“Being of service is a life calling”

When the tornado struck in KZN Garth Kloppenborg was on hand in the Disaster Management Operation Center (DOC) to lend a helping hand to people in need. For over 37 years Garth, who is the Deputy Regional Commissioner for the KZN Scout Region, has been serving the Durban community with his expertise as a horticulturalist and for the past 27 years as a Manager within the Durban Parks Department (now eThekwini Municipality). “My job is to ensure that we provide a service to others”, he explains.  “We make sure that our parks are well maintained, are safe and that people can enjoy being outdoors and have a good time. Due to my experience and institutional knowledge, I am often called upon to assist at the DOC when needed. I am also one of the debriefers, which means that I offer support and counselling to people who have experienced a trauma such as an accident or mugging. We help them within 24 hours of the incident.”

As a manager Garth oversees a team of people. “When dealing with people and people’s issues I relate everything back to the Patrol System”, he says with a smile. “I grew up in Scouting and believe that subconsciously I manage all my teams the same way it worked in my Patrol. I also hold true to the faith that I always do my best and my best has always been something people in the community have respected.”

Garth joined the Scout Movement as a Cub with the 1st Escombe Scout Group. “I obtained my Leaping Wolf and then moved up to Scouts where I achieved my Springbok and Bushman’s Thong. After school I took a short break and then went to the army where my Scouting skills served me well. Once my enlistment ended I got married to Alison and pursued my dream of becoming a horticulturalist. After graduating at the Durban Technikon with my Horticultural Diploma I started my professional career and became a dad to Catherine and Christopher. In 1992 Catherine joined the Cubs at 1st Escombe Scout Group and soon after that I stepped into the role of Committee Chairman. The place where I grew up and where my daughter and later my son would both achieve their Springboks and learn life lessons one can only gain through Scouting. My mother’s grandfather was a founding Scouter in the start of 1st Escombe Scout Group. The story goes he was inspired by Baden Powell and had the opportunity to meet him personally on his visit to Durban”, he explains.

Garth also took on the position of Stainbank District Chair. “Whilst in that position I attended Regional meetings and before I knew it I was elected Regional Chairman! I didn’t know many of the team members but that soon changed and about two years later I had the privilege of becoming the Regional Commissioner for KZN Scouting. When my Warrant came to an end, I tried something new as Water Activities Coordinator and currently I am the Deputy Regional Commissioner.”

So what keeps Garth in the Scout Movement after all these years? “Being in Scouting gives you a deep-seated sense of responsibility to see the development of the Scouts. As long as I see that my input is still needed, I still have a purpose being here. My work here is not completed yet”, he says with a grin. “Groups, Districts and Regions need good managers as well as hands-on people to ensure we empower our youth and build their skills and opportunities. I’ve always had managerial roles in Scouting. I believe that I was there to oversee the processes and logistics, to ensure resources were available and to enable our Scouters to make things happen. I’ve also been fortunate to have a supportive and understanding wife like Alison”, he continues. “She has made it easy for me to combine work, family and Scouting. As a parent your Scouting journey often runs parallel to that of your children’s involvement. I can confidently say that Scouting is firmly entrenched in our family. My daughter Catherine’s husband is Clinton Barry who supports the National Scout Programme team among other roles and my granddaughter Abby is a Meerkat with 1st Cowies Hill. We are a multi-generational family of service to the Scout Movement”, he ponders with a smile.