I have just returned from an absolutely fantastic 48 hours attending the Kotare Brownie’s ‘Dad & Daughter’ Camp with my youngest daughter. We joined fourteen other dads and girls for a weekend of adventure, campfires, tall stories and hot chocolate at the marvelous Motu Moana Scout Camp & Outdoor Activity Centre which set in native bush overlooking Green Bay and Manukau Harbour beyond.
To say that we had a good time would be an understatement. In teams comprised of three daughters and three dads, we managed to pack in kayaking, archery, Burma trails, abseiling, challenge courses, bush tracking, quizzes, craft sessions and badge work in between the all important kitchen duties, tent inspections and ablutions block cleaning.
Over the last two days, I have seen a whole new side to my daughter which I never knew existed – the dedicated and responsible leader. As a newly promoted sixer, she stepped up and took her role as leader of our group seriously. Following her Mum’s advice to listen to others as well as talk, she played the diplomat and did a great job in shepherding the group and reporting back to Hoa, the pack leader. For reasons best known to her, my daughter is an energetic and thorough toilet cleaner at home so I had to smile when I overheard her trying to inject her pals with the same enthusiasm while cleaning the men’s toilets yesterday!
I was also impressed by the selfless dedication of the three female leaders, Hoa, Kea and Ruru who give up their time to run the pack each week and do so much at these camps to provide the girls with a truly memorable time. At campfire, Hoa wore a cloak that had badges awarded to her and her Mum, who was a leader before her, dating back 80 years. The oldest badge on Hoa’s cloak was just a badge, hand made by Hoa’s mother in 1939. During the Second World War, Guides and Brownies in New Zealand and Australia had to embroider their own camp, jamboree and merit award badges as they were unable to obtain them from England as they had done previously.
When I asked Hoa if the popularity of Guides and Brownies was dwindling in the face of competing attractions like iPods, computers and the Wii, her answer surprised me. ‘No’ she said, ‘Brownies are as popular as ever and we have a waiting list three times bigger than we could handle as a pack – sadly, the thing we lack is leaders and helpers’. She went on to say that she thought the increase in mums working (or the need for mum to work) and adults increasingly looking for more ‘me’ time in their leisure hours meant less people were willing or able to volunteer. Clearly, there are plenty of parents who want their girls and boys to get out of the house, mix with others, acquire new skills and learn about the wider world. It is just a pity that so few of of us are willing or able to help them do so.