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Wanted: Immigrants and teens to join guides and scouts

Finland is seeing a surge in popularity for girl guides and boy scouts, but the organisation wants more immigrants and teens to join. The youth movement lamented the tendency for guides and scouts to leave the organisation as young adults.

Guiding and Scouting are now "in", according to the 65,000-strong Guides and Scouts of Finland movement. The organisation says in the past year alone, some 17,000 new members have signed up for the character-building movement.

As Finland celebrates Guides and Scouts week, organisation project leader Jonni Ahonen noted that in spite of the rise in popularity the movement is having difficulty attracting young immigrants and holding on to teens.

"It’s one of the most important questions we face and we’ve begun to work on it. Nowadays even non-members are welcome to participate in our events, and in areas like Helsinki we’ve established an English-language troop," Ahonen elaborated.

"And it’s not enough to get people to join – we also have to get them to stay," he added.

Yle series to highlight guides and scouts

Ahonen spelled out the many activities that guiders and scouters engage in, from handicraft work to trekking, but he noted that the value of the experience is difficult to sum up in one word: you simply have to experience it first hand, he urged.

Yle is also getting involved in shedding light on the guide and scout movement. The national broadcaster will roll out a "Scoutmaster" television series this August on channel 2 with a view to painting a current picture of today’s guides and scouts. The series will feature 10 guide and scout troops competing for the scoutmaster title.

Finnish Guides and Scouts head of education Timo Sinivuori said he hopes the programme will help create a positive image of today’s guides and scouts.

The local Guides and Scouts chapter is part of a global movement that first took root in Finland 100 years ago. The name of the organisation reflects the fact that the movement has been co-educational in Europe since the 1970s.

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