Volunteer Week 2022: The Ralph family's amazing achievements
Finding a balance between volunteering, parenting and work is a familiar scenario for many of our brilliant volunteers in Scouts. But what makes the Ralph family stand out is they’ve all achieved amazing awards and accolades.
It’s not often that a parent receives a Silver Wolf as their child receives their Duke of Edinburgh Gold and Queen’s Scouts Award, which they finally got to celebrate at Windsor this year.
When Steve Ralph first started volunteering at Scouts in 1982, he ran Cubs and Ventures with very little help.
Since then, his wife Sue and their youngest daughter, Hannah, have joined Scouts, both becoming volunteers, achieving various awards and local area roles.
Since their early days as volunteers, Steve and Sue have gone on to lead incredible international experiences and taken on multiple roles to inspire young people in their local community, with Hannah now leading an Explorer group too.
The start of their Scouts Journey
When he was younger, Steve had a fantastic time as a Scout, and one of his greatest memories is Scouts giving him his first experiences of flying in a plane in 1979.
His group planned to go to the 15th World Scout Jamboree in Iran, but it was cancelled due to the Iranian Revolution. The ‘World Jamboree Year’ was then announced, and several international World Jamboree Year camps took place across the world in multiple countries, including Australia, Canada, Sweden and the United States.
Steve’s group were chosen to travel to Texas, and they stayed at the Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico. This trip ignited in Steve a passion for Scouts that lasted a lifetime.
After his brilliant experience of being in in Scouts, Steve couldn’t hang up his necker just yet. He decided to stay on to become a Cubs leader.
He took on the role of becoming a Group Scout Leader on a local housing estate. The building needed repair, so Steve worked tirelessly, securing a grant to make improvements, and the group was built up from there.
Every year the group attended summer camps, and they alternated between UK camps and international ones, visiting many countries, including Belgium, Finland and Iceland.
When he married Sue, she got involved too and helped to run his Beaver group, and the group is still going strong today. In between running Scouts, they were both managing full-time jobs and parenting two young girls.
Up to now I’ve had some of the best times of my life in Scouts. I spent my younger years travelling the world with Scouts, which has led me into my current career as a travel editor. I’ve had fantastic experiences and made brilliant lifelong friends along the way. Like my Dad, I want to give something back and help others have what I've had and experienced.
Achieving Youth Awards
After becoming a leader, Steve realised that when he was younger his Scout group were all only pushed to go for the Queen’s Scout Award. Steve became a Queen’s Scout, but he hadn’t known about the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) or the Explorer Belt, which he’d have loved to have completed.
Now, Steve’s a big believer in broadening everybody’s horizons, both in his group, district and county level. He’s keen to mentor young people and help them become the best they can be.
Having taken on the roles of Queen’s Scout Award assessor, Duke of Edinburgh’s Award assessor and District Commissioner, Steve makes sure everyone has the opportunity and support to do the awards he missed.
He understands the awards are #GoodForYou, as they don’t just offer practical skills, but help to prepare young people for life and teaches them how to communicate with others, too.
Awards to make you stand out
Steve believes the biggest benefit of the awards is having an extra card to play in education-based and workplace interviews to make you stand out.
In his first job interview, which was for a police officer role, his Queen’s Scout Award became a key talking point and helped Steve stand out to the interviewer.
His own experiences inspire Steve to push young people in his local area, including his daughters, to get their awards, and he encourages them all to talk about their accomplishments in interviews. He truly knows the benefit of having these additional achievements on a CV and how they can help young people and adults to progress.
Making an impact
Like many volunteers, Steve and Sue hadn’t always realised the impact they’d been making. They recently went to the wedding of one of his first very Scouts, along with many of his original group members. They told Steve that, without him, they wouldn’t be where they are now. They’re now achieving great things as headteachers, police officers and army officers.
This validated what Steve and Sue realised long ago that Scouts is more than an hour on a Friday night. It’s sitting down and talking to young people, getting them to focus and work hard, and helping them achieve the extra things they need to succeed.
Being part of a young person’s journey in Scouts is one of the most rewarding things. From investing them as a Beaver, to then being invited to their wedding, and then investing their children into the same Beaver colony years later is just one example of how remarkable scouting can be.
Learning new skills as a team
From his own and his family’s experiences, Steve strongly believes that completing awards and being in Scouts can help you develop communication, teamwork and networking skills, both locally and internationally.
When his group went to a camp in Finland, Steve started having brief chats with a Finnish leader. Over several years these small interactions led them to staying in touch and becoming close friends, which then led to them building links between the two Scout groups. This helped the groups to learn more about the world around them, as well as each other’s cultures.
These connections around the world have also proven to be useful to Steve in the planning of international adventures too.
He organised a team of 36 to plan a trip to America focusing on adventure, sightseeing and culture. The trip culminated in an expedition at Philmont Scout Camp, a place Steve first visited many years ago and ignited his lifelong passion for scouting, which is usually only open to American Scout groups. However, using his international connections, Steve secured spaces for 3 patrols
There’s always lots of teamwork, planning and preparation involved in any camp or trip. But for Steve there’s always a chance to learn new things, so he likes to include everyone in event leadership allowing people to grow and learn by doing.
Steve always says, “I’ll do it once, I’ll do it twice, and if you want to do it again then you plan it, but I’ll help.”
He always divides up the workload: he asks someone to plan travel, another person to organise the food, someone else to find insurance and so on. This gives new leaders the chance to learn, so they can then do it themselves if they want to.
Steve has a lot of young leaders in his district, and he knows that you’ve got to trust them, empower them and lead by example. He put forward the idea that young leaders who showed an interest could shadow an Assistant County Commissioner and have a heard voice in any discussion.
By doing this, he helps young leaders understand the bigger Scouts picture from an earlier age, while giving them the security of support from experienced volunteers.
Steve’s support and enthusiasm for championing young people is working too. A few years back, when looking for the most successful DofE and Top Award Units in the Country, Scouts found that one unit had an almost 100% completion rate of young people achieving the award in a year. It was at a unit where Steve is the District Commissioner.
A family of achievements, including an MBE
The Ralph family’s list of awards and achievements is endless.
Steve now has his Silver Wolf, Queen Scout’s Award and an MBE. Sue has been a Beaver leader for over 20 years, as well as the GMW County Administrator. Hannah too has earned her Queen’s Scout Award and DofE Gold Award.
Steve and Sue believe that, although we’re a youth movement, we should celebrate and recognise what our leaders have achieved. It’s something for young people to aspire to and be proud of.
For Steve, earning his Queen’s Scout Award was the highlight in his scouting journey as a young person. Steve always wore his with pride. At the time, you weren’t meant to wear the award on your uniform if you were over 25, but Steve was so proud he kept it on anyway. This rule has now changed, and Steve can still be seen with his Queen’s Scout Award on his uniform today.
The Silver Wolf was an unexpected award for Steve. He felt great receiving one and being recognised and valued for his commitments. It’s worn with pride, although Steve thinks of it as his wife’s award too, as Steve couldn’t have achieved it without Sue. Sue herself was awarded the Silver Acorn in 2019 for her 20-year dedication to Scouts.
In 2016, Steve was awarded an MBE for services to Young People and the community, particularly for his work with Scouts. Receiving the award was a surreal experience for Steve, with Prince William presenting him with his MBE at Buckingham Palace in London.
Ideally, next on his wish list, Steve would like to do something with the Scout World Bureau. He fully believes in international Scouting, which is where his passions lie, and he knows there’s so much we can do to help people.
When asked what he’d say to anyone wanting to try an award or volunteer, Steve said, “Go for it! What are you waiting for? You’ll get out of it what you put into it, go and do it, and don’t let people put you off. I’ve had a fantastic ride all the way through, and I don’t anticipate it ending anytime soon. Go out there, make memories and enjoy the adventure.”
We hope to hear about your next achievements soon, Steve, Sue and Hannah. Congratulations to the whole Ralph family on everything you’ve accomplished so far. You all are a true inspiration to us all and prove just how Scouts can be #GoodForYou.
I’ve loved every minute of my Scouts journey. Good leaders gave me the inspiration to explore, and the self-confidence and skills to make it happen. I hope I’ve passed that on to the people around me. The only thing that’s stopping you is your lack of imagination. Think big, think wide and enjoy the ride.