Discovering my roots whilst volunteering in Mpumalanga

Every year the Mpumalanga Regional Office welcomes new volunteers from Germany who assist the region with their operations and projects. This is part of an international partnership with Nangu Thina.  Let’s find out more about 18 year old Jurian Thomas.

SSA: Can you please tell us a bit more about yourself?
“My name is Jurian and I was born in Umhlanga Rocks next to Durban, but raised in Hemmern, a little village in Germany.  I joined the DPSG Scouts in 2009. My Scout Group was in Rüthen, 4 km away from Hemmern. I started as a “Jungpfadfinder” ( age 10-13), then became a “Pfadfinder” ( scout age 13-16) and then a Rover ( age 16-18). By the age of 18 I became a Cub-Leader. In June 2016 I matriculated and decided to come back to South Africa to learn more about my fathers’ country and the different cultures.

SSA: Why is Scouting so special that you have stayed in the Movement all these years?
Scouting has taught me a lot of life skill like teamwork and the love for nature. It helped me make new friends when I had to move from Frankfurt to Hemmern. I have always been interested in the concept of helping young people to rise up and get prepared for life. That is why I started to lead a Cub Pack with some others and the kids kept me in it!

SSA: What makes Scouting different to all the other activities for teens?
It prepares you for life in a lot of different ways. For example, you learn to have respect for others and nature, pitch a tent and cook, socialize and how to make a fire.

SSA: You must have many awesome memories, which one stand out for you?
The two day 40 km hike I did with just 3 other friends. We hiked through  mountains and forests with fantastic panoramic views and slept a night in a simple shelter hut.  At the end of our trip we arrived at a public swimming pool and were able to relax.

SSA: What has been your toughest Scouting challenge?
Having summer camps with my Cubs. We were fresh Cub-Leaders and did not have a lot of experience. We had to take care of them 24/7 and entertain them which meant we also had some sleepless nights, but we had a good program and all in all the kids enjoyed it a lot!

SSA: What made you decide to come and volunteer in SA for a year? 
I wanted to see something different than Germany. I also did not want to continue with studying right after my matric. I wanted to do something practical and social. As I was born here, I wanted to learn more about my home country.

SSA: In South Africa one of our main projects is called Food for Life. This project teaches people how to establish and maintain vegetable gardens and contributes to alleviating hunger and poverty. How important do you think Scouts are in helping communities be self-sustaining?
Yes I think it is important, because learning these skills allow for people to get more independent and gives them the opportunity to life a healthy life.

SSA: Our Chief Scout says that adventure teaches you how to be a great leader. Would you agree with this?Spending a lot time with leaders of local groups I totally agree with this! Adventures challenge people and give them space to develop and improve skills that help them to be great leaders.

SSA: How would you convince a group of teens to join the Scouting Movement?
Take them to a camp and show them our projects. I would show them that in Scouting you don’t just learn a lot of skills, you will have fun and enjoy to camp in the nature with other teens  your age. You will make friends, socialize and it will make you happy making others happy through the projects.