Can you imagine just how awful the last year has been for our children and young people? Unable to mix with friends, cooped up at home, occasionally being dragged out for exercise with grumpy adults for the odd hours exercise. A Christmas without uncles, aunties, grandparents. How many Bah/Bat Mitzvah's have been ruined? Birthdays? Forget it.
There is now light on the horizon. Schools will reopen in early April. Many young people will be seeing friends for the first time for months. For me as someone who absolutely hated school, it seems strange to think that for many this will be like finding the promised land! What young people are most looking forward to is re-aquainting themselves with their friends. There will be a lot of catching up to do. Make no mistake though, just getting young people back to school is only a small part of the picture. Most of them will have spent the best part of a year on line, playing games, watching TV, doing things that involve staring at a very small screen in a small room. This is not healthy for anyone and I have worries about the long term effects for many reasoms. We desperately need our young people to get out and about and to start mixing socially when it is safe to do so.
I was mulling on this earlier, thinking back to when my children were school age. My two daughters went to Rainbows, Brownies and Guides, as well as swimming clubs, drama groups etc. My son went to cubs and the 5th Edgware Scout group, as well as playing football for Watling Boys club. The role that these groups will play in getting our young people out, about and away from their bedroom computers and rebuilding their social life and physical fitness is massive and it is something we all need to make a commitment to support.
This blog has done what it can to support these groups over the years. We always try and feature tweets from local Scout and Guide groups in our tweets of the week as well as highlighting issues affecting them and promoting events. One of my best friends is one of the Leaders of 5th Edgware Scouts, and as with all such groups there are challenges ahead. Some of the leaders have lost the appetite to continue and some have sadly been lost completely. Parents have gotten out of the habit of taking their children, have new working arrangements. The natural progression between Rainbows/Brownies/Guides etc has been disrupted. Families have many things on their plate and the dates for youth group related activities have simply not been added to the 2021 calendars and planners. Once you are out of the routine of taking the children to such groups, it is easy to stay out of the routine. In short, at the time when such groups are most needed, such groups face all manner of logistical and managerial challenges. Many of the normal calendar of events have not been booked, events missed etc. Groups are doing the best, but for all it is a challenge.
This tweet from 16th Edgware is a good example of what is happening to the normal calendar of events
This tweet from 3rd Edgware Brownies illustrates how some groups are using technology to keep things going, but this is not the same as actually doing things in real, face to face groups.
What a wonderful JGAC Thinking Day event we had yesterday! It was so nice to see girls from all the different packs. Hopefully next year we can meet in person.— 3rd Edgware Brownies (@3rdEdgware) February 23, 2021
The 7th Edgware Guides and Rangers have also been organising online, which is vital to keep the friendship bonds alive.
As we open up, everyone hopes that next year's Troop photo from the 2nd Edgware Scouts is a bit less socially distanced.
There is a district wide update on Scouting activities on the @BarnetScouts Twitter.
Taking this year's troop photo was a bit different - everyone had an individual photo, before Josh edited them all together. So no social distancing was broken! Here is the final edit... pic.twitter.com/jXt55V1nH7— 2nd Edgware Scouts (@2ndEdgwareScout) December 10, 2020
Now is the time that we need to start looking forward and making plans. These local groups all do amazing work. Getting young people out, about and socialising is going to be a vital part of our local recovery. The health and mental wellbeing of our young people is perhaps the most important asset we have as a nation going forward. None of these groups run themselves. There are never enough people helping out, working as leaders and deputies, or even helping put out the chairs. The work always falls on a hard pressed small group top do a lions share of the work. As a community we need to pull together and do our bit. Please consider helping. Contact your local group, ask how you can help. If you have a bti of time on your hands, even if it is only an evening a month or to help out on camping trips etc, get in touch. In this world we live in, there are all manner of DBS checks and other safeguarding matters, so even getting to a position to help takes time and effort, but nothing could be more important.
There is one final thing I want to mention. It isn't just your children who benefit. When my son joined the cubs, one of the boys in the group tragically lost his mother in an accident. The group was able to rally around and help. Having a ready made support network of people in a similar situation is a massive benefit and one that is often not considered by parents, please consider putting something back. Who knows when you might need that network.
I am committed to supporting all of the local groups as best I can through the works of this blog and my contact network. Are you?
If you are involved in a local group and you have something important to say, this blog is read by thousands of Barnet residents every month. Please get in touch and let us know, either via Twitter or the email address in the sidebar of the non mobile view.
Roger Tichborne 2021