What a year it's been! Since the launch of A Million Hands, Scouting's award winning community impact campaign, a quiet revolution has been going on in our communities. While the political world was busy turning itself upside down, our movement stepped up to change lives across the globe for the better.
As a young person, I knew that we had so much to give to our communities in terms of time, energy and compassion. It turned out that others agreed with me. We found that 82% of 12-24 year olds in the UK believe it is important for today's youth to tackle social issues (Com Res, 2016), yet only 36% believe that they have the chance to do so.
An ambitious plan
So, if you pardon the pun, we decided to take matters into our own hands. We got a team of Scouts together and asked them what issues they wanted to tackle. The results were surprising to say the least! Where once Scouts were synonymous with car washing, weeding and litter picking, the young people told us that they wanted to be much more ambitious. The issues they chose were dementia awareness, disability, mental well-being & resilience, and clean water and sanitation. Challenging stuff, but to paraphrase JFK, 'we do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard, and measure the best of our energies and skills.'
A Million Hands is harnessing the talents of 500,000 young people across the UK to make change in their communities. We have brought together six national charities to help us achieve this: Alzheimer's Society, Guide Dogs, Leonard Cheshire Disability, Mind, WaterAidThe Canal & River Trust and our supporting charities in the nations. To have the greatest possible impact, we knew we had to work with the experts.
So far, over 220,000 young people have signed up to take action, recording over 85,000 volunteering hours on 600 projects across the UK. At the current rate, we are set to rack up half a million volunteering hours by 2018. These are mindboggling statistics. When I sat in a room with a group of inspiring young people, we never dared dream we could have such impact.
So what does this look like on the ground? In the south west, 1st Honiton Scout Group decided to understand more about the 850,000 people currently living with dementia in the UK. Heather Penwarden, the town's local dementia champion talked to the group about the issues and played a memory game with them to help explain what dementia is and how it affects people.
'I really wasn't sure what dementia was,' said Helen, the Group Scout Leader,' but the way Heather talked about it made things much more simple.' Now the Scouts are empowered to discuss it from a position of knowledge, and with support from Alzheimer's Society are much better equipped to support and communicate with those affected by dementia, especially family members. For these Scouts, the mystery and stigma around dementia has vanished.'
This is just one of so many utterly inspiring stories. Scouts have travelled to Madagascar, to see for themselves how their work with Wateraid was improving conditions for local people. Closer to home Glasgow Explorers spent time in residential homes, reading for and offering companionship to the elderly people. These are Scouts truly living their values of care, integrity respect, belief and cooperation.
So when we found that A Million Hands, had won 'Cross-Sector Partnership of the Year' at the Charity Times Awards 2016 this was recognition and reward not just for the original 'team with the dream' but every single one of the young people and volunteers across the country that have brought this campaign to life.
This Scout Community Week our team will be attending a reception at number 11 Downing Street. We will be sharing successes and challenges with the government and other partners, looking for ways to extend our work and share learnings. There's so much more to do, but we now we have the momentum as well the will to bring about real change and transform as many lives as possible.
The campaign has already helped develop thousands of young people, equipping them with the skills to succeed, whilst breaking down barriers, connecting communities and creating positive change.
Proving once again that Scouts can and do change the world.