AMHERST, N.S. – Frank Occomore took over recently as the new district commissioner for scouting in this area, with one goal in mind: to revitalize the activity in Cumberland County.
He is fortunate in that he has some help. Among his resources are outgoing commissioner John MacKay, has 50 years of scouting experience and plenty of advice, and MacKenzie Sears, who took over as area youth commissioner last year.
“We want to get out there and try to build it back up, and get more youth back into the system,” said Occomore. “We want to get them outdoors and doing stuff, instead of being connected to the internet.”
Scouting in Cumberland County today is down to two troops – First Fenwick and First Cumberland, which operates out of Amherst. When MacKay first got involved in scouting, there were six troops in Amherst alone, not to mention troops in other communities like Parrsboro and Springhill.
But efforts are being made to better relate to today’s youth, mainly through The Canadian Path, a new approach that puts much of the leadership into the hands of the youths themselves.
“It’s a different method of applying the program,” said MacKay. “It’s the same program – it’s focused on citizenship, leadership, outdoors, healthy living, and all those things that make a good life – but it’s a different method of approaching it. It’s new but it’s old.”
Not only has the badge system and much of the terminology changed, but also the youth are taking responsibility for programming and evaluating their activities.
The Canadian Path has changed what Sears has seen in her 10 years of scouting.
“The youth are taking more initiative now, to speak up and say what they want to do,” she said. “We still have a long way to go with the program. Right now, we have the basics, but slowly I think a lot of leaders are starting to use more methods in the Canadian Path and, within the next few years, I can see it really taking strong suit.”
While he admitted he has big shoes to fill with MacKay’s departure, Occomore said he is up for the challenge. Having had recent knee surgery, he has been unable to take part in some of the physical activities he had been doing as a scouter with the First Fenwick troop, and has been spending most of his time doing behind the scenes work, trying to get new units up and running.
Progress has been made in getting a new troop established in Springhill, where social media response has been favourable and a town hall meeting is planned for Jan. 18.
“Hopefully, with fingers crossed, we will have Springhill up and running by the first part of February,” said Occomore.
Starting with beavers (ages 5-7) right through to rovers (maximum age of 22), there are plenty of opportunities for boys and girls in scouting. For more information, contact Frank Occomore at 902-669-0128.
“The number one goal is to get the numbers back up,” he said. “We’re going to try and get more units open, and try to get kids back outside again.”