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Group rises from the ashes

Thursday, August 4th, 2016

There is an old saying that when disaster strikes, you know who your friends are. This proved to be the case on 25th August 2015 when 1st Warley Scout Group’s hut and its contents were destroyed by a fire.

With no Scout hut, no equipment and an uncertain future, the Group which was established in 1909 was on its knees. However, one of the only things to be saved from the blaze was a 95-year-old group flag; this was the motivation they needed to turn the shock they suffered into a determination to ensure it wasn’t the end of the group.

Within a week Warley’s leaders formulated a plan to ensure the Groups’ survival during the lengthy process of rebuilding the hut. Not one meeting was cancelled because of the fire, with section meetings held at Thriftwood Scout campsite and other local Scout huts. Through the generosity of the local community, fundraising events, and support from other Scout and Guide groups, 1st Warley is slowly reequipping and taking advantage of the opportunity to build a new and improved headquarters, with extra meeting rooms and facilities. Like a phoenix from the flames, 1st Warley is rising from the ashes. The Group that not only refused to die, but is determined to come back stronger!

Commenting on the event last year, 1st Warley Scout leader Simon Timmins said: “The fire was devastating but, at the same time, there have been some huge positives. We have been the recipients of incredible generosity and support from Scout and Guide groups throughout the region. The 23 Scouts we have attending EIJ2016 are largely here because of the tents and equipment groups have donated and lent to us. We have also learnt that it’s not a hut and equipment which makes a Scout Group – it’s the people. Despite everything, we have continued to deliver a programme and run meetings for our 120+ young people. We have been forced out of our comfort zone, have gone back to basics and have learnt a lot along the way which has been hugely refreshing and rewarding. I’d like to thank everyone that has helped us. We are all very fortunate to be part of this incredible Scouting and Guiding family.”

1st Warley has 23 Scouts camping as part of Brentwood District on Mendes’ Rainforest subcamp, and 21 of the 34 Brentwood Explorer Scouts attending the Jamboree were also Scouts at Warley. We caught up with Alex, Ethan and Sam to see how it feels now that they are at EIJ, largely due to the generosity of others.

In the aftermath of such a tragic event, it is understandable that the Scouts are still shocked by what happened. In the fire they may have lost their meeting hall and equipment but potentially the most important thing which they have lost is the historical memories that their Scout hut held. Alex said “It was good that other [Scouts and Guides] reached out to help, but” he added “it is really sad that the memories are gone.” They explained how it took time to understand the true depth of what had happened but when they noticed how much had been lost “it was like losing a family member.” “Heart-breaking” was a suitable word to sum up the feeling of the Scouts. You could tell how much the hut meant to them and as they described the pictures of the people constructing the hut when it was first built, as well as the more recent pictures of their own camps and adventures.

When the other groups chipped in to help, Ethan said it felt “really good” because “it’s what Scouting is about, it’s one big, giant family.” There are two options that you can choose from when something like this happens; give up or keep going, and any Scout or Guide will know that. Although it is the harder option, the latter is best choice as it will bring everyone together in the process.

Bringing everyone together is certainly what happened. Rebuilding a group from the ground is an extremely difficult task and 1st Warley would never have been able to get this far without the help of other Scout and Guide groups across the county. Sam said that it was a “huge relief” when another group allowed them to use their hall. “We were wondering what we were going to do with our Scout hut gone.”

Now that they are here they feel “really good.” Alex described it as being like “climbing up the ladder again,” going from having nothing to really enjoying their time at EIJ. “It’s really amazing how far we’ve came from a big loss.” Of course, they wouldn’t have done it without the open-handedness of the Scouting and Guiding community.

To all the groups who helped them, they added “We would like to say a lot of thank you’s to every Scout group who supported us because they supported us through all the dark times and gave us strength. Everyone gave that little bit of hope and that hope changed our experiences into letting us go to the Jamboree and just been able to have the best and life changing experience.”