The past year has been so tough for so many, but not just for those heroic key workers or those who have got ill or lost loved ones. Young people have suffered as much as anyone. Cut off from their friends, their schools, missing out on exams and simple things like meeting up with grandparents; this will have been one of the hardest times they’ve ever known.
These young people have been called “Generation Covid”. I prefer to call them “Generation Hope”. Because their bright spirit, resilience and determination never to give up continues to inspire. They give us all renewed hope for the future.
Throughout the pandemic, scouts have clocked up millions of minutes on Zoom meet-ups, keeping young people connected with their friends. We’ve also raised over £1m for good causes by collectively walking the distance to the moon and around the world. All of this is thanks to our incredible team of volunteers, all giving a little time to make a huge difference.
But the pandemic has taken its toll on the movement. In one year, we’ve lost a quarter of our membership – 130,000 adults and young people who’ve simply been unable to carry on, due to the pressures of lockdown, uncertain work situations, or because they’ve needed to spend extra time looking after loved ones.
We understand that our health and families must come first, but losing members of the Scouts family is so heartbreaking – especially given that the movement grew so strongly between 2006 and 2020 (by over 200,000 people). When volunteers move on, young people miss out.
Now, as the vaccine programme continues to roll out in the most remarkable way, this is our moment to build back better. That’s why I’m calling for new volunteers to join us.
Our future volunteers might be parents of young people already in the movement, people who remember their own days as a scout or those who want to better support the young in their community. I love this quote I heard from an inspiring young person called Woody: “I don’t want to go back to normal. I want to go back to better.” That’s so true, now is a great time for us to reassess our priorities and think about what really matters in life.
And remember, volunteering is a two-way street. Volunteering makes you feel great, widens your circle of friends and gives you the skills and experience you might need for that first job, promotion or career change. Put simply, volunteering is good for you.
There’s no doubt about it; the new world is going to look different. We’re going to be working at home more and without commuting maybe there’s time available to give to volunteering. Helping out at Scouts alongside your son or daughter is a great way to spend time together – whether it’s taking a hike in the woods or just playing a game of rounder’s, it’s often the perfect antidote to hours on the laptop. That’s why I’m calling for families to join together and experience a little of the Scouts magic for themselves.
We’ll also be looking for different kinds of volunteers – all ages, abilities and backgrounds. And we are proud to be supporting well over 200 of our most deprived communities in the country. That’s modern scouting for you.
So let’s not just get back to where we were last year. Let’s come back bigger and better than ever, by welcoming those who haven’t thought about Scouts before. This year, above all, has shown just how important it is for us to work together to support those in need.
So join me, and volunteer – help us make a vital contribution to a new and better future. At the end of the day, we don’t measure life by what we can get, we measure it in what we can give. That’s the true path to happiness.
Bear Grylls is a British adventurer and chief scout. The Scouts #GoodForYou campaign launches today