Our world is facing many challenges these days. The statistics are often overwhelming and can leave us wondering, "well, what can I do?"
The Scouts of the World Award (SOTW) shows us that, while no single project can address all of the challenges our world faces, combined, our work can contribute to real global change. It is also about developing both the confidence and understanding in Canadian youth to become active agents of improving the lives of others, through a program based on hands-on education and experience.
You may not be able to solve all the problems in the world, but even by reaching out to one community, you can make a dramatic change. This is where you come in!
The Scouts of the World Award program is geared towards youth aged 14-26 and set up in three phases: Discovery, Voluntary Service, and Reporting and Recognition. In the Discovery Phase, where you will learn more about the issue you want to address, respond to its impact, and develop an action plan to make a difference. You'll become an expert in the topic of your interest, centred on the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (UN-MDG), after learning from people who are already experts in the field. For Madagascar, we'll be focusing on UN-MDG #2 and #3 (check out our past blog on how we're working towards those!)
Once you complete your Discovery, you will have a chance to put together an Action Plan, which outlines exactly what you intend to do to reach your goal. After that is the Voluntary Service Phase. This is when you can take all that you know and have learned and put it into action. You can do your volunteary service in a group or on your own. The main thing is that you're doing something. You're taking action to make a difference!
The Voluntary Service projects can happen just about anywhere. You could build water reservoirs in South Africa, teach about recycling in Paraguay, or anything you want. For those travelling to Madagascar this summer, the Voluntary Service project will take place in Ambato Boeni as we build the school campus and forge relationships with the community. You don't need to travel to some far off place to complete your service project, though. Even though we may not notice it all the time, there's certainly need for development even in our own backyards. We're all about opening the world to you, and opening you up to the world.
There is no time limit for the Voluntary Service project. Whether you dedicate two weeks in a row or volunteer three hours a week, all work is valuable work. To complete this part of the award program, you just have to be sure that each person in the project completes at least 80 hours of their own work.
Once you've completd the Voluntary Service portion of the award program it's essential that you sit down and take some time to put together a final report. This phase is the Reporting and Recognition Phase. Talk to you Advisor or a SOTW Ambassador for tips on how to write a successful award application. We love to hear stories and absolutely want to hear yours.
Once it's all done, send it in, along with your completed Discovery Workbook to Scouts Canada National Headquarters in Ottawa and we'll take it from there. Once approved by the Scouts of the World Award Committee, you'll receive your badge and a certificate from the World Organization of the Scout Movement recognizing your contribution to social and environmental justice.
For more information, check out http://www.scouts.ca/ca/scouts-world
Youth Contingent Leader, Madagascar 2012
National Coordinator, Scouts of the World Award
Wednesday, 20 June 2012
Four years ago, three members of our team: Iain Tait, Rob Tuer and myself, visited Ambato Boeni, Madagascar to get an understanding of the environment to which we were committing to take a team of youth for an international development project. We wanted to ensure that we would be comfortable taking responsibility for someone else's children in this remote location. I must say that we were impressed, amazed and shocked all at the same time.
Shocked at the conditions in which some of the locals live. There truly are grass huts on the flood plain of the Betsiboka River that are obviously swept away each year to be rebuilt after the rainy season subsides. Shocked at the disparity between conditions of the homes. Some youth are walking around with cell phones while others don't even have electricity for light at night. Shocked that the community, like too many in this world, is forgotten by all except those who call it home.
On the other hand, we were amazed at the effort the priest at the local Catholic church was putting forth to build a school, library and a computer lab for the youth in his parish. The gentleman obviously had a vision that would help provide opportunities for a better life. We were amazed that bottled water was readily available for our use. Amazed at the reception that we received by all we met.
When we arrived, we found a community that had until that time been forgotten by the rest of the world. Now, Madagascar 2012 is working to make sure that this never happens again. From what I have seen in the Contingent going to Madagascar, I know that this project will be a success. What I know from the trip to Ambato Boeni in 2008 is that we could not ask for a stronger partnership.
Monday, 11 June 2012
Millennium Developmeng Goal # 2: Achieve Universal Primary Education
It's easy to imagine the difference universal education could make in the world. Making education accessible to all youth is a huge way to break the cycle of poverty. With education comes employment. With employment come opportunities - not just for yourself, by for future generations. This might be the best way to reverse the downward spiral to absolute poverty.
Madagascar 2012 is contributing to this by making education more accessible in rural areas, which are normally quite difficult environments to promote education in. Youth are normally needed for farming and other work. Transportation to school is also quite difficult in rural areas. By building dormitories, youth, in particular girls, will be able to board right at the school.
It's not just about primary education though. By contributing to the accessibility of secondary education, which Madagascar 2012 is doing, the literacy and numeracy gained in primary school go further than simply developing youth. It literally contributes to developing a nation.
Millennium Development Goal # 3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women
This one might seem a little unclear. How do we promote gender equality and empower women? There are a lot of great ways to do this, and in fact, this project will deal with this goal in three different ways! Gender inequality can be found around the world in many different ways. One way is through access to education. This is a big one. If girls cannot go to school, they are bound to work in what is considered a very vulnerable sector: being self-employed, or working unpaid within the home. When girls are able to attend school, they can contribute to so many different parts of society. They are able to secure gainful employment and serve as role models to other girls. This is where the dormitories come in. Barriers to education for girls include simply not being able to get there. By building a campus and dormitories for girls, they will be able to board right at the school, eliminating the need for daily transportation to school.
Another barrier to gender equality is the presence of designated sanitary facilities for girls and boys at school This goes a long way to promote gender sensitivity and awareness by showing that men and women are different, but equal. It also contributes to a safer school environment for girls. This aspect of gender equality is being addressed by building a washroom facility on the secure campus for the girls who are staying at the dorms (and other girls who are attending the school).
More than anything though, by making it possible for girls to go to school, it reduces their domestic responsibilities, which have traditionally included tasks like fetching water (also addressed by this project by digging wells right in the community). When older girls are literate, employed and educated, they serve as role models for younger girls. It makes it possible to imagine something much bigger than might have otherwise been possible.
Want to learn more about the United Nations Millennium Development Goals? Visit http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/
Wednesday, 6 June 2012
24 500: Population of Ambato Boeni, although only around 5000 live in the third quarter
2 022: Number of Malagasy Ariary to the Canadian Dollar
40: Number of students that the new dormitories we're building will be able to accommodate
1 600: Area in square metres of the new campus
625: Number of project crests ordered
101: Number of different types of lemur found in Madagascar
14 555: Number of kilometres the Contingent will travel to get to Ambato Boeni
16: Official number of federal political parties in Madagascar
447: Average annual income of a person living in Madagascar (in Canadian Dollars)
40: Currently the percentage of Malagasy youth who will never go to school
0: Number of children who have died since two fresh water wells were dug in Ambato Boeni in 2009 (thanks to youth, volunteers, friends and family in Tri-Shores Council)
1 and counting: Number of United Nations Millennium Development Goals that Scouts Canada has helped to achieve
431: Number of times the project video, "On our honour, we promised" has been viewed on both youtube channels (so far...)
70: Number of months since the first planning meeting for the Madagascar Project took place in the little town of Ilderton, Ontario
Saturday, 2 June 2012
Over the last few months, we've put out a few challenges across the country. The Buy-A-Brick Campaign, running a program jumpstart, spreading the word about Madagascar 2012, and more. Here's the story of how one group in Ottawa, Ontario got involved in the project.
The 123rd Nepean Scouts had been hearing about Madagascar 2012 on and off from their Scouters, and were intrigued by the idea of Madagascar. They were initially surprised when they learned that lemurs actually existed and weren't just created for the animated movies. When Scoutrees came along this year, they were issued a challenge by one of the participants in Madagascar 2012. Because some of the money from Scoutrees goes to the Canadian Scout Brotherhood Fund, and it is this fund that pays for the materials for the project, they were told that if any of them collected $100, the participant would send them a postcard from Madagascar as a thank you.
It doesn't sound like much, does it? One hundred dollars flows pretty quickly through our fingers these days, and a postcard hardly seems like a reason to put out any extra effort, but that wasn't the point. What we saw was a group of Scouts who were suddenly determined to raise money for a construction project they might never see. The dormitories and the campus in Ambato Boeni are thousands of kilometres from St Stephen's Anglican Church in Ottawa, where the Scouts meet, but they saw a purpose in raising this money that was greater than themselves.
They learned more about Madagascar 2012 and about the Canadian Scout Brotherhood Fund. They talked to St. Stephen's Church, and coordinated a fundraiser where they would set up information tables after church services in order to receive pledges for Scoutrees and tell people what the money was going to do. They took action to make a difference because, suddenly, the matter was personal. They had a connection to the project and they saw that they could directly impact people's lives in Madagascar. What we saw though, was a group of Scouts who have learned that they don't have to be adults in order to make a difference. The 123rd Nepean Scouts have already changed the world for good.
Do you have a good story about how your group has become part of Madagascar 2012? We want to hear all about it! Contact us and tell us your story!