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Inspiring the youth

Schools and institutions award Winner: South African Scout Association

The South African branch is ­living up to this by tackling climate change.

“With climate change the main topic of discussion these days, a climate challenge is a good way to test our members,” said Milly Siebrits, chief executive of the South African Scout Association.

“Scouts do not hold competitions as such. It’s all about doing your personal best – a personal advancement programme.”

All three branches – cubs, scouts and rovers – take part in a fun challenge programme related to the theme. Apart from the sheer hard slog it requires, it mobilises their ingenuity. This year the young people  are building solar devices such as water heaters and solar updraft towers.

Last year, 2730 South African young people aged between seven and 18, as well as 329 adults and 2500 German scouts, participated in more than 120 climate change-related projects. These ranged from setting up food gardens at crèches and schools to a clean-water project in a township and removing alien vegetation. Three local children also formed part of the World Scouting Organisation’s delegation at the COP17 climate change negotations.

Structured programmes
To highlight climate change last year, scouts had to accomplish three tasks: an individual activity, taking part in a structured programme and assisting in a community project. Tasks included recycling, an energy audit and conserving energy and water at home.

Water played a big part in their activities. The children had to harvest water at home and reuse it. Younger scouts brought the recycled water to weekly meetings to water trees they had planted, and older scouts learned about the water cycle.

As part of their energy audit they had to measure how much water they could save at home by changing their activities.

The projects had a ripple effect beyond the scouts themselves and affected their communities, including parents, siblings and school- friends.

The scouts also printed booklets and published climate information on the internet.

The Greening judges said they were impressed with the consistency and ingenuity of the Scout Association’s environmental programmes. Its climate change projects were tackling an urgent problem among age groups that would have to live with the consequences in years to come, they said.

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Michelle Nel
Michelle Nel has worked as a freelance environmental journalist, photographer and editor for more than 20 years. She is a member of Al Gore’s Climate Leadership Corps and was the first freelancer to win the SAB Environmentalist Journalist of the Year Award for print. She serves on the Linbro Park Environmental Monitoring Committee in Gauteng, which aims to turn a closed landfill site into a recycling and recreational area. She has helped numerous organisations with their communications strategies on issues ranging from people and parks to wetlands.

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