The World of Scouts - First international meeting in London 100 years ago

Dominik Schneider, research assistant at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Safety Engineering, is a member of the board of the German Scout Association St. Georg.

Mr. Schneider, the British Lord Robert Baden-Powell founded the Scout Association in 1907 and organized the first World Scout Meeting in London in 1920. What were his motives?

Schneider: Lord Robert Baden-Powell was already enthusiastic about nature as a child and quickly acquired skills such as tracking or making a fire. During his military missions, this knowledge helped him in military reconnaissance. As an officer, BiPi - his nickname - later dealt with the training of soldiers and even then followed the approach of letting the soldiers take on more responsibility and winning them over to their task instead of just following orders. At the end of his military career he wanted to pass on his knowledge and principles to the youth. They should gain experience of living in nature and at the same time learn to take responsibility in the group. To make this possible, he founded the scout movement, which is still committed today to making the world a little bit better. Shortly after the First World War the World Scout Meeting was held to send the message that scouts from all over the world are welcome. With 8000 scouts from 34 countries, the camp showed that the scout movement can bring nations together in a spirit of peace and friendship.

A scout is a member of an international, religiously and politically independent educational movement for children and young people. Why do the members wear a uniform?

Schneider: Our clothing tells us a lot about our social position in society. In the past probably even more than today. But the scouts have the goal that all people should be treated equally. In order not to be able to see the social differences anymore, the attire was introduced, which consists of a robust and functional shirt. It is now internationally recognized as a distinguishing feature of the scouts.

In my scout association, we also sew patches from past rides and actions on the attire. These then invite you to talk to other scouts about past events and to revel in fond memories.

To the basic principle of the association belongs the scout law, which was adapted over the years to the spirit of the time. Why are these commandments so important?

Schneider: The commandments from the scout law formulate the ideology of the scouts to make the world a better place and thus provide us with a code of conduct. For example, one commandment says that we treat all people with respect and another that we help where it is necessary. The law helps us to constantly work on ourselves and make a contribution to society.

In 2011 the scout movement included more than 41 million children and young people from 216 countries worldwide. In Wuppertal, the scouts are grouped under "ZaPf", which stands for "Cooperation of all scouts in Wuppertal". How do you explain this interest in nature and community after 100 years with a youth that many think is not enthusiastic about anything?

Schneider: The scouts experience a strong inlet especially in the last years, because the children are enabled to escape from their normal everyday life. In the group lessons and free times the children can forget their achievement pressure. While romping in the woods, the social media take a back seat for a moment and the children learn to act and get involved in the group projects and activities. Besides, they are taught skills like making fire or tying knots. Parents appreciate the fact that the children are given the opportunity to experience nature, even if this sometimes leads to the fact that after playing in the forest the pants are clearly browner than before.

The rides of the scouts also contribute a lot to the enthusiasm. For example, my first summer camp at the age of 8 went to Sweden for two weeks. Still today I regularly rave about the great nature and the activities I experienced there. Canoeing, climbing, hiking, swimming, singing around the campfire and many games were on the program and made the trip an unforgettable experience for me.

In 1941 Robert Baden-Powell died in Kenya. In his last letter he left behind the probably most important sentence for the scout movement till this day: "Try to leave the world a little better behind than you found it." Did his wish come true?

Schneider: In the scouts as well as in other associations, I experience children and adults who get involved, critically deal with topics and bring them into their communities. Directly or indirectly this contributes therefore to a world, which becomes a little better. Of course, Robert Baden-Powell's wish is never finally fulfilled, but rather a constant motivation to all people, whether scouts or not, to do something good.

Mr. Schneider, you are on the board of the German Scout Association St. Georg, Tribe Franken in Wülfrath. What are your plans for the summer?

Schneider: For this summer, a two-week summer camp with 60 people in Austria was actually planned. Due to the risks and uncertainties caused by Corona, we unfortunately cancelled the summer camp and instead held smaller alternative camps with the older age groups at relatively short notice. My group got on their bicycles for a week and went from Wülfrath to the Wuppertalsperre for camping and activities. We enjoyed the good weather and went swimming a lot. We hope that we can make up for the big summer camp next year.

Uwe Blass (Interview on 29.07.2020)


Dominik Schneider is research assistant at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Safety Engineering at the Chair of Optimization of Mechanical Structures. He is a member of the board of the German Scout Association St. Georg, Tribe Franken in Wülfrath.

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