For the first time, nine Scout associations in the South Pacific are participating in the 1st Wood Badge Course at the Jean Murray National Training Center of Fiji Scout Association in Suva. Twenty-one unit leaders represented Fiji, Kiribati, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Tonga and Vanuatu.
The Asia-Pacific Region Office is organizing the course under the funding of the Messengers of Peace (MoP) for the purpose of spreading Scouting across the Pacific. The training venue – JM Scout Centre – was recently renovated with the generous support of Boy Scouts of America.
The continuous rain did not prevent the participants from performing the traditional opening ceremony at the arena where all Pacific flags were hoisted.
The Minister of Youth and Sports, Viliame Naupoto, inaugurated the course on 22nd July. He said in his address that he was not able to enjoy Scouting in his childhood but is happy that his son is now a Scout who benefits from the Scouting program. He assured the support of the Ministry of Youth for the largest youth organization in Fiji and urged the participants to give 100% to what they are doing. He also toured the JM Scout Centre to see the upgraded facilities and find out the other needs of the centre.
Other prominent personalities were present, namely the Permanent Secretary for Youth and Sports Mr Joseva Sania, Permanent Secretary for Education Dr. Brij Lal who is also the Deputy Chief Commissioner, Deputy Chief Scout Chandra Shekar, President of Fiji Scout Association Abhay Nand and several other dignitaries and Scouts. Among the key Scout leaders present were the Chairman of CSPSA Mr Sere Kala of Papua New Guinea and CSPSA Vice Chairman Mr Joe Billy Oge of Solomon Islands, Chief Commissioner of Kiribati Scout Association Mr. Kantera and National Secretary of Tuvalu Scout Association Ms. Sue.
Asia-Pacific Regional Director Abdullah Rasheed said that the Wood Badge course is a breakthrough in the history of CSPSA, a significant step in bringing quality to Scout training. He also explained the purpose of MoP which is supported by the King of Saudi Arabia and urged all participants to be messengers of peace.
A strong training team is supporting the course comprised of Vice Chairman of APR Adult Support Sub- Committee and National Training Commissioner Scouts Australia, Paul Parkinson, Alex Warriner who is the Director Training of Scouting New Zealand, and Prassanna Shrivastava of the Asia-Pacific Regional office. From the local side, Fiji Scouts National Training Commissioner Mahendra Prasad is leading the course.
Fiji Scouts has made steady progress in recent years to spread Scouting across the islands and is preparing to celebrate in a remarkable way Fiji’s 100 years Scouting in 2014. Main highlight would be the National Scout Jamboree. With enormous effort, Scout membership has soared to over 5,000 in recent years.