The Sliema Scout Group exemplifies the necessity of childhood. In a world of Hollywood, snap chat and Xbox, running around outside is losing its appeal. Why would our kids want to learn to tie ropes when they can scroll through Kim Kardashian’s Instagram?

In a world where every attempt to turn off the TV ends in a fight, sometimes you feel like giving up.

But the Sliema Scout Group is clearly winning their fight.

Having survived two World Wars and the notorious 1980s, this is the world’s longest-running scout group outside the UK.

Founded in 1909, the Sliema Scout Group used to lead a much simpler existence, yet, a mere four years after its original meeting, these young boys were putting their skills to use as coast watchers, dispatch riders and hospital attendants during WWI, and encountered the group’s first tragedy of war at the death of a scoutmaster.

The rest of their story over the next century makes for enigmatic reading and worth looking up on their website.

I ask the Group Scout Leader, Timmy Cutugno, how it is changing in the 21st century.

Demographically, the youth members currently range in age from seven to 26 and traditionally, they have come from all over the island. With increasing numbers of young families and expatriates in Sliema, however, there are more Sliema locals joining the group than ever, with a handful of non-local youths attending too, and a range of different faiths.

Female youth members started to join the Scout Association of Malta in 1998, but it took the Sliema group until 2012 to allow them to join.

“But we haven’t looked back since,” says Cutugno.

“It gave the group a totally different outlook on scouting.”

As for what the scouts actually do, is it all just tying ropes and lighting fires?

Cutugno assures me that is only just one of the many things they do. He gives me a vast list of activities, ranging from chess and abseiling to windsurfing, and plenty more.

At this point you may, perhaps, be wondering if this is all a little idealistic. It’s all good and well learning these skills as a kid, but when, exactly, in the adult world of office jobs and traffic jams is there time to practise archery? Won’t they just be let down in real life?

Cutugno reassures me that these young people are not just limited to doing “fun stuff,” but learn how to get involved too, such as engaging with and supporting their community.

Receive training in leadership, finance and team management

“The scouts learn life skills,” Cutugno explains.

“They learn lessons about respect, team-work, hygiene.”

The list goes on, and he also claims that as Scouts progress, they receive training in leadership, team management, finance and so forth. It becomes increasingly clear that these youths are well equipped in a range of life skills. I wonder how they manage to keep things relevant in such an old tradition.

“The core values and method of scouting have remained the same for over 100 years. What has changed are the tools we use to achieve this.”

When I ask how social media comes into play, he accepts that: “The Scout Association of Malta was a bit slow to get into the whole scene, due to a lack of guidelines and policy, but we are now getting a good reach, nationally and internationally.”

It is evident that they have remained a group connected to the real world, but have also retained strong connections to their original principles and to each other.

What about the effects scouting has on Cutugno?

He explains how much he learns from the youths.

“Seeing young scouts learn life skills through the scouting programme and develop their character holistically… I get a whole lot of satisfaction out of it.”

Young Sliema Scouts have become a range of different professions, ranging from psychologists to scientists at CERN.

Clearly, an impressive future is laid out for the scouting youths.

And as for the future of the Sliema Scout Group, Cutugno informs me a trip to the United States for the 24th World Scout Jamboree in 2019 is on the cards.

“We live in a safe world where the biggest threat our children know is not being able to message their friends every five minutes.

“Facebook is hijacking our youth and Hollywood is stealing our history.

“Playing outside and learning new skills doesn’t just provide our kids with a well-rounded childhood – it teaches them an independent strength that cannot be taught in books or online.”

Some things can only be learnt through life.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us