“Aiming high to create leaders and tackle challenges head-on”

Dr Alison GriffithFor 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 SCOUTS South Africa wanted to shine the torch on some of the remarkable women that are active our country. Dr Alison Griffiths is South Africa’s number one expert on Sleep Research and has been empowering youths through the Scout Movement since 2002. We explored more about her Scouting adventure.

“My mother was an adult leader in the Girl Guide Movement so I grew up in that environment. My daughter also grew through the Girl Guide ranks as a brownie, guide and ranger. After a while she was looking for a new challenge and made the move to Scouting. In 2002 she was working towards her Springbok and asked me for help. In doing so I have been able to observe how Scouting has influenced her development into this brilliant, resourceful and independent person who is ready to take on the world! Scouting has been very rewarding and now, twelve years later, I still get great enjoyment out of being involved,” explains Dr Griffiths with a smile.

After graduating in medicine Dr Alison Griffiths dreamt of specialising in eye surgery and so she chose a year of physiology to assist in preparing for the initial exam. After writing the exam (and passing), at 28 years old, she decided it was time for a family so her plans changed and she opted to stay in the physiology department and joined the brand new sleep research lab. “I mean how hard could it be, right? It was very exciting! At that time not much research had been done and so we read a lot and did a lot of ground breaking work.” Currently she heads the supervision of the research team students, mentors and treats patients with all types of sleep disorders, both children and adults. She also gives talks on sleep research, raises funds to promote it and writes articles on the topic. Yet despite her busy schedule she still gives back to humanity through Scouting.

“Scouting changes lives. It opens up children’s perceptions of themselves and the world. It is adventurous and fun, but more importantly it teaches young people to be creative, independent and caring. This is not only valid for the children of the Movement, but also the adults involved. Scouting offers many opportunities to give back to communities, to younger generations and to develop one’s own personal skills. A friend once told me that in the world you have “aimers and gamers”. I am an “aimer”! I will look at a challenge or a need out there and think “How hard can this be?” The next thing I know I will be in the middle of implementing it,” she giggles. “As a Movement we are continuously developing and growing and I firmly believe that Scouting has the potential to influence generations of youths! We currently offer an array of Scouting related training courses for adults that join the organisation. This not only helps them with implementing the Scout programme but also in their personal and professional lives. Living according to a strong value system and possessing practical project management, leadership and problem solving skills are vital in the current employment scene. In future I feel we could even expand into more in-depth vocational skills development too.”

When asked about the highlights of the past twelve years she sighs and says “There are so many special moments. My daughter receiving her Springbok was definitely one of them. Also setting up winter camps in Gauteng has been a lot of fun. In the winter our children have four weeks off and as parents we need to work. By establishing a one week camp that is all about fun, getting out of the house, pioneering, rafting, orienteering and community service our kids get to have a blast while their parents know their children are safe and doing something nice. This mini-jamboree-like event is not a competition nor Scouting advancement driven, it’s just Scouting at its best. Another important moment for me was when a child came up to me in Limpopo at the end of the Leadership Training camp we ran.  It was back to basics as there was no pioneering equipment nor funds available, but we made do with what we could find and provided the kids with challenges to increase their leadership and problem-solving skills. The Scout came up to me and said “Thank you for showing me that we can do things on our own as teens and don’t always need adults to do everything for us.” That was a very special moment as it really hit home. It enhanced my conviction that children who lack good role models at home and who have no constructive activities to do after school are the children that could benefit the most from Scouting. Scouting can offer them a value based programme that is filled with activities they can use to discover their talents, develop skills and self-confidence.”

Dr Alison Griffiths is very active within Scouting. Not only does she coordinate the development of partnerships between SCOUTS South Africa and local NGO’s and Churches, she is also actively involved in the development of new Scouting programmes and in running a Scout Troop in the informal settlement Zandspruit. “Running this Troop keeps me grounded and in touch with what is important. It is so fulfilling to see the excitement of the children and their eagerness to learn and enjoy the activities.”

To join SCOUTS South Africa go to www.scouts.org.za -> ‘Scouts near you’.

Email us if you know more remarkable women in our Scouting Movement! pr@scouting.org.za