For over a decade both girls and boys have been enjoying the thrills and life lessons experienced through the South African Scouting Movement. In light of Women’s Day we are shining the torch on some of the remarkable women that are active our country.
Dr Ingrid Webster (36) has a doctorate in Medical Physiology and is renowned for the ground-breaking cardiovascular research her team does at the University of Stellenbosch. Yet, she still finds time to invest in children and youths throughout the Western Cape as an Adult Leader within SCOUTS South Africa. We spoke to her about her Scouting journey.
“I was born in Durban and at the time Scouting was only for boys, so as a child I was a Brownie and a Girl Guide. After high school I moved to Stellenbosch where I studied and got my doctorate.
During this time a friend introduced me to the 1st Durbanville Scout Group in 2001 and I joined in 2002 as the first female Scouter. SCOUTS SA opened its doors for girls in 2000 and so there was a need for female Scouters. I love the outdoors and so I went along just for fun. I then realised how much I could give back and make a difference. Twelve years later, I’m still here,” she says with a smile. ”I am currently the Troop Scouter of 1st Durbanville.”
“Scouting is special to me as I don’t have children of my own. Leading a group of children gives me the opportunity to see the world from their perspective. Their creativity, zest for life and enthusiasm for the activities we do is fantastic and I get a lot of joy out of being in that environment. I strongly believe that both boys and girls benefit from the positive peer pressure, physical outdoor activities and the interaction that Scouting provides. In Scouting you learn to interact with people from different genders and all walks of life in a safe environment where peers lead by example and resolve possible conflicts constructively. I also want to stress that as a busy professional Scouting opens doors for you to meet like-minded people and a huge base to draw from as friends. If I need advice from a lawyer, environmentalist or engineer I know many of them through the Scouting Movement. Scouters are very special people as they are always willing to help out when you need them,” she explains.
As a Scouter Ingrid also gets to participate in some of the bigger events such as the bi-annual Senior Scout Adventure in the Cederberg Mountains. “I get to do things I never thought I would ever experience. Like when I participate in the Cederberg Adventure we sail, paraglide, hike and explore the beautiful Cederberg Mountains. It’s just awesome! At the 2006-2007 Centenary of the Cederberg event I was the adult advisor for a group. It was a real learning experience for me. I am in essence a lab rat, an organiser and science is my profession. I am not used to getting up in front of a group of people, leading an event or managing a project. In Scouting I have received the training and opportunity to push my boundaries and acquire these skills in a supportive atmosphere. I was nervous at first but have gained a lot of confidence along the way.” In addition to leading the 1st Durbanville Scout Troop, she was also the first female course leader of the Western Cape Patrol Leaders Training Unit (PLTU) and has run courses and the Gordons’ Shield Competition. “It’s not only the kids that learn by doing in Scouting, us adults learn at our own pace too. I think this is something that many people don’t always realise. You learn skills that can help you in your professional life too.”
So where does this desire to help people come from? As a child she saw a little boy being hit by a truck. Also, both Ingrid and her brother had a heart defect and underwent operations. After this she was adamant to step into the medical field. “I didn’t become a doctor but I went the research route. The work we do with my team will hopefully be put into practice in the years to come and save lives. Sometimes it’s hard because you don’t see the direct fruits of your labour. In Scouting this is also not always instantly apparent but I believe that by giving children and youths the opportunity to discover their talents and learn new skills we do see their confidence grow and that in itself is rewarding.”
Ingrid has the best of both worlds, professionally she is breaking ground in heart research and in the weekends she empowering children and exploring the world she lives in. When asked how she manages to make the time for Scouting she replied with a grin “The busier you are, the more time you have. I have experienced that if I am very busy I am able to be a lot more productive and fit a lot more in my day then if I am idle and not busy. There is always time to make a difference and leave this world a better place!”
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