Angus Hay recently took over as Regional Commissioner for the Gauteng Scout Region. Angus is a family man, an engineer with an international firm and a lifelong Scout. We were keen to find out more about Angus who has lived the Scout adventure for over 45 years!
SSA: Where did your Scouting journey start?
Angus: I was born and raised in Johannesburg, and have lived here all my life. My father had been a Scout, and had been in the South African contingent to the 1929 World Scout Jamboree. My mother’s friend was Amanda van Ryneveld, then Akela at 1st Greenside. When I reached Cubbing age, I joined her Pack. She was a great Akela, who later went on to be National Commissioner for Cubs.
SSA: When you reminisce about being a Scout, what stands out?
Angus: As a Cub, I attended an event at Gilwell for the 60th anniversary of Cubbing. It was the biggest event I had been to and gave me a new perspective on the Scout Movement, and a liking for large events, such as jamborees, which has never gone away. It’s hard to single out any particular activity that stands out from my time as a Scout, but I always really enjoyed the night hikes that were run in our Troop and District. I’m not sure why sitting on the banks of a freezing dam at 3 am waiting for a boat to pick up our Patrol was enjoyable for a 12 year old, but it obviously was, because I went back to the next event, and the next, and ran many similar events later as a Scouter. As a senior Scout, I did a lot of hiking, clocking up many hundreds of kilometres over a few years, and those hikes made some of my best memories as a Scout, and developed my interest in travelling around the country. Thinking about it, perhaps riding in our tough and muddy District cycle rallies probably led to my current interest in mountain biking. Some memories stay with you for the wrong reasons – such as completing my swimming badge the day after it snowed in Johannesburg. Overall, though, when I think of my time as a Scout, I mostly remember the great Troop we had, and the great Scouters (and some Rovers) who organised fun, challenging, and sometimes crazy activities for us.
SSA: As an adult leader, what are some of your favourite memories?
Angus: When I was a Troop Scouter, I was asked which Scouting event was my favourite, and I said that it was always the next one. I think that is still true – that’s what keeps you interested. I have attended 3 World Scout Jamborees as an adult leader, and those were certainly special. You get a very different perspective on the world when you can meet the whole of it in one place. With the Troop, I did the Cederberg, multiple Kontikis, and ran two SANJAMBs. The activities I enjoyed most were those run in our Group – we took the Troop on a ten-day expedition to Zimbabwe, and camps in the Drakensberg, the South Coast, Mafikeng and at a Limpopo game farm. In the Troop, we ran multiple unique inter-Patrol events, often with creative themes, and even more creative activities. 1st Greenside has always had a reputation for being different.
The most rewarding Scouting that I have done as a leader was when I was running Development for Gauteng, getting involved in establishing and growing Groups, particularly in poorer areas. Nothing can compare with building a Troop in Daveyton from scratch, and within a couple of years, participating in Kim Shield, and then Kontiki, and going on an expedition to camp in Durban.
SSA: As you mentioned, you were involved in organising a number of events including founding the Kim Shield and running 2 SANJAMB’s. Can you tell us more?
Angus: The Kim Shield was conceived to be Gauteng’s leading Patrol competition as there were none at the time. We based it loosely on similar events in other parts of the country. It was designed to be accessible to all Scouts, testing skills and leadership, but requiring minimal resources, unlike other major events. It challenges a Patrol (and sometimes the leaders too) with multiple incidents over an entire weekend.
When we brought SANJAMB to Gauteng in 1997, and again in 2001, we wanted to build on previous KZN SANJAMBs as well as on our experiences from attending World Scout Jamborees. SANJAMB 2017 continued that tradition. A National Jamboree provides a unique opportunity to interact and share Scouting activities with others from around the country.
SSA: Over and above all of this, you have also served in many Scouting positions. What did you learn from them?
Angus: District and Regional roles give you an opportunity to make a difference for a wider group of Cubs, Scouts and Rovers. I can recommend that Scouters get involved in different roles, and see the Movement from different perspectives. It’s often easy to criticise when you don’t have to deal with a challenge yourself. So what I have learnt most from taking on multiple roles is to understand those different perspectives, and to make those roles work for the good of the Movement.
SSA: So, what is the most rewarding part of being an adult volunteer?
Angus: It’s rewarding to look back on the impact that I have had on the lives of young people. It is sometimes not obvious at the time, but I have had Scouts and parents tell me years later of the difference Scouting made to them. As B-P said, the real way to get happiness is by giving out happiness to other people, and I have had this opportunity in various roles in the Movement.
SSA: In your opinion, what gives Scouting the edge over other youth activities?
Angus: Scouting is founded on a method and a set of principles that is timeless. Many of the other activities that young people can get involved in are either just for fun, or highly competitive, but Scouting uniquely combines enjoyment with learning by doing, teaching leadership and life skills.
SSA: You are now the RC for Gauteng. What are your objectives?
Angus: Service, continuity and growth! A lot of good Scouting happens in Gauteng – with a dedicated Regional team, many resources, and multiple excellent events. The first objective is to ensure that all of this continues, and that Groups and Scouters get the support they need from the Region, so that they can deliver the best Scouting to their youth members.
There have been a lot of changes in the way that Scouting operates over the past few years, and people and systems have not necessarily kept up. As a Region, we need to establish a stable, functional and responsive administration that is aligned to the current structure, and leverages new digital systems to simplify processes for Groups and for Scouters.
The primary purpose of the Region, and the Districts within it, is to support Scout Groups, which are the most important part of the organisation. A number of uniformed and non-uniformed roles need to be filled to provide some important aspects of this support. In Scouting, our programme grows leaders, and so there should be no shortage of fresh leaders to fill these roles.
Gauteng is not the largest province, but we do have the second largest number of young people in our target age groups. There is great potential for growth of Scouting in the Region, but it’s going to require a change of mind-set, as well as a support structure at a Sub-Regional level to enable new Groups to develop across the entire province.
I believe that as the Regional Commissioner it is my role is to support the members. What I would like to see is adult leaders prepared to step up. My message to GT Scouters is simple, as an organisation we are sometimes too inward looking – even though BP implored us to “Look Wide”. This results in internal differences being emphasized over common goals. Going forward, in the Gauteng Region, the focus will be on our common goals – serving, maintaining and growing Scouting in our province.
SSA: Professionally you work as an engineer for an international firm. How did being a Scout prepare you for it?
Angus: I realise now that Scouting certainly prepared me for multiple leadership roles in my career. Furthermore, I believe that following the Scout Law is the only way to operate as a professional, and in an organisation that is going to succeed – just look at the values that many companies set for themselves. I don’t know any other way to work, but this way has certainly been successful.
SSA: How do you manage to combine volunteerism /Scouting, a family and a career?
Angus: You make time for the things that inspire you. I often find that if you want something done, it’s best to ask someone who is busy already, since those are the people that are committed.
SSA: This year we celebrate 100 years of the Wood Badge Training. You are also a Wood Badge holder. How did completing your Wood Badge change the way you do things in Scouting?
Angus: Having been a Cub, Scout, and later a Rover, I knew everything about Scouting, or so I thought. Wood Badge Training gives you an adult perspective on what Scouting is all about, but more importantly, it gives you a set of tools that enable you to be an effective adult leader in the Movement.
SSA: We like to end out interviews on a lighter note. Please tell us, what is the one thing that many people in Scouting don’t know about you, but should?
Angus: I have visited nearly 50 countries, and plan to add to that number, since I have a passion for travel. And … I like steam trains!”
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