Director for Scotland – Easter message

 

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I am sure you are all enjoying this special spring weather!  If you are having a break over Easter I do hope you get a chance to recharge your batteries.  The Easter message is central to all we do and I would just like to thank you again for all you do to help advance the Kingdom in your own part of Scotland.

 

March is always a busy time in the BB and this year was no different.  The conference in Glasgow went well and congratulations go to Dundee & Angus Battalion for hosting an excellent Cross Country Race the other week.

Remarkable growth in all sections

Fraser Boyd, a leader with 25th Stirling in Dunblane, shares his experiences of a BB group on the up!

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When HQ contacted us to say we are now among the biggest BB Companies in the UK, we were a little shocked – but probably shouldn’t have been too surprised. We’ve seen remarkable growth in all sections in the last three years in particular. We currently have 176 boys – 31 Anchors, 49 Juniors, 71 Company and 25 Seniors – as well as 25 enthusiastic officers. We can’t put our 10% growth in 2012 down to all the great resources produced because we reached the stage where we weren’t actively recruiting: boys and parents are our best advert, and that’s how we continue to grow.

 

Looking a little deeper, though, as writing this article allowed us to do, we reflected that we do strive to have a high-quality, stimulating programme. We have had to adapt considerably to manage the numbers we have, but this has been done through careful and regular planning, as well as valuing feedback from boys about what they’re enjoying – or not.

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About five years ago when we were less than half our current size, we weren’t retaining boys between the Junior and Company Section. There was a drop-off after S2 as well. Introducing a series of transition activities helped improve our retention at the younger age, and encouragement to participate in The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and Queen’s Badge and a separate, enhanced Seniors’ programme helped keep the older boys. Because of this, we’ve had several boys stay on to go through KGVI, which, in turn, has given us staff for the future.

 

 

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Parent involvement is key. Anchors and Juniors have a rota for parents to help even with making juice or setting up crafts. We bring in dads for ‘Boys v Men’ nights and ask them to help with canteen or run an activity that uses their skills or hobbies. Many of these parents then look to get involved a little more often. It’s important we have a balance of leaders who are former BB boys themselves, as well as those coming with ‘a blank sheet’: it keeps our ideas fresh.

 

 

In 2010, we recognised interests are wider than just the sports and outdoor activities we’ve always had a strong focus on. Two leaders started our band and through regular fundraising, we provide instruments and tuition to Junior and Company/Senior boys in brass, woodwind and drumming. We run a chess club after our Sunday evening bible class, to complement the existing table tennis, pool and Xbox.

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Communication is crucial, too. We use weekly e-mails, group texts, allow parents to integrate our Google Calendar with theirs, update snippets of publicity via our Facebook page and Twitter and try to get in the (frustrating) local press when we can. It’s important our community knows we’re there, and we have the boys involved with local charity shops, visiting care homes, doing food bank collections, serving coffees at church, doing litter-picks and performing music.

 

We’re not complacent though, nor do we think that ‘big’ means ‘best’, and the key thing for us is to keep learning from others. It’s easier to do now – the BB Scotland Facebook page is a great idea-sharing site – and it should help us all enhance our programmes. Looking forward, we hope to purchase a minibus soon, to help us get boys to all the different activities we offer, develop a Christian DVD and book library for our Anchors/Juniors to borrow from, continue to develop the band, and keep providing opportunities for achievement through Queen’s Badge and The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.

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Our former captain – now Battalion Vice-President – Alan Dunn always told a story that rings true today. Telling of the locum minister who put 50p into the collection box upon arriving at a church to preach, only to find it was emptied into his hand at the end of the service with nothing more having been added, we’re reminded that ‘the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it’. We tell the boys this, but it undoubtedly applies to leaders, too. We’re all busy, but the extra effort you need to enhance your programme isn’t long in paying dividends.

You can find out more about this BB Company here.

March Director update

Our Director for Scotland, Bill Stevenson:

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I have just returned from spending some time with some of the under-26 reps from across the UK who were meeting in Edinburgh last weekend.  There was a lot of enthusiasm and many good ideas on how we can progress the work of the Brigade. Earlier this month I was also able to join the staff at the North Scottish Area Queen’s Badge course at Cullen Outdoor Centre.   Supporting these seniors and young leaders is key to what we do and it is vitally important that we continue to nurture this work.

The Scotland Committee met at the start of the month when we considered possible plans for a mentoring scheme for new leaders, and the Brigade Executive met at Felden Lodge on Saturday 23rd February when the next five-year development plan was one of the key items on the agenda. 

Highland Battalion goes Skype

Teleconferencing has long been an accepted way of communication among business and family circles alike. Modern IT setups and domestic broadband lends itself to easy and convenient use across geographically challenging areas.  The Highland Battalion is faced with such an arena with 16 Companies spread across Northern Scotland.

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The Battalion serves a third of the land area of Scotland – including the most remote and sparsely populated parts of the UK – and it has the seventh highest population of the 32 authorities in Scotland. The total land area including all islands at low water is 26,484 square kilometres. This is 33% of Scotland and 11.4% of Great Britain. It is 10 times larger than Luxembourg, 20% larger than Wales, and nearly the size of Belgium. To meet this task the Battalion has introduced Skype to aid in a number of events.

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Attendance at Battalion meetings has long been a test for those facing journeying times and indeed family or work commitments. As Vice President Andy Muirhead, based in Fort William, comments, “I can join in and take part in discussions. Skype enables me to be at meetings and saves me the hassle of travel to the likes of Inverness, a car journey of up to 1 ½ hours each way.”

By simply upgrading to the Skype Premium account, up to 10 separate contacts can be added to the group session. So far this has been more than enough to allow outlying groups to gather at individual homes to take part.

Acting Captain of the 1st Thurso Company, Johanna Geddes, reports, “We thought it was great. It was good to be part of the meeting and we sincerely hope this carries on. From a safety point of view, it means we don’t have to travel after working all day for up to 5 hours on a round trip of 230 miles and often on very busy roads, returning home really late. It’s also a huge saving on fuel expenses. This is the way forward and we should have been doing it ages ago both for meetings and training. It creates a better linked battalion from a communication and social point of view.”  

It is envisaged that teleconferencing and the use of broadband connections will be used for more inter-company activities, competitions and events in the future. The facility to give both officers and members a sense of involvement and belonging is priceless.

Johanna Geddes again, “All those years ago Sir William was a very forward thinking man, years ahead of his time, so let’s keep up his forward thinking.”