As parents, we strive to connect our kids with good friends, positive influences, and activities that build character and instill a sense of responsibility. When there is an organization as highly regarded as the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) for boys and young men, we encourage our sons to actively participate. Being far away from home, we’re quite lucky to have such an outstanding program available for our kids right here in Beijing.
While the BSA began as an American organization founded by Chicago publisher William D. Boyce back in 1910, it has grown to include the World Organization of the Scouting Movement, with over 110 million members from over 160 countries worldwide. Local Cub Scout packs and Boy Scout troops in Beijing represent approximately a dozen different nationalities with a combined membership of 150.
As an overseas group, the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts are required to have a chartering organization. For the Beijing Cub Scout pack and for Boy Scout Troop 943, this sponsor is the International School of Beijing, although boys from many different Beijing schools actively participate. Troops can also be chartered by other organizations. For instance, Troop 1921 is sponsored by a church. Cubmaster David Wolf and Scoutmaster Randy Williams helped explain the similarities and differences between their groups, as well as how they bridge together to help boys become men.
Packs and Troops, Dens and Patrols
Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts have similar structures and philosophies, but they operate independently of one another as two distinct programs.
In Cub Scouts, boys ranging from Grades 1 to 5 are put into one pack. Smaller groups within the pack are called dens. Each den has about six to eight boys, and are generally of the same age-group or experience level. The levels are as follows: Bobcat, Tiger Cub, Wolf, Bear, and Webelos – a clever name from the phrase “We’ll be loyal scouts.” This year, there are 12 dens with approximately 80-90 boys in total.
Parent volunteers are crucial to the success of Cub Scouts, and fortunately, recruiting has not been a problem here. Pack sizes are about double or triple of what they might be in the US, because of shared interest from both boys and their parents. Cubmaster Wolf says, “The organization provides a structure for parents to be interactively involved in the same activities as the boys, and everyone finds it to be very rewarding.”
In Boy Scouts, boys from Grade 6 and up, are assigned to a troop. Within each troop are smaller patrols, and here the boys experience true leadership through running their patrols independently. Troop 943 in Beijing has approximately 70 boys registered in their nine patrols. Adult volunteers are behind the scenes, offering more of an advisor role, which allows scouts the freedom to take on extra responsibility. “The hardest part of being a scout leader is keeping up with the boys,” says Scoutmaster Williams. “They have so much energy and great ideas. My job isn’t to lead the troop. I just coordinate the different parts. The boys do the leading.”
Boy Scouts also help the Cub Scouts during occasional meetings, special activities, and the Arrow of Light ceremony when boys bridge from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts.
As in Cub Scouts, boys in Boy Scouts achieve different levels as they acquire new skills. Earlier levels include Tenderfoot, Second Class and First Class, and the higher levels of Star, Life and Eagle focus on leadership, service and individual knowledge. Since the troop began in Beijing in 1997, 30 scouts have earned the Eagle rank, which is impressive given that only about 2 percent of all scouts worldwide ever earn this rank.
Activities and Involvement
There are regular meetings for both groups, plus numerous events throughout the year. In addition to learning new skills and earning merit badges, scouts have a lot of fun too! Cub Scouts bond through exciting activities, like hiking the Great Wall at Mutianyu, participating in a Pinewood Derby, and going on the much anticipated Family Camp Out. Boy Scouts emphasize “Scouting is Outing” with many outdoor activities and six scheduled campouts.
The boys participate in various community charity opportunities throughout the year as well. Wolf’s den held a charity drive, asking for backpacks and school supplies, which they then turned over to poorer schools. They also host a bike rodeo every year, where used bikes are collected, fixed up, and given to less fortunate children at migrant schools and orphanages. There are anywhere from 30 to 70 bikes turned over in a given year.
Williams’ Troop 943 offered approximately 1,000 hours of service to the community, including cleaning up an animal shelter, collecting warm clothing for the homeless, and constructing a reading library at an orphanage. One ambitious scout collected discarded computers, refurbished them, and constructed a computer lab for a local school. Another spearheaded a recycling program in his school.
Building Positive Futures
The BSA mission statement is: To prepare young people to make
ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling the values of the Scout Oath and Scout Law. The BSA provides a structured base of values and character building activities to help boys through the various phases of their lives. Magazine Publications, such as Boys’ Life and Scouting reiterate lessons they learn through the program. The Cub Scout motto of “Do Your Best” applies to each and every boy in the dens and packs, going at their level without pressure. The Boy Scout motto of “Be Prepared” reminds the boys that they have it within themselves to use their knowledge and skills to lead others. Shaping the world for the better, these boys develop the character to play a constructive role in society along the way.
Funding and Registration
Because of fundraising limitations in China, the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts are self-funded through the initial fees paid by members. The initial registration for Cub Scouts is RMB 1,000. There are also event costs and a uniform. They are looking into opportunities for corporate sponsorship for some of the larger events throughout the year. Boy Scouts is RMB 1,600 and there are fees for a uniform and any camping gear required for their six campouts.
Because of the transient nature of Beijing’s expat community, the local packs and troops recognize the fact that boys come and go regularly. Scouting activities run from August to June each year, and boys can inquire about opportunities to join as they arrive in Beijing.
To register for the Cub Scouts, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
To register for the Boy Scouts, contact email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information on Boy Scout Troop 943 is available at http://troop943.com/Troop_943/Welcome.html