Christmas message 2018.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, as the song goes, I for one can hardly believe we are approaching the turn of the year already, it seems like no time at all since we were enjoying one of the best summers most of us can remember. In Scouting terms the autumn has flown by as we have all been too busy to see the time pass, all of our sections have provided opportunities to take part in Northern Ireland, District and local events as well as our weekly meetings. It is this joined up approach that enables us to offer so much to our young people and the chance from an early age to see over the horizon and meet new people and try new things.

We have watched with interest as Nationally they are getting to grips with early years Scouting and have begun to pilot groups of Squirrel age children, this follows on from the demand expressed at the Vision conference in Warwick 18 months ago. Hopefully this is the first step to having Squirrels fully integrated into Scouting Nationally, however there is a long way to go and we will watch with interest.

Barbara and the Beaver team have been busy with 340 Beavers attending the Armagh Planetarium in October and plans being made for a Leader Development day on 9th February and the highlight of the year Beaver Day on 18th May. Congratulations to 81st Belfast Beavers on being awarded Youth Organisation of the Year by The Alzheimer’s Society in their Dementia Friendly Awards, a great example of Community Impact in action.

After many years of dedicated service to the Cub Section Jean Major has decided to retire from the post of Northern Ireland Commissioner for Cubs on 1st January. Thank you Jean for all you have done, not only in Cubs but across many branches of Scouting in Northern Ireland. I am pleased that Ciaran McIlwee has taken up the challenge and I know the Cub Team will give him all the support they can in this new role. It was great to attend the Youth Shaped and Skills Day run for Cubs and Leaders by the Youth Commissioners and the Cub Team.

Our growing partnership with the Army was evident by the huge demand for the Mechanics Badge course run at the Kinnegar Logistics Base in Holywood. 200 Scouts took part over 2 days In October and many more are on the waiting list for the next course which we hope will be run in the Spring. The Army also facilitated a night with the Ice Maidens, an all female team that transversed the Antarctic on Skis alone. This proved to be an inspiring evening for all who attended and many questions were asked and answered. Anne and her team have been busy with these events and of course the ever popular Mud Run which looks likely to become an annual event. Looking forward to the spring the Northern Ireland Camp Challenge looks like taking on a different approach this year and Scouts will await with interest details of this event.
I was pleased to be invited by Andrew and the Explorer Team to the presentations made by those involved in NIEX over the summer. The young people presenting reports were of a really high standard and the future is assured if these Explorers are anything to go by. The team are now concentrating on preparations for ExSite the Explorer International Camp being held at Crawfordsburn in July. Many Explorers both from Northern Ireland and beyond have signed up and it looks like it is going to be great fun.

Network Section has been boosted by the excellent work of David Scott and the team of Young Adults who support him. The highlights of the year have been the summer trip to Malawi and our first ever Scouts of the World Awards. It was a privilege to attend the presentation night in Inst to hear of the work covered by those who gained this award, they really have become Global Citizens through this experience.

On the subject of Awards the presentation evening this year on 4th January will be held in Belfast City Hall and I am delighted that we will have Tim Kidd the UK Chief Commissioner with us on the evening. This year we will present Gold Awards, Explorer Belt Certificates, Scouts of the World Awards and Queen’s Scouts Awards.

On the international front the World Jamboree is fast approaching and both Units continue to prepare for this trip of a lifetime to West Virginia, good luck to Aldo and Phil and their teams of leaders and Young people. The opportunity of sending teams of Scouts and Explorers to Eurojam in Poland in 2020 has been seized upon and it currently looks like we will have 4 units of 36 young people and 4 leaders representing Scouts NI in Poland.
Continuing with the international theme I am delighted to welcome Lea a German student to Crawfordsburn. Lea will be part of the Volunteer staff until August and I wish her a happy and enjoyable time with us here in Scouts NI.

Just to mention GDPR, if you have not already completed the on line module, please take some time over the holidays to do this, we really need everyone to do this before the end of 2018.
On the Governance side Roger Thompson has stepped down as Chair of Finance and Philip Price has stepped down as Treasurer. Thank you to both men who have given sterling service to the Board and its Committees over the years. It is good to welcome Nigel Sempey back as Treasurer and Rosemary Forde as Chair of Finance.

My sincere thanks to all the members of the NI Team, the County Commissioners, the Staff at Ardnavally and Crawfordsburn for all the work they do over the year, but especially I want to thank all of you who do so much week in and week out to support our young people and make Scouts NI what it is, a place where we are proud to say we provide young people at all levels with skills for life.

May I wish you and your families a very Happy Christmas and after a well earned rest a healthy, busy and enjoyable Scouting year in 2019.

Stephen Donaldson
Chief Commissioner
Scouts NI

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