The message from Her Excellency Paula-Mae Weekes O.R.T.T., President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and Chief Scout on the occasion of Founder’s Day 2021.
Scouters, leaders and other supporters of the Scout movement:
As Chief Scout, I am honoured and pleased to join you in commemorating Founder’s Day, a celebration of the birthday, vision and legacy of Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scout Movement. It is a golden opportunity to reflect on the many memories, milestones and adventures of your Scouting journey and to recharge for the road ahead. This year’s festivities are a marked departure from the usual flurry of activities that take place on and around Founder’s Day, but I am confident that this new format will in no way detract from the true significance of the occasion. Instead of the customary in-person route marches, church services and ceremonies, your experience this year will be in a family setting and include a mix of online, in-house and outdoor activities—all delivered virtually—which will enable you to absorb, in real time or on demand, all that camp has to offer.
No sphere of society, including the Scouting fraternity, has been left unscathed by the coronavirus pandemic. From March last year, your camps, jamborees and other customary events were cancelled, postponed or modified in keeping with the ever-evolving Covid-19 guidelines. I am proud to see how you have adapted to the new normal and how scouts—individually, in discrete groups and as a collective—have played their part in creating a better world even as we are being ravaged by the virus. You have not been idle. Many of you joined various online challenges, others provided meals for the socially displaced, some assisted in the planting of fruit trees, while yet others clapped and showed other signs of support for our frontline workers. Bravo!
Operating under Covid restrictions would have no doubt been a daunting prospect, particularly for your leaders, but it has been a good opportunity to be creative and rethink old ways of doing business. Scouts have participated in online training and mentoring sessions, virtual races, campfires, and other adventures via distance. Like Lone Scouts, unable to be physically present with their troop, you are called upon to fulfil your Scouting promise even while isolated and apart from your brothers. You have created your own Emergency Alert system, participated in virtual 5Ks, meetings, and other activities and now, your first ever virtual camp, which will hopefully reenergise that intrepid Scouting spirit that dwells in each of you.
Perhaps my position in the Scout movement, honorary though it be, makes me a little biased, but I believe that the non-formal, values-based Scout movement has prepared our young people ideally for such a time as this; a time that requires flexibility, pluck, hard work and looking out for one another. Woven deep into the Scouting ethos is the commitment to developing moral strength and character, citizenship values and physical, mental and emotional fitness—a firm foundation upon which a life of productivity, integrity and personal responsibility can be built. A journey through the Scouting movement instils in its eager voyager practical life skills as well as character-building qualities including good communication, teamwork and leadership—all contributing to a disciplined, tolerant and productive citizen of Trinidad and Tobago.
I consider all of you to be part of a great and noble tradition that has contributed significantly to the development of this country. Many outstanding citizens have walked this road before, including former President Sir Ellis Clarke, Olympian Manny Ramjohn and the Archbishop of Port of Spain, Charles Jason Gordon. They, like you, took to heart the scouting values of duty to God, country and self.
I hope you notice that I am wearing my brand-new scarf, and I encourage you to continue to wear your uniforms with pride. Hold fast to your principles, be beacons of hope and light in your families and communities. Seek out and rally around those who may need encouragement or other assistance, as according to Mahatma Gandhi, “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Our nation would benefit immensely from a generous dose of Scouting optimism and activism.
Leaders and supporters of the Scouting movement, I thank and applaud you for the yeoman service that you have rendered in nurturing, motivating and guiding the young people of the nation. As the largest youth organisation in Trinidad and Tobago, ScoutsTT is uniquely poised to prepare the next generation for our very uncertain future. I note with pleasure the appointment of a Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator who is currently working towards ensuring that differently-abled members of the national community can participate in the Scouting movement. I urge you to continue adjusting and expanding your capacity and programme offerings in keeping with the shifting social, economic and environmental issues that confront our young people, who must be adequately equipped to truly revolutionise Trinidad and Tobago and the world.
In the words of Lord Baden Powell, “Life without adventure is deadly dull!” Have an exciting, safe and happy Founder’s Day!