Scout groups exist around the globe, in England we call them scouts, Germany they call them Pfadfinder, Poland harcerze, and in Vietnam they are known as Hướng đạo. But very few people know where scouting came from. Why does this seemingly childlike organisation (with its hierarchy, badges and marching) resemble the army?
It so happens that scouting does have a founder, being the infamous Robert Baden-Powell. Powell was a military officer stationed in India and Africa during the 1880′s and 1890′s. As a youth Powell was always interested in, wilderness survival, woodcraft and military scouting. He studied many survival tactics from the indigenous populations he encountered, in his travels. Consequently, Powell found use for his craft, when he realised many of his fellow soldiers were dependent on the army for support during adverse times.
Later on, when stationed in Zimbabwe during the Second Matabele War, he would see a dire need for his expertise in woodcraft; given the British Army was ill-adapted to the African wilderness. It is here that Powell instated a programme that would teach the young soldiers, tracking, fieldcraft, woodcraft and most importantly, self reliance. Years later, during the Second Boer War, Baden-Powell found himself besieged in the town of Mafeking. His soldiers did so well with their tasks and defense of the area, that Powell decided to solidify the Scouting Movement within the Royal Army. Outstanding soldiers received a badge with a compass and spearhead point. Since the badge resembled the fleur-de-lis, the scout group adopted it, and now is known as the international symbol of scouting.
Due to his triumph in Mafeking, Powell gained popularity in England. This national hero authorised the publishing of his first scouting manual, "Aids to Scouting". What next happened, Powell could not predict; an interest in scouting among young boys was in high demand, and so he decided to alter his book to make it child friendly. The book became a hit, and the Scouting Movement took off.
By 1908, the Boy Scout Movement was spreading like wildfire throughout England and its colonies. Canada being the first overseas nation to adopt the Boy Scout programme. Later, countries Australia, South Africa, Denmark, France, Germany, The United States, and New Zealand all followed suit.
Though the programme was initially intended for boys, there became a growing interest among girls. So, Powell along with his sister Agnes, founded the Girl Guides in 1910.
Today, almost every nation has at least one scout group for children, and the numbers are growing in developing countries. Worldwide, there are at least 41 million scout members, from 216 nations. Making this once military necessity, a place where children of all backgrounds, can unite under one banner.