ON his eighth birthday, Scott Teare joined the Boy Scouts of America (BSA).
“My dad made me join. I didn’t want to. I wanted to join the Cub Scouts, not the Boy Scouts. That’s where all the big kids were. I was afraid I was going to get beaten up.”
But as it turned out, just the opposite happened.
“When I got into junior high school, they were my protectors. No one bullied me because the bullies protected me.”
And so began his lifelong relationship with Scouting, fully engaged as a young adult and then continuing on with a long-standing professional career, including 12 years as BSA international director.
In 2012, the same year he was awarded the Bronze Wolf Award by the World Organisation of the Scout Movement (WOSM), Teare was selected as its secretary general, a post he now serves from the World Scout Bureau Office in Kuala Lumpur.
The Scout Movement is a training ground for future leaders, Teare says, with members (boys and girls) involved in activities that include building, hiking and community service.
“Scouts learn by doing. They gain practical experience in a non-formal, outdoor classroom setting.”
Teare points out that if someone were to be a Scout throughout their secondary schooling years, they would already be entering their tertiary education with seven years of leadership experience to their name.
More than just creating leaders, Scouting develops holistic and active members of society.
“Scouts make better spouses, parents and employees,” he adds.
There are currently 40 million Scouts worldwide, spread across 161 National Scouts Organisations (NSOs) in over 200 countries and territories.
This includes the Scouts Association of Malaysia (PPM), founded in 1910, which has over 60,000 registered members to date.
WOSM celebrated its Founders’ Day on Feb 22, with NSOs organising events of their own to mark the occasion.
In Malaysia, the PPM organised a tree-planting day at Taiping Zoo, Perak.
At the World Scout Conference last year, a goal was put in place to have 100 million members by 2023 and make WOSM the world’s leading educational youth movement, a task that Teare is fully committed to accomplishing.
There will be challenges, he accepts, especially in this age of technology.
“When I was young, we changed into our play clothes after school and went outside. We were instigators of play. Today, young people are consumers of play. After school, they sit inside looking at screens.”
They are not comfortable to go out and be a Scout and it takes more of an effort to convince them, Teare says.
Not that WOSM is in any way resisting technology.
“We don’t confiscate devices like smartphones because we know that it’s their lifeline to their family and boyfriends and girlfriends.”
In fact, a smartphone can even be a tool in a Scout’s kit, with its in-built map and flashlight tools.
There are even several Scouting-related apps available for download, like the official American Red Cross First Aid app.
“Scouts today are still taught to use a map and a compass. Yes, smartphones have navigational software, but what happens when you’re in the outdoors and your device dies?”
A Scout, after all, uses all his resources and is prepared for anything.
Every four years, a World Scout Jamboree (WSJ) takes place where for 12 days, Scouts from all over the world gather.
The next jamboree will be held in Kirara-hama, Japan later this year where an estimated 35,000 Scouts will come together.
“When you get there on the first day, and you look out at the different members, seated together according to their countries, the blocks of their T-shirt colours look like a quilt grandma made,” Teare says.
But these borders soon disappear, he continues.
Scouting promotes a culture of equality and tolerance, where differences are celebrated and strength is found in them.
“As the jamboree continues, T-shirts and scarves are swapped so that what you have at the final goodbye gathering is a sea of confetti.”