Many former Whitianga Sea Scout members look back on their childhood full of adventure with fondness. These nostalgic memories span as far back as 1947 when Sea Scouts was first initiated in Mercury Bay. However, unfortunately since 2020, the pandemic has caused these memory making moments to come to a grinding halt. Group Leader, Chrissie Reilly, fears that the repercussions of Whitianga Sea Scouts’ temporary cessation, may become permanent and that today’s local children will miss out on the incredible opportunities that were presented to generations before them through Sea Scouts.
“We tried really hard to keep Sea Scouts going after the lockdowns, but it was impossible to keep up and running with too few leaders to look after all the kids,” informs Chrissie. She further explains the difficulties of this, especially in the face of Whitianga Sea Scouts’ few remaining group leaders who were susceptible to the virus, some becoming ill with covid, leaving them with even fewer volunteers and therefore fewer options.
“We had to close for longer than we had planned, but now that we’re trying to organise to reopen, we are finding that many children are still very interested in being a part of Sea Scouts, but we are really lacking in parent help and volunteers.”
Sea Scouts has been reported to have significantly benefited the young people, aged from 6 to 14 years old, who have participated in the non-formal educational programme, gaining several outdoor survival skills such as knot tying and foraging knowledge, as well as experiencing the adventurous sports like rock climbing, kayaking and sailing. “The other essential, but often overlooked, skill the young people learn during their time in scouts, is how to be both independent and a good team player,” says Chrissie. “It’s also been widely noticed that many children who are members of scouts tend to be more mature and responsible. This is mainly mentioned after school camps when teachers are blown away with how self-sufficient some of the young ones were, especially in setting up their own tents, scrubbing their dishes, and cleaning up after themselves straight away, with no fuss,” laughs Chrissie.
Mike Brown, Chairman of Whitianga Sea Scouts, reports that they are on the lookout for people who are aged 18 and over who would be interested in a leadership role or being on the committee, including a secretary, grant application person, fundraising manager and eventually, a new chairperson. “Chrissie has been a part of Whitianga Sea Scouts as Group Leader for the past 8 years, while I have been Chairman for six years. We now feel it is time for some fresh blood (personnel) to give Whitianga Sea Scouts another burst of life. It has been an extremely rewarding time, well spent, watching each young person flourish with the help of Sea Scouts. Chrissie and I will still be on the scenes until we have found some suitable people to step in and even then, we will be there to help.”
To become a leader, each applicant must undergo a background check and the Initial Training Process, which will include gaining a first aid certificate unless the applicant already holds a valid one. “The ‘Initial Training Process’ sounds intimidating, although in reality it is actually learning how to do all the fun stuff, like abseiling and kayaking,” says Mike. “It’s definitely not just young people who get to have the fun!” Chrissie and Mike also encourage previous scout leaders and locals with interesting skills or talents to come along, even just for one night, to teach the scouts something new.
Whitianga Sea Scouts has been seeking a premises to call their own. They have raised significant funds for this and are currently awaiting consent from Thames-Coromandel District Council. “I want to thank the Mercury Bay Rugby Club for allowing us to use their facilities in the past and for continuing to do so until we officially have a space to go to. They have been an incredible support,” says Mike.
“There are many exciting things planned for Whitianga Sea Scouts,” says Chrissie. “I know all the kids are keen. We now just need the adults to be keen too.”
To get in touch with Whitianga Sea Scouts, email: email@example.com.
Pictured: Sea Scouts leaders at a Cub rally, 1949.