Residential trips are spring boards for life

>>  Monday, February 20, 2012

Last year we took a group of brownies to London.  For young girls that have grown up in a small village environment, most of them having never been to the City, this was a huge trip.  The parents placed enormous trust in us as leaders to keep them safe.

I stressed a lot prior to the trip. the Guider in charge did not.  We were so prepared with specific children allocated to adults with a fantastic 2 to 1 head count, identity bracelets, emergency plans, alternative plans, we even had a portable door alarm because we knew we had a sleep walker with us.  I have never head counted so many times in my life.  I wouldn't have looked after my own daughter as well (actually I didn't - she was there too and I pretty much let her cope being as she was used to London, tubes etc already - she knows the 'if I get lost' ropes well!)

These girls will remember that experience for the rest of their lives.  When they come to a decide about going on longer school residentials, even abroad, or perhaps that decision about university they have already been given the confidence to know they can do these things alone.  In their eyes they are 'alone', from Leader's eyes they are actually wrapped in cotton wool, we just try not to let them know it!

Whilst the Rangers were camping 'alone' at Charnwood and their parents diligently fretted at home about whether they were eating, sleeping, behaving...we leaders, from their division, were popping in and out of their camp site regularly.  Covering up food, ice blocking the fresh, knocking in the tent pegs, tightening ropes and generally nagging them appropriately!

So when accidents happen and parents fall into a protective panic my heart sinks.  Accidents do happen both here and abroad.  I watched a child die at a pool side in France, he had slipped on steps.  My friend's son was killed by a bus as he cycled home from school. Tragic accidents both of them.  But would you stop your child doing things like swimming and independently travelling - no, because they are important stepping stones to life.

Dreadful accidents like the recent coach crash in France and the Alton Towers trip may happen whether children are with their parents or with group leaders.  I guess these sad parts of life happen and we all selfishly hope and pray they don't happen to us.  But in the meantime it is our job to develop and grow our children into responsible adults that are able to take the world and themselves forward in a successful, useful, confident and happy way.

My own daughter will be travelling abroad with the school very soon and I shall sweat worry the whole time she is away, but she will go and she won't know how much I fretted because this trip will be a foundation stone for her life, I know it.  And I can only allow myself to think that the teachers will take as much care of her as I would of Brownies, Guides and Rangers and we all aim to safeguard and keep them free from harm.

If I thought I could live a life without fear I think it would be one like this, John Faifax, who recently died.  What a fantastic obituary to have: pistol fight at 9, the Amazon jungle at 13, attempted suicide by jaguar at 20, became a pirate and a smuggler, and rowed the Pacific and Atlantic.  Now there was a guy whose parents didn't hold him back!


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