What I DO, I KNOW!

Wood Badge holder Dorothy Berry has been living in Airfield Benoni since she came to South Africa 48 years ago. She is a widow with family all around the world. Dorothy has been retired for twelve years, but spent the larger part of her career working with an international ball & roller bearing company where she started out as a shorthand typist and finished up in charge of the entire company database. Her hobbies include dog showing, bird watching and Scouting. This is her Scouting story:

“After having been in the Girl Guides since 1947, I joined Scouting when my parents told me they were looking for a new leader for the local Cub Pack. I was 18 years old at the time and began in England, carrying on in Australia and then in South Africa. At the moment I am the Assistant Pack Scouter with the 4th Benoni Scout Group.

Most of my Scouting/Cubbing memories are fun but one which I will never forget was a boat trip to Brownsea Island. We were having a picnic lunch near the landing stage at “the Castle” on Brownsea and one of the Cubs was waving his arms around talking while he was eating. The look of indignant astonishment on Nigel’s face when one of the free ranging peacocks reached over his shoulder and deftly removed the sandwich from his waving hand is something I will never forget!
Another is some years ago when we had a District Camp at Arrowe Park. We used to have tents with Cubs from various Packs and so often they had to get to know each other. The Pack Scouters’ tent was at the top of a narrow “V” and in one of the tents quite close to us the boys were talking and laughing at the tops of their voices. After several appeals from us ladies to tone it down, June – who had recently joined us from 1st Petersburg – went and gave them a very stern talking-to. A deathly hush ensued; when she re-entered our tent June couldn’t talk for trying to contain her mirth. Once she had gained her self-control, she told us that as she left the boys’ tent in that deathly hush she heard a small voice say “Coo, I’m glad she’s not MY Akela, she’s a proper …OLD…BAG!”

I first gained my Wood Badge in Norfolk, England in 1962. Since then I have done a number of refresher courses. I remember the camaraderie at the courses and the fact that older people were interested in you achieving things and that some of them were to become close friends despite their perceived elevated position within the Movement. We were all young – very young – but we were treated as if we mattered and thus learnt to treat every Cub (no matter how difficult) as someone who matters too.

My whole Scouting life has been a learning curve. One of the things, though, which I have NEVER forgotten was the adage “What I hear I forget, what I see I remember, but what I DO, I KNOW”!

In today’s world the Wood Badge course is very relevant. Possible employers are impressed by it because they realize that you are not “run-of-the-mill” when you have been trained as an Adult Scouting Leader. The skills you learn may possibly not be relevant to your job, but what you learn in the process of acquiring them is. For instance, I was asked by a prospective employer (in education for adults) what use it was to teach knots to Scouts. My answer included that just learning these knots taught a youngster small muscle co-ordination and gave him a certain confidence because he could do something that many of his school friends couldn’t. This definitely impressed my future employer – I got the job.

Scouting has been part of my life for so long that I just can’t imagine opting out. It’s made me a better person than I would otherwise have been. It gives me a wonderful feeling when I see former Cubs making good in life. It was a real heart-warmer when I went to an ophthalmologist to organize a cataract surgery as he was one of my first Cubs when I came to South Africa in 1971. Out of the blue he reminisced that his Cubbing and Scouting days were great times and told me “They taught me and my friends values and principles that we live by to this day.” – and he’s now in his fifties. Sometime later I met a man in the supermarket who recognised me and stopped to chat. He’s now an international SAA pilot and told me about some of his overseas training in preparation for his pilot’s licence – the people asked him how he managed to be so much better at the tasks than all the other candidates and he replied simply “I was a Scout back in South Africa”…… WOW!”

Dorothy’s life motto is:

“Do my best.”

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