The Group meets every Tuesday evening, including holidays, in the Hospital Activity Centre. The leaders arrive in advance to prepare the area for the meeting – this includes organising the room, setting up our flag and equipment for the evening and putting away any distracting toys! The leaders then visit all the wards, finding children who are able to leave the ward and join in our evening’s activities. Whilst recruiting occurs, an opening game is played (current favourites include bowling and giant pick-up sticks) which continues until all the leaders have returned – with or without children. We welcome all children aged 5 and above who are able to leave their ward, as well as siblings.
Each child is made a member of the Group for the evening, by being given one of our scarves to wear. We start the evening facing the Union flag; everyone is taught to stand ‘At Ease’, ‘At The Alert’ and how to salute the flag, which is then broken (unfurled) by a child volunteer.
The activities which follow are based on a Guiding or Scouting theme, with projects such as crafts, games, map and compass work, cooking and camp skills. Children can work towards Brownie/Guide/Cub/Scout badges.
We also take the children out on trips, in our specially adapted minibus which takes wheelchairs. Recent visits include a Christmas trip to see the Regent Street Christmas lights and Father Christmas in his grotto at Harrods, and speedboating down the River Thames!
To end the meeting, another child volunteer lowers the flag and we take a short moment to reflect. The scarves are collected in, in exchange for a much-coveted badge! The children are then taken back to the wards by the leaders who collected them.
Because of the nature of the Group, children normally (and hopefully) only attend one or two meetings. If our long term patients wish to become more involved in Scouting and Guiding, we invite them to take their promise and become a member of our Group.
Our Group is very different from mainstream groups in several ways. These include:
- Having a much wider age range than normal – the children we recruit for the evening are aged between six and eighteen.
- Not knowing how many will attend a particular meeting – one week we may have four or five, the next week twenty five. We find that our fullest attendance occurs during the school holidays.
- Often having a language barrier, as many of the children treated in the hospital come from abroad.