The impact of a programme like SCOUTS SA’s is best evaluated by the impact it has on the lives of its members. We spoke to 20 year old Claude Shippers from 1st Belville South Scout Group in the Western Cape.
Claude grew up in in Belville South in Cape Town with his parents and three siblings. “Growing up in a house with 4 children was very difficult. We could not get everything we had been dreaming of because we were struggling. I would not say we were poor but my parents could not afford everything while I was growing up. They were trying their best to give us everything and to do the best for us. For a mother, who was struggling to find a job, it was very difficult. But help from my other family made things easier as well”, Claude explains. “I overcame these challenges by getting weekend jobs at supermarkets. I got these jobs just to buy myself clothes, to help me go to places and to help me to reach my dreams. Every bit of money I was using carefully. That’s how I learnt how to budget for the month, how to work with money by not spending it on simple stuff.”
“I was in primary school when I heard about Scouting. There were children in my class who had worn the uniform on national scarf day. They were from 1st Bellville South Scout Group. All the eyes at school were on them and I tried to find out more about Scouting through them. Then one day I went to the meeting at the Group which was interesting. Most of the games were super awesome, and after feeling that I would fit in there, I was happy and came every Monday to be part of Scouting. This was the only group I knew who did good things in life and taught you to work hard. They motivated me to see that everything in life is possible“, he says confidently.
“Growing up in Bellville South in the flats was very difficult.” he continues. “The neighbours were drunk. People smoked and did bad things. Some friends I had, who smoked and did bad things, pressed me to go with them. If I would not go I was the “out“ one in the group. But when I joined Scouting everything changed. Being part of a positive group where you feel like you belong is the best. These are moments that changed my life. I can see my life on the next level no matter where I come from.” Despite his circumstances Claude stayed in the Scouting Movement. “The friends I’ve made and places I have visited through Scouting made me go on with it. Activities I have done, that I would not have had a chance to do, and the support of the group helping me go through my circumstances, kept me in Scouting. My Scouter who helps me solve my problems and learn the skills that you will need in your day to day challenges, made me stay.”
“I got a lot of opportunities and chances through Scouting.” he says with a smile. “I took part in the SABC 3 Hectic Nine 9 “Survive It” live TV show and ended up winning Survive It! Who thought a small boy like me coming from the Cape flats would ever be on TV winning something? Who ever thought a child living in a shack would go overseas for the 23rd World Scout Jamboree (23WSJ) in Japan? But Scouting made everything possible!”
“Doing this interview now my tears are starting to roll because there is a massive gap from where I started and where I am now.” he explains. “In my family, I feel like I was the one chosen by God to make a difference. I know how it feels to grow up in a family where there is not enough for everyone, where you need to survive. But when I joined Scouts everything changed. There is one person in my Scout Group and it is Camielah Achmat, my 2nd mother, who has always been there and is still there for me. Sometimes when we go camping and I don’t have anything she is the one who still encourages me to come. She is the one who helped me when I told her my problems. Today I have become a grown Scout and I want to help children going through difficult times because I know it is not easy. Because life does not come without obstacles. To always be prepared is the most important lesson I learned through Scouting. Things will change if you are just prepared to overcome the obstacles and challenges in your life. You do it by not stopping to believe in yourself, to dream big and to do the best in every situation.”
As mentioned, Claude has embraced the many opportunities he has received through Scouting. There are however a few that stand out. “Going to the 23rd WSJ and meeting other Scouts was my highlight. Travelling to different places was also a wonderful experience. Another thing I will always remember are my badge courses. Although I couldn’t afford all badge courses, I tried to attend some which still helps me with my school work. I couldn’t achieve the top award for financial reasons, but at least I got the opportunity to help Springbok people to build constructions, to make food and many other things. If I could turn back the time, and got earlier into Scouting, I would have gone for top levels which were one of my dreams. Where I am today is all thanks to Scouting. I am still active but not as much due to my studies, but I am trying everything to help others. Just like our Promise says.”
“Even my career is influenced by Scouting”, Claude says. “In primary school, I wanted to be a lawyer. In high school, a doctor, then a heart specialist. Then, when I got to choose, I chose nature conservation. As a small child my parents could not afford to go outdoors. But when I started Scouting I started to love the outdoors, the nature and everything about it. I fell so in love with it that I started to google careers for caring for our nature. Then everything came down to this, but if it was not for Scouting I would have never went outdoors and explored more. It changed my life, helped me to make the right decisions and look where I am now! I am studying Nature Conservation because of Scouting and I am starting my career!”
“If think of where I would have been if I never had joined, my life would be totally different. I maybe would have started using drugs. When I got back home last semester some of the friends I had were using drugs which was a shock for me. I just thank God that I was taken out there and that he gave me the guidance where to go. I ended up in Scouting and I am proud that I have made wise choices. Scouting kept me motivated and helped me when my heart was broken. Can you believe I am at University and my Scout friends and Scouter Camielah Achmat still support me? There is no too old to still learn from your Scouter!” he giggles.
” I feel that everybody should know about Scouting and how it helps children to grow and mature” he says. “It helps you to dream big and appreciate everything your parents do for you no matter from where you are, Scouting makes you feel being part of something special. It motivates you to achieve something. Thanks to Scouting for all the changes they made in my life!”