60,000 Scouts say ‘Jambo’ from the Founderee
All over the world, Scouts celebrate the 22nd of February in memory of Lord Robert Baden-Powell (BP), the founder of the Scout Movement who was born 155 years ago. In Kenya, the celebration is probably the most significant, as tens of thousands of Scouts flock to Nyeri, the final resting place of Lord and Lady Baden-Powell, to pay homage to their Founder. They come from as far as Busia in the west, Mombasa in the East and Wajir in the north, travelling over 10 hours on road, which in in some parts simply dont exist.
For several years now, Kenya Scouts Association (KSA) has been organizing this pilgrimage-event with participants increasing each year, and in recent times, attracting visitors from all over the World. The event is programmed around the nearest weekend to BP’s birthday to make it convenient for Scouts and volunteers alike.
This year’s Foundaree event, celebrating the 155th birthday of BP, took place from 15th to 19th February, including the now customary pre-camp at the vast Kaburini Show Ground, from 15th to 18th, with 7,500 Scouts in attendance, and the actual Founder’s day celebration on 19th, with over 60,000 participants.
The idea of a pre-camp came into existence much later. It was brought in to make use of the opportunity of such a large gathering of Scouts from around Kenya, to be able to deliver and implement Scout initiatives to so many members from around the country who gather to celebrate their love for BP. At the pre-camp, Scouts come to learn and earn skill & progression badges, Leaders participate in trainings, and partner organisations come to create awareness on social issues related to youth. The Scouts go offsite to participate in activities such as hikes and involve themselves in community service projects in and around Nyeri. The Founderee is also a place where KSA recruits and registers new Scouts because many young people get so excited about the event that they cant resist from wanting to join their friends on this travel to Nyeri.
At Founderee 2012, the most popular onsite activity for the young people was the obstacle and challenge valley which included the wheelbarrow race, water race (racing with a bucket of water in hand), sack race, old tyre race, cart race, monkey bridge crossing, cob web crossing, wall climbing, etc. Apart from the several skills training and badge work progress that was on offer, there was also the Global Development Village comprising of Scout volunteers and partner organisations, not only bringing awareness on social and youth issues, but also encouraging the young Scouts to start taking action in their best possible way to bring a positive change in the society. The Ministry of Health (of Government of Kenya) organised a blood donation centre inside the Founderee and there were provisions for Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) for HIV. Adding to all the activities onsite was a very popular dancing competition, which brought on stage the best of world renowned African dances. The best dancers also got to perform at the grand campfire on the final day of the pre-camp.
Offsite activities included long hikes to Tumu Tumu & Mathari hills and the famous Mau-Mau graves. Besides the long hike the organisers also put together an orienteering hike using wood craft (or camp craft) signs for the Scouts. Interested Scouts also went on a wildlife Safari to the nearby Aberdare National Park with support from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). In the past, Scouts participating at the Founderee have been involved in the reforestation of the world famous Aberdare Range and its periphery. This year’s community service projects focused on clean up activities at:
• the Nyeri Hospital
• the Kingongo town centre (a suburb of Nyeri)
• the BP Memorial Park (Lord and Lady BP’s final resting place)
As part of the Founderee 2012, there was a Patrol Leaders course organised which attracted 39 Scouts from around the country and a Scout Leaders training course (ITC) was organised for 19 Leaders.
On Sunday, the 19th of February, the gathering swelled to accommodate over 60,000 Scouts who assembled to celebrate the Founder’s Day. The entire gathering went on a celebratory march from Paxtu to the BP Memorial Park (grave site) as a key part and conclusion of the Founderee event. Paxtu in Nyeri is the residence where Lord Baden-Powell spent his last days, overlooking the beautiful Aberdare range and the majestic Mount Kenya, which BP painted from sitting in the lawns of Paxtu. Paxtu is currently being maintained by the Outspan Hotels and they have helped preserve a museum with exhibits showing BP’s life at Paxtu. This year’s Founderee in Kenya attracted visitors from 29 other countries from both inside Africa and outside, such as, Burundi, Ethiopia, India, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
This Foundaree was also an opportunity to pass on the Messengers of Peace message and to urge the tens of thousands of participants to join hundreds of thousands of other Scouts and Leaders around the world in creating a better world.
In addition to looking after the burial site of Lord and Lady Baden-Powell and the surrounding BP Memorial Park with great pride, KSA, in close collabroation with the World Scout Bureau, Africa Regional Office, has been in dialogue with local and government authority on the of developing an international scout centre that would act as a perpetual commemorative site. In response, the local Member of Parliament and the Town Mayor made an anouncement on the Foundaree that a piece of land is going to be set aside to this effect. Scouts and scouters all over the world are thus invited to contribute, in whichever way they can to this project.