“I have been scouting for the past 20 years. It is something that you should sustain and never give up. It is already in my bones and in my children’s ones as well,” said Youssra Shehoud, the mother of an eight-year-old girl scout, Habiba, in Alexandria.
Shehoud says that she has learned everything she knows through scouting. She learned how to be independent, how to make lifelong friends, and how to be a strong, helpful, and loyal human being. For these reasons, she encouraged her young daughter to follow the same path.
“Through scouting, Habiba can become herself with no stress or burden from coaches or teachers demanding more and more. It is the only time that no one judges her. She can dance, she can run, she can learn new skills every day. She can be herself as everybody accepts her,” Shehoud said.
“The most important part is that no one is competing. No one is raising the bar. Everybody is just helping and supporting each other.”
Shehoud was celebrating the 19th birthday of the Alexandria Sporting Club (ASC) Scouting Committee in a large celebration with more than 800 scouts from different age groups.
The celebration was held at the ASC Aziz Fahmi Stadium last week, with many activities and shows presented by young leaders to add meaning and enhance the experience. The scouts wore their traditional attire, performed dances, and shared Egyptian folklore performances.
Scouting is an educational movement for young people that is inclusive of all regardless of religion, ethnicity, colour, or age. There are now more than 500 million young people in the world who have taken part in scouting since its establishment a century ago by Robert Baden-Powell in the UK.
The movement began in 1907 as an experimental camp for boys aged 11 to 18 with 20 boys in the UK and was a great success. A year later, Baden-Powell published “Scouting for Boys,” an immediate hit that has since sold over 100 million copies.
The ASC Scouts and Girl Scouts was founded in 2003 by young leaders aiming at a better future for young people by helping them to be good citizens. “It is a voluntary organisation that fosters faith and belonging to our country. We raise the children and the young people in the values of scouts to fulfil our oath and our promise to them,” said Sherif Sobh, president of the (ASC) Scouts, in an interview with Al-Ahram Weekly.
He voiced the oath of the movement proudly: “On my honour I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law: to help other people at all times and to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.”
A scout should hold the values of the movement in his own hands. He or she should be clean, polite, brave, trustworthy, loyal, friendly, courteous, and helpful.
“We are trying to raise generations to be good citizens who feel that they belong to our country, who feel spiritually sound, and who can benefit his or her society, the community and the country,” Sobh said.
Some people may believe that scouting is only about having fun, but this is not only the case. “Yes, we do have lots of fun, but we also learn many skills, many virtues, and life-long values that we adhere to. We give young scouts the benefit of education in different fields such as culture, science, general knowledge and religion. And at every stage, they fulfil a test to be up to the next level,” Sobh added.
The ASC Scouts have 861 boys and girls on board, and every year more join. It is an association affiliated to the Egyptian Federation of Scouts and Girl Guides (EFSGG), which was established in 1914. The EFSGG has four central associations: Boy Scouts, Sea Scouts, Air Scouts and Girl Guides. Each of these has a corresponding regional association in all the governorates that facilitates cooperation among them.
VALUES: “What I love the most about scouting is that it is neither a political nor a religious movement. It is one world and one promise,” Sobh said, describing the ASC Scouts building of global networks through Egypt’s hosting the World Scout Camp in 2024.
There are now 57 million scouts in over 200 countries and territories worldwide, which is more than the population of some countries. Through its unique combination of education, adventure, and fun, scouting continues to be an inspiration for young people to become active citizens engaged in creating a better world.
Gasser Heggi,13, and Youssef Mahmoud,14, became scouts three years ago. They said that their experience had changed their personalities and that they are looking forward to more years to explore, learn, and venture into new worlds.
“We are independent. We feel we were just kids when we joined with all the behaviour associated with kids. Now we have grown up,” said Heggi. “We are now better human beings than before. We are more cheerful, politer, and more helpful. I am aware now that I should help my parents more with household tasks. I should take care of my studies so that I am not a burden to anybody,” he added.
“I am proud that my shirt has different badges on it such as the Egyptian flag, the Egyptian Federation of Scouts, and the Alexandria Sporting Club flags. This means I have duty and responsibilities towards the shirt I am wearing and the values I am holding,” Mahmoud said.
“One of the best experiences we have had is camping as we went to Abu Talat, where we learned and applied our skills. We camped in tents, helped each other, cooked for ourselves, and had many activities. We learned how to cooperate together and how to think collaboratively. No one can sit alone doing nothing. When I make food, even snacks, I do it for the whole group,” Heggi added.
Most scout troops are associated with clubs, schools, churches and mosques, but they all share their oath and promise. Egyptian scouts play an important role in community service, where they learn about the importance of planting trees and building energy. They are involved in projects of desert reclamation, work camps, blood drives, medical care, and other projects.
Hoda Mahmoud, is one of the girls who have joined the girl scouts. Only eight years old, she is excited to spend more time in scouting as she has found new friends and a new community she can heartily blend in with.
“I used to watch the scouts every time I passed by and wondered whether I would be able to join them,” Mahmoud said. When she joined, she went camping, learned swimming, and can now set up a tent all by herself.
Since then, Hoda has engaged in many activities such as preparing Ramadan bags for the poor, doing charity work, and making good use of skills in carpentry, sewing, drawing and painting.
“Just three months ago, I would not dare prepare my clothes by myself without asking my mother to help me, but today I can wash and iron them and bring them with me without my mother having to help me at all,” she concluded.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 8 December, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly