Friday, 7 November 2014

77th Scouts & RBS Finding Scotland's Real Heroes

You might remember from the middle of last month that I was the ambassador for STV's 'RBS - Finding Scotland's Real Heroes' Young Real Hero category. I was delighted to attend the Awards Ceremony and met some of the inspirational nominees.

The winner of my category was the The Volunteers of the Glasgow 77th (Disabled) Scout Group. The group happen to be based in Glasgow's Southside so it wasn't difficult for me to visit them for an interview...

The volunteers with Carol Smillie at the awards

My kids are a bit young for the Scouts so Michael Shanks, the Group Scout Leader, started off by explaining a bit of the background of the Scouts and the 77th group in particular.

The Glasgow 77th (Disabled) Scout Group follow the same programme as the Scouts, although some of the activities need to be adjusted ever so slightly. They provide adventure and personal development for boys aged from 7 years up to 25 years with physical disabilities and life limiting conditions. The groups has four sections: Cubs, Beavers, Explorers and Network.

I visited the Cubs first:


The sections each meet on a Monday evening at different locations across the Southside. There isn't a catchment area to join and a network of nine buses cross the city each night to bring the boys to their meetings. The Cubs are crying out for new members; as such there isn't a wait list to join. Whereas, the older age groups are fully subscribed just now.

At each meeting the sections will start off with some games; it was football and bowling that were on the go at the Cubs during my visit and everyone was having great fun. After this the plan was to do some badge work and then a Scout activity. Programmes are balanced and organised in advance.

The group employs no staff and is run entirely by volunteers. Michael explained that finding helpers tends to be easy; it's finding the children that can prove more difficult.

Michael works for a children's charity by day and has been volunteering with the Scouts for 10 years now. He dedicates a considerable amount of time to the group, mainly due to the administration that goes on behind the scenes. I asked Michael what motivates him, and despite it being a difficult question to answer (one that he should have been prepared for as he told me STV asked him the same!), he said that volunteering with the group is great fun and it gives him huge satisfaction seeing the boys do something they've never done before, such as swimming. 

At Summer Camp

The group do activities the schools can't do and that are difficult for the parents to do. It's also a different type of relationship that the volunteers have with the members as compared with teachers or parents. The boys can spend their life being 'mothered' whereas the volunteers tend to be young boys themselves. They're being helped, but not smothered.

The boys also head to Glengoyne Lodge for weekend camps twice a year where they stay in their purpose built accessible outdoor centre. There are big plans for the future as the lodge now needs refurbished to accommodate the changing needs of the boys; it's not suitable for electric wheelchairs for example.


Being recognised in the RBS Finding Scotland's Real Heroes awards has increased the group's profile, having shied away from the press in the past. It's hoped that the group will secure some funding to assist with upgrading their facilities and a few new members have joined since the group were featured in the TV series. 

Kultaran Aulak, the Cub Scout Leader, became a helper to enhance his CV and he's now been with the group for 10 years (by day he's a pharmacist). Similarly, Kerrie Downes, the Scout Network Leader that I met at the next section I visited, has been volunteering for 9 years. Kerrie is currently studying for a PhD in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering just now - isn't that amazing! Kerrie has grown up with the boys and remembers the first boy that she helped - they reached their 18th birthdays together. 

The Scout Network tend to meet monthly, but the disabled network group are unique in that they continue to meet weekly. The members, aged 18-25 years, work towards badges, and some can take up to a year to achieve. As I arrived everyone was sat around the tables doing some map reading, which reminded me of my time doing the Duke of Edinburgh Awards. A number of the helpers at the group in fact are participating in the DoE programme which I learned is part of the Scout curriculum.

I headed home feeling truly inspired. The volunteers give up so much of their free time, and they all have demanding day jobs too. They most definitely deserved to win that trophy!

And lastly, if you have read this post and wondered how you can perhaps get involved with the group, then look no further... There is a Committee that is involved in the running of the group to help support and guide the charity and they are currently recruiting - find out more here

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