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Developing leadership skills via scouting

Geoffrey Rothwell

Having enjoyed scouting as a youth, Geoffrey Rothwell returned to the fold in 1999 when he agreed to help supervise his son Andrew’s troop.

Today he is the island’s Chief Commissioner of Scouts, as well as continuing to serve as a leader in the 19th Bermuda Cub Scouts every Friday night at Centenary Methodist Church in Smith’s.

“We have a group of young people who are all excited and interested and curious,” Mr Rothwell said.

“I always say if you can’t have a good time with them, I don’t know who you can have a good time with.”

Among the skills Mr Rothwell teaches the Cub Scouts are kayaking, knot-tying, woodwork and first aid — although he learns plenty from them as well.

“It’s always a two-way street. You pick up all kinds of things from young people, and I think it helps keep us adults younger,” he said. Scouting has also allowed Mr Rothwell to see the world. Last summer, he attended the World Jamboree in Japan with his Bermuda troop.

“Here was a group of young people from all over the world, and every night you had different people sitting at your dining table,” he said. “They all got along fine; we told them to remember that when they grow up and become the world’s leaders.”

In his role as Chief Commissioner, Mr Rothwell has also supported the introduction of females to Bermuda’s traditionally all-male scouting infrastructure.

Although the Cub Scouts (aged 8-12) will remain boys only, this year the Scouts (aged 12-16) will begin accepting girls, following the Explorers (aged 16-17) which opened its doors to both genders last year.

Another priority is finding more people to assist Bermuda’s scouting community; something Mr Rothwell describes as “my biggest challenge”.

“We have no shortage of young people, our biggest problem is getting enough adult volunteers,” he said.

“If we can’t recruit more people to start new groups, we’re going to be turning away 36 Cub Scouts in September, because we simply can’t take them in.”

Seventeen years after he re-entered the world of scouting, Mr Rothwell has witnessed the plethora of positive effects the organisation can have on young people.

“We try to instil in them a sense of purpose, loyalty, honesty and ethical behaviour. They learn that it’s not just about them; that they have a responsibility towards the community,” he said. “And it’s very rewarding to see someone, as an adult, that you helped through a difficult time during their childhood. They’re always proud to come and talk to you.”