International Community Development Expeditions
1. Expeditions and Projects
In recent years public awareness of the conditions faced by people in developing countries has increased greatly as a result of media coverage.
There has also been a growing awareness and practical concern within The Scout Association which has led to a variety of educational/fund raising campaigns and practical projects in partnership with other Scout Associations and aid agencies such as UNICEF and Save the Children Fund.
The truly international nature of the Scout Movement is evident from the fact that 70% of the member associations of the World Organization operate in developing nations. Scouts take an active role in the development of their countries through projects such as health and immunisation, water and sanitation, human resettlement programmes, craft workshops and agricultural training.
By providing practical training in these areas Scouting helps to prepare young people to take a constructive place in society.
In the United Kingdom we have an opportunity to help our young people appreciate global issues and to understand the problems of developing countries. One way in which Scouting can help achieve this is to undertake practical projects abroad as partners with local Scouts and communities.
A wide range of expeditions have been carried out: helping refugees in Hong Kong, building projects in Ghana and Lesotho and working with the handicapped in Mauritius. National projects have helped refurbish clinics in Nepal and provide water and sanitation in Sri Lanka. In Kenya there has been a growing programme over a number of years creating income generation projects, the construction of water and sanitation systems and community hospitals/clinics. Recently a team of Scouts have been working in Tuvalu, helping to support Scouting at grassroots level.
It’s expected that more expeditions will take place in the future. These notes are intended to give guidance to those considering such projects. They are designed as preliminary notes only; there is no substitute for experience in this area and the International Office is able to provide details of those who have undertaken previous expeditions.
The Value of Community Development Projects
These projects offer the opportunity to experience at first hand life in a developing country. In line with the aims of The Scout Association, the purpose of Scout involvement is an educational one.
Here is an opportunity to appreciate the reality of life, to challenge ideas and prejudices, seeing a new perspective. Scouting aims to help young people to be involved in the community and to develop an international understanding. Working with a community abroad is an important application of this and experiences can be shared with those who support the expedition.
The work completed by expeditions in partnership with the host community has often been substantial, providing the stimulus for ongoing self-help.
A number of factors need careful consideration before entering into such a project. It must be realised that it will involve a long term commitment and is a major undertaking both in terms of time and resources. Because the expedition will bring young people face to face with a developing community, much sensitivity is required and there is a potential for harm if arrangements fail.
The financial cost of an expedition is an important factor. Is the project really the best way of helping? Could the finance be better used in other ways? The expedition may well generate finance, interest by local community groups and companies which would not otherwise be channelled into development.
It is important to have some practical contribution or skill which can be passed on to the host community. Enthusiasm and concern for the plight of those living in less developed countries and the overwhelming desire to do something are not necessarily enough in themselves to make a practical contribution in the field. Unskilled labour is one thing that developing countries do not lack.
This is the main reason why many overseas aid agencies are not keen on directly supporting Scout projects. Another is that supporting such visits is likely to involve extra work for already overworked fieldworkers. It is very important not to lose sight of the educational aspect of the project which is Scouting's main objective. The most useful projects are not necessarily vast building programmes; they often result from the sharing of knowledge and the catalyst effect of an incoming group of young people.
Agencies involved in development may also be wary of groups of young people who express interest in "community service". This is because most successful and long-lasting projects fully involve the local community. A project team which builds many new latrines or wells but does not work in partnership with the local community will achieve nothing if the new facilities are not used. It is therefore a very important principal that projects should meet real needs, and fully involve the local community.
These considerations are not presented to dissuade, but rather to ensure that a realistic discussion takes place when deciding on a project.
We should aim to "help people help themselves" rather than think that we have some superior contribution to make. In this way the experience becomes not only one of serving others, but presents us with the opportunity to learn about and appreciate a different culture.
On speaking of United Kingdom Scouts, Mrs. M Mwangola, Executive Director of the Kenya Water for Health Organisation, said:
"I work with a great number of international aid organisations helping to develop community development programmes in Kenya. I particularly enjoy working with UK Scouts. They really show they care about communities and development. Not only do they provide resources for projects, they devote countless hours in raising funds, training, educating others and in the physical effort of helping communities to realise their ambitions.
This has a tremendous effect on the community, the enthusiasm of the UK Scouts providing an enormous lift to all of those with whom they work, which lasts long after they leave.
Your young people are excellent ambassadors setting a good example of showing that the people of the UK really care about Africa. Thank you UK Scouts."