The South Africa Connection
The 24th Borstal has had links with Scouting in Mpumalanga, which is one of the Provinces of South Africa, since 1995 when Skip (Trevor Banks) was at the 18th World Scout Jamboree in Dronten Holland. Camping next to the Kent Contingent where Skip was one of the Leaders was a Unit from South Africa. Their Unit Leader was Dudley James who came from a town called white River in the Eastern Transvaal (now called Mpumalanga). Skip and Dudley became friends and kept in touch after they returned to their homes.
In 1997 Dudley asked Skip to come to take part in SanJam'97 which was the South African Jamboree. Skip took his two sons Robert and Stuart (who were both Scouts in the Group) to help out as well. it was here that they met the rest of Dudley's family including his daughter Claudette. Claudette later travelled to Rochester to become a teacher at St Matthew's School in Borstal and Skip persuaded her to become a Troop Scout Leader as well.
In the summer of 2011 Robert and Claudette were married and their first baby, Daniel, was born in November 2012.
The 24th has done several projects to help people less fortunate than themselves in Mpumalanga. We have raised money for a project that looked after Street Children, buying bunk beds for them to sleep in at the hostel where they lived. We also assisted the 1st Mayfern Scout Troop which was based on a citrus farm, where all of the children in the Troop lived on the farm and went to school there as well raising money to buy them camping equipment.
In 2007, to celebrate Scouting's Centenary, Skip organised a trip with Leaders and Explorer Scouts from the 24th and 25th Medway Scout Groups to go out to Mpumalanga to see some of the country and to work at a primary school called Sandzile in the Kabokweni Township. The school did not have a constant water supply and so we were able to raise enough money to pay for a bore hole to be drilled (107 metres deep) and piped up to the school buildings (another 150 metres) to where there was a big tank to store the water in. We also erected a fence around a large vegetable plot or allotment where the pupils grew vegetable to supplement their diets. The Cubs and Scouts had their own veggie patch where they grew vegetables that they donated to a local orphanage.
After working at the school we went on a camp with local Scouts and Scouts from all across South Africa, to celebrate Scouting's Centenary. We were also celebrating Scouting Mpumalanga's 10th anniversary as it was ten years ago that the Province changed its name from Eastern Transvaal to Mpumalanga. During the camp we had the opportunity to do some community service and went to an orphanage where we cleared and levelled the surface for a netball court and erected a climbing frame to be used by some of the 107 children that lived there.
To finish off our trip of a lifetime we spent the last couple of days camping in the Kruger National Park and an animal rescue centre called 'Daktari' where local people are taught how to look after the natural habitat and animals that live in it.
Medway to Mpumalanga 2011 - this summer we are going back for another experience under 'African Skies'.