Scouting out Brussels: A guide to English-speaking scout troops
Scouting is a popular activity for children in Belgium, as anyone who has been to a Brussels park on a sunny Saturday or Sunday can tell you. There you see them, dressed in brown or green or blue with cheerful bandanas tied loosely around their necks. They appear in hordes in tram and metro cars, and approach you on the street offering you bags of chewy sweets for a pittance. Wherever they are, they are making an enormous amount of noise, but are always having a good time.
If you have an English-speaking child, don’t worry, he or she is not left out of the fun! Brussels and the surround area has several groups of scouts for children who speak English, either because they attend English-speaking school or because they speak English at home with at least one parent.
This year marks the 90th anniversary of English-speaking 1st Brussels Scout group in Tevuren, which is a member of the British Scouting Overseas section of the UK Scout Association. Together with its sister sections, the 1st Waterloo Scouts and the Brussels Central Sections in Brussels itself, this collection of groups welcomes boys and girls from six to 18 years old to build, camp, hike and explore with other English-speaking children in their region.
What are Beavers, Cubs, Scouts and Explorers?
Scouts are divided into age groups. Beavers are children six to eight years old, Cubs are eight to 10.5, Scouts are 10.5 to 14. Explorers are the oldest group of scouts, open to young people from 13.5 to 18 year old.
The 1st Brussels in Tevuren and 1st Waterloo has all four sections of age groups. The Brussels Central Sections, which are actually in Brussels, have groups only for child ages six to 10 (Beavers and Cubs). If the child wishes to continue in And the SHAPE International Scout Group near Mons has groups for child from six to 14 years old. Scouts past these ages will have to join one of the Tevuren or Waterloo groups.
If you’re truly a hardliner, even after you’ve turn 18, you can continue participating in scouts up to the age of 25 by joining the Scouts Network. This network is largely used for maintaining relationships with friends from scouts and for planning and leading activities for younger scouts.
How to become a scout or participate as an adult?
If your child would like to be a Scout, best apply early. The English-speaking troops are in high demand and there is usually a waiting list for your child to be accepted. You can already put your son or daughter’s name on the waiting list as early as four years old, although they cannot join until they are six.
A few tricks might help you find a place for your son or daughter faster, however. First, make sure you apply to the group nearest your home, as local children will be selected first. Also, if you yourself can volunteer your time as a leader or helper, your child will get priority over other children.
Further, the group is hoping to start a scout section for age 10.5 to 13 in Central Brussels in 2015 and are currently searching for leaders. Leaders are adult volunteers over the age of 18 and can come from all ages and nationalities who are fluent in English, whether or not you have scouting experience.
Finally, for its 90th anniversary, the 1st Brussels group has issued a call for ex-members to send pictures and stories in an effort to compile a history of the group. They will also hold some events later in the year to celebrate.
Alternatives to scouts
If there is no place left for your child this year in scouts, there are a couple alternatives. For boys, the Boy Scouts of America have three troops in Waterloo, Brussels and Mons. For girls, there are also 11 Girlguiding units that welcome over 120 English-speaking female children ages five to 18 across the Brussels and Waterloo regions.
Photo © Jpwery/Wikimedia Commons