Parents of Boy Scouts Enjoy Summer Camp

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I have been active with my son’s Boy Scout troop, Troop 199, since he started in 2012. I may have been a little hesitant in the beginning to get involved, only because I didn’t know anything about Scouting. My husband went to all the Cub Scout meetings and I only went to the ceremonies when my son earned an award or to the Blue & Gold ceremonies. As a girl, I was a Brownie for a short time, mostly because we didn’t do anything “fun”. I remember going to the parent meetings for Troop 199 and telling my husband that I would only go the first campout, I wasn’t going to go to all of the campouts, I wasn’t going to volunteer and be involved with the troop, and I most definitely was not going to buy and wear the uniform! Well, I learned very quickly, never say “never.”

I now do everything that I said I never was going to do! I enjoy the adults in our troop, and most importantly I enjoy the Scouts – learning from them and watching them grow individually and together as a whole. I camp monthly with the troop and have only missed a few camping trips and have been to every summer camp so far. This year, Troop 199 went out of council for summer camp, to Camp Buffalo in Monticello, Ind., which is part
of the Sagamore Council. We left on Sunday morning with 106 Scouts and 16 adults; four of which were females. Once we arrived at camp, the gear was unloaded and the Scouts set up their hammocks and shelters for the week long visit. We also had a few shelters and large tents for those who did not want to sleep in hammocks.

It would seem that with that many Scouts who heavily outnumber the adults, there would be chaos during setup; but it is a well orchestrated plan that is done quickly. Scouts jumped into action and knew what needed to be done. The older Scouts helped the younger Scouts and adults pitched in as needed. Everyone, Scouts and adults, had a chore during the week. Scouts and adults both served as hoppers, some cleaned the showers, some passed out mail, some took care of trash, some handled Scout medication and some directed the showers (much like a traffic cop!). Others were in charge of the money for the trading post. I know I have missed some of the other chores, but it is something to watch all of this come together and work throughout the week.

It was hard to believe that it was mid-July. The temperatures were so low. During the day it was under 80 degrees and at night, under 60 most. We wore our sweatshirts during the day – in July!! Our troop was the largest troop, which is usually the case, so we had several campsites to accommodate everyone. Because there were only four females we had a campsite to ourselves. But, we held several meetings with the other adults around the
campfire ring where we did everything from just hanging out and talking to providing updates on what was needed. During the day, the adults would find things to occupy their time and if we were at the trading post long enough, we would see Scouts from our troop come through.

On Monday, we had a nice long, rainstorm; long enough to keep everyone in a shelter until it passed. I, along with another adult, happened to be at the trading post when it started to rain. Before we knew it, there were at least 20 other Scouts taking shelter with us. There were various aged Scouts including a younger Scout who was very concerned about the weather. The other Scouts took notice of this and made sure to make the younger Scout feel more comfortable and help take his mind off of the storm. Trust and friendships were formed that day and what a great way to get to know Scouts – just hanging out talking about life!

Camp Buffalo has a large campsite, 500 acres and has plenty to offer. Several adults took advantage of riding an ATV during the last day of the merit badge class. Also, because the Tippecanoe River runs along the camp, canoeing and tubing were offered as activities to the adults. I, along with two other adults, took advantage of the leather works shop. I was impressed with how easy I could make something out of leather! Earlier in the week, I attempted to wrap a couple of bottles with paracord. The first bottle was a challenge, as I couldn’t remember what direction the paracord was supposed to go, maybe with practice I’ll get it! The second bottle was much easier to remember which direction to wrap, so I haven’t entirely ruled out using paracord.

Summer Camp is also an opportunity for Scouts to advance in rank. That meant that we held about 30 boards of review for Scouts during the evening. Talking to Scouts is an chance to learn more about them while offering valuable tools for success. During summer camp, we always offer the Scouts the opportunity to earn Camper, Woodsman or FireCrafter. The Sagamore Council does not currently have a FireCrafter program, but we had several Firecrafters in our troop and were able to offer it to the Scouts interested. That being said, we had eight Firecrafter candidates that completed their requirements during summer camp. And, our Scoutmaster was presented with a Sagamore Council FireCrafter belt buckle by the staff at Camp Buffalo during the closing campfire on Friday.

The staff at Camp Buffalo were very friendly and excited, from the time we pulled into camp until we left. You would not know that our week with them was their last week at camp, you would have thought it was their first. This was my third summer camp and each year I am amazed at how well run
and how fun camp is. This was by far the best summer camp yet and words simply cannot explain it. I have five more years until my son ages out to experience summer camp again! Did I mention that I barely saw my son at camp? He was so busy having fun that I only saw him in passing and took just one picture of him. That is the way camp is supposed to be – having fun, learning and building friendships.

-Jennifer

Thank You – Mitch & The DRC Crew

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Hey America!

Thank you so much again for following along during my journey to the Congo. I really hope that everyone has been gaining something from reading my posts. I apologize for not sending the last few posts in time, and I know that is not very good of me at all. I have had a tough time readjusting to my work schedule. Copying the blogs from my personal journal to a computer has been tough, but I’m getting caught up again! There should be two more posts on their way at some point soon! Stay tuned! In the meantime, if you want an almost play-by-play account of our trip, head on over to Art’s blog: http://aefenglommung.livejournal.com/. He does an incredible job of documenting our trip in 7 separate posts, pictures included. There are so many perspectives on our trip, and so much that happened that one blog is never enough to do the experience justice. I can’t wait to send the rest of my thoughts soon, so we can finish this journey together! Have an awesome day, everyone! I’ll talk soon.

-Mitch

Mitch & DRC Crew Recap Congo Trip

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Note: This post was written on Sunday, 12 July 2014 at 5:30PM Tenke time.
 
The power of this trip is mind blowing. What we did will really change the lives of many Africans, Scouts and non-Scouts; forever. It certainly will change mine. Saturday was great! We did service for the community in the morning as well as ran program – where I got to teach knots and more Firecrafter stuff and games. We found out that morning that Saturday was actually our last day of the jamboree since some Scouts needed to travel home after church on Sunday. So, we put everything we could in to making sure that our program was a perfect example of our camps, good Scout skills and fun. Like I said, the morning was a great success.
 
In the afternoon, though, we really did something incredible. At our meeting Thursday night, the African leaders had asked David, Nikki and I if we could do lectures/presentations on two topics: leadership in Scouting and in the community as well as gender roles in Scouting and life. David and I took the leadership topic and Nikki did gender roles. The African Scouting leadership structure is set up very differently than ours. It is more of a top down authoritarian leadership style, where you mostly need to be an adult or older Scout with a title to have any real official say in things. So in our presentation, we really tried to talk about how anyone can be leader and that being a leader can just mean setting the right example. And also, having people who follow you because they want to, not because they have to. Personally, I really believe in the idea of servant leadership, which is being a leader by showing others the way and being willing to help do whatever you have asked others to do. I also told shared that leadership is like a spark. Just like the sparks we’d been making with our fires out of in Scoutcraft all week, the spark from one leader can ignite a fire around him or her. The thing is, fires can be good or bad. They can be a tool to cook food, a light at night or a shelter from bugs and animals while you sleep.  They can also burn down a whole town and destroy lives. They need to make sure as leaders, that they are setting the right kinds of fires all the time – because everything they do will make a difference.
 
For Nikki, the gender presentation was a huge step in the right direction. While there are actually girls in the regular Scouting program in Africa (there is no venturing, just coed Scouting), these women usually do not have big leadership roles and often leave Scouts as soon as they get married. Their husbands don’t think that they should be doing anything other than house work and taking care of children. As the Scouts themselves said after the presentation, they used to think of women just as machines who could take care of the house and the chores and stay at home. This isn’t supposed to reflect badly on these Scouts, it is just the way of life across most of that region. But the Scouts went on to say afterwards that they now realized they should treat their women with respect and always be kind to them, their needs and wants. In fact, lots of them came to Nikki later that day asking more questions about how they could help their wives become involved in Scouting (kids in Africa get married very early; these guys were maybe between 18-20something).
 
We felt incredible about what we had done, and glad that we could end our part of camp on such a good note. Then of course, we played some games before it was time for us to pack our tents up and bring our stuff back to the Tenke guesthouse; where we would be staying through Tuesday morning. After dinner that night, we made another trek out to the camp to watch the closing campfire. Campfires for Scouts in Africa are a huge deal, filled with tradition and ceremony. Not to mention, these guys build excellent fires. Finally, after a lot of interesting and ceremonial introductions, they led a few more songs and then we were asked to do a song. With no real way to translate an American song, I broke out a “repeat after me “song that would make no sense in either language: Flea Fly Flow. It was a huge success, and I got asked to repeat it several times. I felt just at home leading a camp song in front of a fire. In fact, I got asked to come back early the next morning with a written copy of the song so that they could have it to keep singing in the future! That night, I slept soundly. This morning, I woke up early to make what I thought would be one last trek back to the camp to hand over the song and run through it with the leaders a few times. I brought AOAOA as well. We’ve joked as a team since then that 100 years from now, some historian will come through the Congo and find a bunch of African Scouts singing Flea Fly Flow and write it down as some crazy African folklore song.
 
Anyway, after that was the closing church service. It lasted three and half hours. There were drums and singing and dancing to go on forever, and it was so much fun! I felt the power of God in that church in the way that everyone praised Him endlessly. During the service, there were a few touching presentations made. First, we gave the winning soccer team their official trophy, which was really cool looking by the way. We also gave signed soccer balls to DS Mumba and the Chief Scout of the district. In return, the Scouts presented us with a small, lashed together shelter, to show that they could learn from us and have the skills of American Scouts too. And they gave Fred his own small wooden house, because Fred is retired and in Africa when a pastor retires, the church is responsible for building him a home.
 
I also wanted to make one presentation on my own and I took the opportunity to do it. There was one Scout who had acted as essentially the SPL for all the Scouts at the jamboree (there is no official SPL in African Scouting, but that was basically what he did). So, I called Phillip to the front of the church to give him something. I was wearing my full Class A uniform, with my Eagle neckerchief. I explained to him and everyone that an Eagle Scout in America was the highest rank a boy could earn, and that it showed his good character, scout skills and leadership. I told them that my neckerchief represented the fact that I had earned my Eagle Scout. Finally, I looked at Phillip and told him that as a symbol of what he has done as a leader in Scouts, and in the hopes that he will continue to do those things, I wanted him to have my neckerchief. I presented him with my Eagle neckerchief, and my slide, which I had made at White Stag Leadership camp. It felt really good to do that, and he was very touched. So much, in fact, that he felt he wanted to do that same. At the closing flag ceremony back in camp after church, he called me up and gave me his Wood Badge neckerchief in front of everyone, because he had earned it at a leadership summit for Wood Badge in Africa. As I have said, the connections we made there were lasting and deep.
 
Later that day, we came together as a team and talked and prayed about all of the things that had happened. There was so much going on in our minds, but it was amazing that the camp was done and that now we could sit back and look at our impact. Tenke Scouting is different because of what we did. Our biggest impact, it seems, was just reigniting the love of Scouting in the kids that were already a part of it, and starting what could be a huge movement for many people into Scouting for the first time. As I told the Scouts, one spark can start a fire. We were that spark, and we did it for a great reason.
 
-Mitch and the DRC crew

Mitch and DRC Crew Heads Home

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This was written on Friday, July 21, 2014.

Time to wake up and come back home! I miss you, America. Africa has been an amazing, wild adventure, but my heart and home will always be the U.S.A. I’ll be sending the rest of my blogs tomorrow and the next day once we land in Indy. Our schedule right now is to touch down around 2:00 p.m. on Saturday. We would love your prayers for safety as we go and thank you so so much for supporting us!

-Mitch and the DRC crew

Philmont Trek Brings Thankfulness

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This post was written by the CAC Scout Executive, Patrick Sterrett. 

My latest Scouting adventure helped me hit the pause button. I realized just how blessed I am to have such a great family. We all have our health to enjoy such awesome adventures together in Scouting.

In 2008, I took the opportunity to do a Philmont trek with my oldest son and the council contingent.  As if that couldn’t get better, on June 30, 2014, I found myself on a bus heading out of Philmont to be dropped in the middle of nowhere.  This time, my oldest son was our trek ranger, my middle son was our crew leader, and my youngest was also part of the nine boy/three adult crew.  Dreams do come true.

Over the next 11 days and 75 miles we carried 30-50 pound backpacks, climbed numerous peaks, saw a rattlesnake and bear and hiked through three violent hail storms.  I was so proud to watch as the boys from my old troop bonded and took charge.  They shared responsibility every step of the way whether it was cooking, cleaning, navigating our path during the days, setting up camp, purifying water or hanging bear bags.  During the action packed days they challenged themselves mentally and physically shooting guns, climbing spar poles, milking cows, rock climbing and bouldering.

Each night we took time to learn more about Leave No Trace camping as well as discuss our daily devotionals.  Of the nine boys, two are Eagles and I have zero doubts that soon, all will attain that lofty achievement.  I also reflected on the blessings of the two other adult leaders on the trek.  These men are smart, fit, kind and truly exemplify the Scout Oath and Law.  I can’t help but think the boys will benefit throughout their life by having such great role models.

Scouting is truly is an adventure with a purpose.  Nothing else we do brings all that together like the challenge of high adventure.  The trip was a great metaphor of life filled with ups and downs along the trail, but just like life’s journey when we take on big challenges, surround ourselves with great people and have the mindset to persevere and stick together no matter what….the adventure is wonderful and fulfilling.  I hope your Summer was filled with adventure and that you will stop and be thankful to God and the many others that made it possible.