Our canals and rivers are cherished outdoor spaces which enable visitors to take a breath of fresh air and simply relax - something that is becoming incredibly rare in the increasingly bustling lives we lead today; from emails to social media, exams to important meetings, there is always something on our minds. This hectic lifestyle and lack of quality relaxation time is a contributing factor to poor mental health and with 1 in 4 people in the UK experiencing a mental health problem each year, the value of these living waterways has never been more important - they can truly transform areas and enrich lives. I for one, am filled with countless happy memories and a sense of sheer joy simply at the thought of spending time nearby to one!
Through the A Million Hands project Scouts are using waterways to improve the lives of people right across the UK - all the while developing grit, resilience, a whole host of transferrable skills, and most importantly; having fun!
Scouts, just like me, are choosing to undertake pocket adoptions on stretches of canals in our local communities. With the support of the Canal & River Trust, we plan and deliver improvements, enhancements and awareness campaigns to these vital community areas. We're using waterways to help us take on some of the UK's biggest social issues, whether it's Dementia, access to clean water and sanitation, disabilities, or mental wellbeing.
When the Canal & River Trust offered the opportunity to adopt a section of waterway within a network of 2000 miles of canal it seemed like a great way for Scouts to take practical, hands on action locally. Since we launched A Million Hands, Scouts have been finding out about some of the biggest issues facing society today and then making a tangible and very real impact, using waterways to help. One project doing just that is an adoption on the Trent & Mersey Canal with 79th Clayton Scouts. Focused around developing an understanding of mental resilience, the group have begun with improvement work and caused such a stir that they've even had a visit from the Stoke City football mascot!
Waterways are a great place to take five minutes away from the busy world we live in and Clayton Scouts have given local people just that chance by massively improving a stretch of their local canal, and this isn't just a one hit wonder - it's a sustainable project that is continually running, ensuring local people and visitors alike will be able to enjoy the waterway for many years to come.
Another huge social issue A Million Hands looks at tackling is access clean water and sanitation, working with our partners at WaterAid. Scout groups are able to explore the topic and think about how the clean water, that we perhaps take for granted, can affect us here in the UK as well as internationally. Groups are able to adopt sections of canal and map the areas that need action and plan what to do - then take collective action together to make a real difference. They can also explore with water testing kits supplied by the Freshwater Habitat Trust to work out the things you can't see on the surface, it's a great citizen science project, that really hits home when it is uncovered that the poorest quality water in the UK is often still much cleaner than that which young people of Scout ages drink in developing nations such as Madagascar.
Through A Million Hands, Scouts are utlising waterways to connect communities, remove social barriers/taboos and creating amazing places that all of our society can benefit from - a legacy I'm truly proud of!