Skip to main content

Volunteering at Scouts is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing at Scouts. Read more

Discover what this means
Blog | 23 December 2022

Reaching new communities in South Croydon

Zahir Khan, Volunteer in South Croydon

It’s incredibly important to celebrate the efforts our volunteers are making to be inclusive. This is Zahir’s story.

Zahir talks about bringing Scouts to new communities in South Croydon and where he’d like the movement to go further with inclusivity. Real life stories like this help us recognise what we’re already doing for diversity and inclusion, and support each other to do even more.

My background

Hi, I’m Zahir. I’m a British born Pakistani in my early 50s. My parents are degree educated, and they’re quite liberal Muslims. They were keen for me and my siblings to integrate in society and mingle beyond our own ethnic community. I’d say they were a little ahead of their time for first generation Pakistanis. I even attended Sunday school for a while!

My first experience with Scouts

My Scouts journey started around 1979. I went to a Scout group in Croydon. Except for one of my siblings, and a couple of other children from Black, Asian, minority ethnic communities, Scouts didn’t feel open to people from these backgrounds. It was seen as a very white, Christian organisation. We’d make our promise to God and HM The Queen, and we’d go to church. I loved my time at 39th Croydon and left in 1983.

Zahir as a Scout in 1982

How I was reintroduced into Scouts

Fast forward to 2017, the Imam of our local Mosque invited the Muslim Scout Fellowship to give a ‘show and tell’ to the local community in Purley, South Croydon. The Imam was involved in a predominantly Muslim Scout group in Tooting, so he knew the benefits of Scouts and wanted to bring more Scouts-based opportunities to South Croydon.

I think having an inspirational Imam, who encourages the congregation, made a big difference to the perception of Scouts among the Black, Asian, minority ethnic communities in my area. The Imam really believed in Scouts and he’d already seen the benefits. Because the congregation respected him, he convinced members of the community to get actively involved. He encouraged me to get back into Scouts.

I immediately signed up to support the set-up of a new group. With the fantastic help of the Croydon District team (namely the District Commissioner at the time, Steve French) we set up a new group in 7 months.

Our success

Only me and two other volunteers had Scouts experience. Everyone else was completely new to it. The group grew quickly, and we’re now the largest in Croydon (according to the latest census data in January 2022). We’re managing a fairly large waiting list. and we can’t thank Steve enough for his support and guidance.

I’d attribute the success and growth of 30th Purley to:

  • the vision of the Imam of Purley Mosque,
  • an appetite for the local community to form the group,
  • brilliant support from the District (namely Steve).
South Croydon Scouts group enjoy Queens Jubilee

Reaching new communities

We’ve made Scouts work for our community. Our District is our go-to team. We lean on the Muslim Scout Fellowship for extra support, particularly with Muslim-friendly/Halal activities.

We're seeing great success growing Scouts within the Muslim community in my area, and I really want to see the same for other faith communities, such as our local Hindu and Sikh communities. This is something I'd like to support with more locally by sharing our learnings to help drive growth with other communities.

The perception of Scouts is getting better, and we're reaching more communities. But there’s still work to do when it comes to people from Black, Asian, minority ethnic backgrounds taking on senior roles, such as County/Area/Region Commissioners, Regional Commissioners and in country leadership teams.

Moving forward to inclusivity

It’d be great to see more integration in groups.By way of a personal example, our group took over the meeting place and grounds from another, who’d closed due to falling membership. Sonya, Group Scout Leader of this group, who wasn’t from our faith or Black, Asian or ethnic minority background, decided to carry volunteering on with us. Of course, we welcomed Sonya as part of the family, and she still volunteers with us today.

We should always push for more inclusivity. Sometimes it seems difficult, but I think the best way to do it is teaching that being diverse is something everyone needs to put effort into. Meeting with and learning about people of different ethnicities or of different faith and belief backgrounds is an incredibly positive thing to do.

We want our volunteers and young people to feel welcomed and included. If you’ve got a story of your group reaching more communities, or becoming more inclusive, we’d love to hear from you. 

Share a story or experience with us today.
Share this story