There were group activities organized by guide leaders, such as nature hikes, tracking, evening campfire, parades and inspections. When we left, we tried to restore the field as if we had never been there.
Were there any acquaintances that had a substantial influence on your life, and how did they influence you?
Our guide leader “Akela” had been trained by Baden-Powell, founder of the scouting movement. His philosophy, influenced by his observations of the self-sufficiency of the Boer youth compared with that of their British counterparts, was that independence and care for others should be taught by experiencing real-life situations. Our Guide leaders and the other Guides influenced me by being good examples and by generously teaching me their skills.
When you were a Girl Guide, what inspired you?
“Be Prepared.” The lifestyle that the Guides promoted through hands-on activities and community projects. Being part of a group that tried to follow the Guiding promise.
It challenges you, among other things, to use your talents and abilities, to be trustworthy and to be respectful to yourself and others.
What life lesson did you learn through Guiding?
We learned always to think about how you can improve your surroundings – always to think about what we could contribute to an area to make it better. A lifetime lesson.