This year the theme for our national women’s month is “Women united in moving South Africa forward”. One courageous woman who has been making a difference in the lives of many in her home town of Tzaneen is Constance Mpuru.
Constance grew up in the village of Sedan close to Tzaneen in Limpopo. As a working mother of three she has had to overcome many challenges in her life. “Before I joined the Scouting Movement people were afraid of me because I had a temper, was arrogant and rude. One day I saw a lot of kids in the village doing some activities and went to find out more. I met Louise Batty, the director of the organisation called ‘Keep The Dream 196’ (KTD196) who runs Scouting here. They had a meeting for parents explaining what Scouting was all about. It seemed like a good programme and so I joined the 1st Sedan Scout Group as an adult volunteer. I then got the training to become a Scouter and in 2009 I recruited children in my village and opened the 2nd Sedan Scout Group. In the beginning it was hard and I struggled with ideas but after going on more courses and with a lot of help from Louise it became easier. After a while I was employed by KTD196 as a field officer and went to help other Groups when they got stuck and needed support.”
“Being in the Scouting Movement has helped me grow as a person. I sometimes look back at the person I was and feel embarrassed. I realise that my attitude was wrong and that I was very disrespectful. Now I have become a better person and strive to live by the Scout laws which are very positive. It has taken my life to a higher level! Not only do people respect me now, but children and youth laugh and listen to me. I am seen as their second mother! I am an example of how Scouts restores and changes lives for the better. Also, before I joined the Scouts my English was very poor and I could not write it at all. With the support of Louise I went back to school and learnt English and have received my certificate. I can now speak, read and write in English and am now about to write my Grade 12 exams. I am also no longer afraid to talk at community meetings. I have seen the fruits of having Scouting in my life. I am proud of who I have become!”
When asked what her favourite activities are there is no doubt in Constance’s mind. “I have many but my two favourites are Group discussions and the Environmental Education Camps”, she says with a smile. “When my Scouts get together we look at what happens around us and discuss why and how they can move away from alcohol, drugs and other negative activities on the street. We also talk about rights and responsibilities. When I was growing up we never knew about these things and I feel it is important for them to be aware and recognize bad things. By giving them information and fun things to do they can have a better life.”
SCOUTS South Africa runs Environmental Education camps in a number of provinces sponsored by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund. Constance really enjoys them. “The EE camps and others like them are very nice. They teach us more about the environment and nature. I didn’t know about the water cycle before I attended the camp, now I am using what I have learnt for my grade 12 paper on geography. We also learnt how to make food gardens and I have built a big one at home. When my Scouts come from school to Scouts, I can now give them healthy food to eat.”
Often people see Scouting as a boy’s only activity. However in South Africa Scouting has been open for both boys and girls since 2000. In Limpopo the Scout Groups have a huge number of girls. “In Scouting and also in life everybody must be seen as equals. We all plough the field, plant and water it at the same level. Also by doing activities together boys learn how to respect girls and they all learn how to treat each other right.” When asked why people should join the Scouting Movement she says with a clear and loud voice “In our area many people are involved in drugs and alcohol. If you are in Scouting you learn why you can’t do these things The Scout Laws remind you of how to be a good person. It helps children to be successful at school and at home. In my Troop we had two Scouts who dreamed of being a pilot. I spoke to the manager of a local airfield and we went to visit it as an outing. The manager spoke to the boys and when they pass their grade 12 he is willing to assist them in being trained as pilots. Scouting helps Scouters and Scouts to achieve their dreams! I still plan on graduating grade 12 and after that will never stop writing”, she says with a giggle.