Sunday, 05 December 2021

Scout groups coping well in face of virus challenge

SCOUT groups in the Henley area say they are coping well despite the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

The children and their leaders have had to hold digital meetings since the first lockdown in March and regular events, including fund-raising opportunities, have had to be cancelled.

The Scout Association claims that more than 500 groups across England may be forced to close and has launched a national appeal to raise £300,000 for those most at risk.

The 1st Henley Scouts are one of the oldest troops in the country, having been founded in 1908, but members have been unable to meet at their hut in Greys Road for most of the year.

Rhidian Williams, the group leader, said: “Obviously, it has been tough not being able to do face-to-face sessions because it seriously reduces what we can do with young people.

“Going on camps is a quintessential part of scouting and we’ve not been able to do that. We had plans to go down to Brownsea Island over the summer. Scouting is, above all, varied and involves adventure and outdoor activities.

“One of the things we’ve been keen to do is make sure there is a safe approach. We were in a good position to get going again in the second half of this term and now we’ve walked into the second lockdown.

“The important thing is that we have very good support from our parents and we’ve been doing Zoom sessions for the older children and keeping in touch. Our objective is to get young people out as soon as it is safe to do so.”

The scouts would normally have taken part in the remembrance services but these were reduced or cancelled to help stop the spread of covid-19.

Mr Williams, who has been leader for two years, says the group’s finances have not suffered too much.

He added: “We’ve been doing scouting in Henley for an awfully long time and we’ve got reserves in place as part of our natural process.

“It is money that is put away for a rainy day and we are in a very lucky position because we own our building. We are a volunteer-run organisation, so that helps to reduce our outgoings.

“We have asked parents to make a contribution for ongoing costs and where there is individual hardship we try to deal with those circumstances. We’ve had a very good response. We are confident that scouting will continue after the lockdowns stop and we will weather the storm.

“Everyone has been tremendous this year in helping to run Zoom sessions and I’m confident their enthusiasm will be strong when we are able to resume.”

The 1st Wargrave Scouts were unable to stage their annual fireworks display, which normally makes a profit of about £1,000 through food sales, while the £2,000 in gate money goes towards the cost of the next year’s display.

Lesley Hucker, who chairs the executive group, said: “We are very lucky because we do have money in the bank and we received a £10,000 grant from the Government, as did other groups.

“We applied for it through Wokingham Borough Council because we haven’t got any money coming in. The grant has allowed us to carry on without having to go into our savings.

“We’ve still had to pay for our annual membership to the Scout Association, which amounts to about £45 to £50 per child and that is what our subscriptions normally cover.

“Even though we’ve been running over Zoom, we haven’t been asking for subscriptions but we are going to have to start doing that after half-term.”

The Wargrave group would normally meet on Mondays at their hut on the village recreation ground.

Mrs Hucker added: “There is still a lot of interest in the scouts and a lot of people like Zoom because some of the leaders might have health issues or the younger people might live with people who have health issues.”

The 1st Shiplake Scouts have also not been able to resume face-to-face meetings yet.

Debs Boughey, group leader, said: “I would like to say a huge thank-you to our parents, who have chosen to continue paying their children’s subscriptions to help us keep up with the running costs of our scout hut. We were also extremely lucky to have received a grant from South Oxfordshire District Council.

“We have been through such uncertain times during the past year after a fire at the scout hut last September. We were hoping to move back in after Easter but of course that didn’t happen. We have beavers who haven’t even met there.

“Our cubs are very busy with challenges set via WhatsApp. They have been doing a T-shirt challenge, crafts and home skills. A few of our scouts are currently working on their chef’s badge.”

More News:

POLL: Have your say