The 12th of August marks International Youth Day. This years’ theme is “Youth Civic Engagement”. As part of an international exchange programme, Leah Klemm, an 18 year old volunteer from Germany, will be trying to make a difference in South Africa. She joined the National Scout Office in August and will be here for the next year.
SSA: Can you please tell us a bit more about yourself?
My name is Leah Klemm and I am 18 years old. Currently I am taking a gap year in Cape Town to volunteer at the National Scout Office. I come from Germany where I grew up in Karlsruhe, a city near Stuttgart. In July this year I did my A levels and finished school. I have been a Scout since I was born because my parents are both Adult Leaders in our Scouting Movement. That is also why I took part in my first Scout camp at the age of three months. For the past three years I have been leading a Cub Pack in Germany. It has been good training for me as I now know how to work with children.
SSA: What makes Scouting different to all the other activities for teens?
Scouting is a part of my life that I don’t want to miss at any time. Of course, there are many other things I could do in my free time but when I am with my Scout Group I feel at home and we experience many things together. We know each other very well and when there is something that makes me feel angry or sad I can always talk to them.
SSA: What is it about Scouting that has kept you in the Movement all these years?
The feeling of being part of a big community that gives me power and supports me at any time is the reason why I never dropped out. When I see Scouts on the street, even if I don’t know them, I feel like I have known them for a while because they have the same interests and the same way of life. But above all, it is amazing to get in contact with Scouts from other countries who have other rules and another cultures than me. I can learn a lot from them and I hope that during my gap year I will learn a lot from the South African Scouts.
SSA: You must have many awesome memories, which one stand out for you?
This is a difficult question because I have lots of good memories! But one situation returns to my mind very often. I was four or five years old and I had to play the leading part in a play at a Scout camp. I was playing a dragon and the audience was so happy to see me in this little dragon outfit that I had to repeat the whole play three times!
SSA: What has been your toughest Scouting challenge?
When I visited Mpumalanga two years ago we went on a four day hike on the Maritzbo Hut. It was a big challenge for me because we had a lot of luggage that was very heavy and we had to go up the hill all the time. We had to climb and walk and on the third day I was so exhausted that I couldn’t carry my bag anymore. Someone offered to carry my bag and when I reached the target I was just crying because I was so happy to have achieved it.
SSA: You are now here to volunteer for SSA for a year. Why South Africa?
I think it is a good opportunity for me to get to know another lifestyle, to come into contact with a foreign culture and other people. It is really a pleasure to work here in the National Scout Office as a volunteer. I was in South Africa two years ago and I fell in love with this beautiful country and with the people as they are so generous – a big difference from people in Germany.
SSA: What are you looking forward to the most?
I am looking forward to meeting other Scouts, to talking with them and if possible, to go to a South African Scout camp.
SSA: Our Chief Scout says that adventure teaches you how to be a great leader. Would you agree with this?
Adventures teaches you how to react in special situations and after your experience you have the know-how to lead a group. But in my opinion adventures alone don’t suffice to be a good leader. I think it is important that the older Scouts who have the knowledge teach the younger ones how to lead a group and how to act with kids. You should be able to prepare and execute a good group lesson so that the kids are motivated and learn something from you.
SSA: It is National Women’s month in SA. What do you think about Scouting being open for boys and girls?
In my opinion Scouting is for everybody. It doesn’t matter if it is a girl or a boy, a Christian or a Muslim. Everybody should have the chance and the right to be a Scout!
SSA: How would you convince a group of teens to join the Scouting Movement?
First of all I would explain to them what Scouting is all about. In Germany many people don’t know anything about Scouting. They are of the opinion that we just sit in the forest and eat mushrooms! Often they laugh at me when I tell them that I am a Scout. Then I tell them what we do, that we are a big community, that we sing songs, go to camps and have a lots of fun together. Furthermore I would show them some of my pictures so that they can see how much fun it is to be a Scout!