Written by SSA Youth Influencer Zama Mazibuko
Our ECD Meerkat branch has grown leaps and bounds since its inclusion into SCOUTS South Africa’s advancement programmes. Dens are opening around the country and our Meerkats are playing, are making friends, are learning, and are Standing Tall. Recently, Brenda Timmer was appointed as the new Chair: National Meerkat Programme. I had a chat with Brenda about her own Scouting journey and what Scouting can do for our little ones.
“A brief history of my Scouting journey starts when I joined the Guide Movement as a Brownie in 1979 – no jokes about old people”, she says with a giggle. “I was a Brownie, Guide and Ranger, earning my Founder’s badge which was then the highest award in Guiding. A couple of highlights for me were the combined Scouts & Guides events Dinizulu Trail and Sanjamb both in 1985. I moved away from home to work in church youth work and left the Movement at that time. As soon as my oldest child was old enough to join Cubs we were back! Within a year I was back in uniform. I served as an Assistant Pack Scouter (APS) and Pack Scouter (PS) in both Randpark Ridge in Gauteng and Pinetown in KZN. I have regularly juggled work and Scouting. When we were transferred to Durban North, the Scout Groups around us did not need another Pack Scouter. However, Meerkats were just starting and I offered myself as Den Scouter to launch a Den. We did this in 2020 all online to start!
All 4 of my children have been in uniform, three still are. My late husband was Group Treasurer. Scouting has been a huge gift to our family. I see the difference Scouting makes in young people’s lives. I see it in my own and in my children. I want to offer that to as many children as we can. My third child was a Meerkat in the pilot phase – she loved it. I see Meerkats who start as shy 5-year-olds, grow in confidence and ability. It is such a privilege to introduce Scouting to younger children and their families. Cubs who were Meerkats are more confident, understand the advancement system and love earning badges!” explains Brenda with a smile.
“After all these years I have so many memories that I treasure, there are too many to share. It is one thing to cherish my own experiences as a youth of Sanjamb and the Dinizulu Trail. But another to – as an adult – feel the pride in seeing my children achieve. Also seeing “my” Meerkats confident and happy in the Pack is special, as are the friendships I make with other adults in the Movement.
I see the difference Scouting makes in young people’s lives. I want to offer that to as many children as we can.
I have been in the Scout Movement and in other places where women were not necessarily in leadership. SCOUTS South Africa is a healthy collaborative space. Apart from a few difficult conversations, I have never felt that Scouting did not want women to lead. The Movement has trained us to be capable and confident, and gives us space to exercise leadership. In the Meerkat Branch most of our leaders are women, we really appreciate the men who catch the vision for early Scouting. Being a Scout is not just about what you do in the Movement, it is about how we live in our families and communities. Don’t stop believing in a world shaped by respect and kindness. Stand strong in our values and shape communities that are compassionate. “
As a final note we asked Brenda if she has a message for “her” Meerkats. She thinks, she smiles and says “Stand Tall! You can do your best just like the older Scouts. Keep on trying, never give up – and most of all – have fun!
To the Den Scouters I would like to say what an incredible privilege it is to build this branch with you. We are contributing to the future of Scouting in South Africa. What you do, meeting by meeting, makes a significant contribution to the future of our Movement and our country. Thank you!”