What happens when you put two Scout Troops from across the globe together with an internet connection and a combined desire to learn and engage? You get an amazing dialogue of discovery and a realization that as Scouts, they’re more alike than different.
Earlier this month, Scouts from Troop 1345G in Burke Virginia met over video with Scouts from Troop 2 in Kabul Afghanistan to learn, share, and discover. In that 90 minutes over webcams, microphones, and videoconferencing app Zoom, they learned so much of not only what makes them so different but also what makes them so similar.
The special meeting, organized by one of the Troop 1345G’s First Class Scouts, was inspired by Lt Col Natalie Trogus of the United States Marine Corps and Kabul-based nonprofit, PARSA, who led the effort starting in 2008 to restore the Scouting movement in Afghanistan following years of conflict. Lt Col Trogus, currently deployed in Kabul as a Gender Advisor to the Afghan Ministry of Defense, is a parent of one of Troop 1345G’s Star Scouts and serves as one of the Troop’s Assistant Scoutmasters.
Aided by an interpreter, the Scouts shared examples of each country’s traditions, values, and holidays. They spoke about favorite foods and hobbies, about school subjects and sports. The struggled a bit with unfamiliar expressions and explaining traditional foods but soon realized they had so much in common.
You see, as Scouts under the World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM), these young women in Afghanistan and the United States are both learning and experiencing the essence of Scouting. Over the course of the meeting, they quickly recognized Scouting in both countries focus on life skills, environmental conservation, service to community, and leadership. They learned that they all work on merit badges and strive toward similar advancements and ranks. They could see that their uniforms were more similar than different.
They also realized that despite the different languages and cultures, they share the values and passions of Scouting.
The connection across these two Troops is just starting, with traditional recipes being shared and relationship starting to form, both Troops plan to stay in touch. Through events such as the worldwide Jamboree on the Internet and on future videoconferences, these two sets of young women will continue to break down national and cultural barriers all under the umbrella of Scouting.
About Scouting in Afghanistan
Scouting is a tradition in Afghanistan which goes back nearly 90 years. At its height, there were over 36,000 Afghan youth actively participating in troops around the country, however the program disappeared after the Soviet invasion of 1979 and subsequent years of conflict. Fast- forward to 2008, when the movement was relaunched by a group of dedicated Afghans leaders working together under the guidance of a local nonprofit called PARSA. PARSA raised funds to start two troops in local Kabul orphanages, and the modern Afghan Scouts were born.
Today, PARSA’s Afghan Scouts have over 2,000 youth active in 18 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. In January 2020, Afghanistan rejoined the World Scout Movement as the 171st member, which sets the stage for the Afghan Scouts to become the primary youth leadership program in the country. Their goal is to have 100,000 Afghan youth participating in Scouting by 2030.
Afghan Scout troops are led by enthusiastic volunteer Scout Masters who are trained by senior PARSA Scouts and supported by WOSM. Scouts participate in similar activities to their peers around the world: troops meet weekly, earn merit badges, host an annual Camporee in the summer, and conduct regular community service activities such as tree planting, distributing cloth shopping bags as part of the “Say No to Plastic” campaign, donating libraries and science laboratories to local schools and orphanages, and distributing care packages to hospitals.
About Scouts BSA Troop 1345G
Scouts BSA Troop 1345G, sponsored by the Burke Centre Conservancy, was founded in February 2019, following the announcement from Boy Scouts of America that girls were permitted to become full participants in the BSA program. The all-female Troop follows the same curriculum and leadership model as Boy Scouts of America has for over 100 years. The troop is led by the girls, elected by their peers and mentored by adult leaders, and focuses on adventure, leadership, learning and service. Girls will also be able to earn the well-respected Eagle Scout award.
In the year since its founding, the Scouts of Troop 1345G have backpacked, canoed, climbed, swam, and volunteered their way on the journey towards Eagle Scout, all under the historic Boys Scouts of America program. Scouts BSA is a year-round program for youth 11-17 years old that provides fun, adventure, learning, challenge, and responsibility to help them become the best version of themselves.