By CHITRA S. NATHAN (From TheStar)
IT WAS a very special Thinking Day for girl guides in Seremban who commemorated the occasion with a visit from Michael Baden-Powell — the grandson of none other than the founding father of the scouts and guides movement — Lord Robert and Lady Olave.
Thinking Day is celebrated annually on Feb 22 by girl guides and scouts across the globe as a day to reflect on the meaning of guiding and scouting and also coincides with the birthdays of Lord Robert and Lady Olave.
Baden-Powell and his wife Joan who visited the Negri Sembilan Girl Guides Association (GGANS) building in Seremban recently were given a warm welcome by girl guides who not only demonstrated their skills in turning recycled materials into handicraft but also entertained the couple with performances on stage.
The couple were then treated to a sumptuous lunch and more performances by guides and their teachers at the Klana Resort here.
Baden-Powell who led guests in singing ‘Happy Birthday’ on stage said he was honoured to be a part of the celebrations and that it was only fitting to mark the occasion with a birthday song.
“Scouting had its beginnings more than a century ago and I believe it is the greatest peace movement.
“It speaks all languages and cuts across barriers of race, religion and colour.
“Both scouting and guiding allows young people the opportunity to find themselves and develop character through emphasising good values like trust, kindness, obedience and courtesy,” he said.
Baden-Powell said his grandfather, fondly known as BP, would be proud to see how the movement had grown across the globe from its humble beginnings.
The success of the scouting movement prompted BP’s sister Agnes to start its female equivalent — girl scouts and girl guides.
“I can just imagine my grand-aunt who was a capable woman getting together a band of young women to form the first girl scouts at a time when women were not encouraged to participate in outdoor activities. They wanted to go camping and canoeing as well and finally got their way.
“The scouting and guiding movements have some 40 million members in 218 countries today.
“That is a remarkable feat and it means we must be doing something right to remain relevant after all these years,” he said.
Baden-Powell who is himself an active scout, expressed hope that young people in the six countries which did not yet have scouting and guiding would be able to join the movements in the near future.
The countries are Andorra, China, Cuba, North Korea, Laos and Myanmar.
“The movements bring together people from different countries who share their experiences and culture with each other, especially during our world jamborees.
“What we need is world peace. I am sure we can achieve that by practising good values and learning about different cultures,” he said.
GGANS president Raja Datin Seri Salbiah Tengku Nujumudin who conveyed her appreciation to the Baden-Powells for taking time off their busy schedule to stop over said that the state association was the most active in the country.
“We have the distinction of being the only one in the country to have bagged the prestigious Olave Award for outstanding community service.
“It makes us proud that both of you chose to celebrate Thinking Day with us and I am confident that this recognition will spur us on to work even harder,” she said in her speech.
Raja Salbiah enlightened guests on the history of the scouting and guiding movements and related a story which resulted in the birth of the scouting movement.
“After returning from the Boer War in South Africa, Lord Robert was surprised to find a handbook he had written earlier entitled Aids to Scouting which emphasised resourcefulness, adaptability and leadership qualities that frontier conditions required and which had caught the interest of English boys.
“The boys were using it to play the game of scouting which gave him the idea to conduct a 12-day camp with 22 boys in Brownsea Island off England’s southern coast in 1907. The rest, as they say, is history,” she said.
Raja Salbiah, who is also the head of the National Council of Women’s Organisations (NCWO) state chapter, said this year’s Thinking Day theme was a cause that she supported and was familiar with.
“Women’s issues have always been close to our hearts and this year’s theme — ‘Gender Equality in Empowering Women’ is a fitting tribute to our work in improving the lives of girls and women who should enjoy equality, access to healthcare and education and the ability to fulfil their potential which they can do by picking up leadership and practical skills.
“I am glad that this theme was chosen to highlight the plight of young girls and women and help us eradicate inequalities and give our sisters a greater global voice,” she said.
Also present was Malaysian Girl Guides Association chief commissioner Datin Seri Zalilah Mohd Taib.