PHOTO: It was snorkelling night for the Scouts and Cubs, and Scouter Yvonne Treffers’ underwater camera came in very handy; that’s Aiden Gouliquer giving the thumbs up.
“There is definitely kids’ interest – lots of it. The only thing missing is the adults.”
That’s Scout leader Yvonne Treffers talking about the program here, which this year had to turn away youngsters when it couldn’t get a leader for its Beaver program. And unless another leader joins her, Brian Burkart, and Kyla Bates, there may not be a Cub program next year.
Its sister organization, Atikokan Girl Guides, is facing a similar dilemma, but at the other end of the age spectrum. Guides has five leaders, and attracted 28 girls to four programs this year: Sparks (ages 5-6, six girls), Brownies (ages 7-8, 16 girls), Guides (ages 9-11, five girls) and Pathfinders (ages 12 to 14, one girl).
“We have five leaders, but are losing one for sure for next year, and maybe two,” said Sarah Young, who is serving as unit Guider for three of the programs. “Basically, I’m really looking for someone for the older girls.”
Guides and Pathfinders are designed so that the girls themselves take a greater role in deciding which aspects of Guiding they want to pursue. Learning opportunities are the focus, through badge programs, but also through hands-on activities of just about every description. With volunteer firefighter Lisa Gushulak on the leadership team this year, the girls have done things like fire hall visits (they even got to ride the fire truck), First Aid, and a fire truck clean-up (for their service component).
“You don’t have to have been in Guiding before to be a leader,” said Young. “And only two of our leaders have children in the program; the others do not, or no longer have, children involved.”
To qualify as a leader, volunteers must be at least 18, complete a criminal records check, and a short (less an hour) on-line training program. Beyond that, there is leadership material available, and an annual leader conference in Thunder Bay.
Currently, all of the Guiding groups meet on Tuesday evening. The Pathfinders may go to a new night next year; the group is willing to accommodate a leader’s schedule. Young noted that rather than meet weekly, the Dryden Pathfinder group meets one Saturday a month for a five-hour session.
Training and support for leaders, as well as the entrance requirements, are similar for Scout leaders.
This year there were twelve boys and girls in a combined Cubs and Scouts program. That wide age range – 8 to 14 – has been a challenge for everyone.
“We do want to split them into separate groups next year,” said Treffers, Cubs (ages 8 to 10) and Scouts (11 to 14).
The group needs a couple of leaders to take on Cubs to do that. Leading a pack means planning and running weekly activities; the program does have supports – and a long set of traditional activities – to help leaders with that. Cubs do some outdoor camping, but crafts, the Kub Kar rally, and a variety of other events dot the schedule.
And while Wednesday is the traditional Scouting night here, the program is willing to accommodate the schedules of new Cub leaders.
The Scouts are in the process of moving to a new, more outdoor-centred program, called The Canadian Path.
“We’re all super gung-ho on that,” said Treffers. “We are dispensing with a lot of the traditional Scouting gear and becoming more of a back-packing unit.”
The Scouts see Outers right around the corner, and recognize this will be valuable preparation for that experience.
Both the Scouts and the Guides have seen changes at the top of their local organizations the past few years, which has probably contributed to the shortage of leaders. The late Arlene Spilchuk was the community Guiding leader here for over two decades; she has not been replaced. In Scouts, long-time group commissioner Rick Geurts stepped aside, and has not been replaced. Scouts do have a treasurer, Angela Goodwin.
Anyone interested in working with either of these programs should contact Young (597-2231) or Treffers (at work, 5987-2811).