More than 100 children are earning their badges in a South Asian-led Scouts group in Kirklees.
New Horizons Scouts was established in 2018 by optometrist Sajida Anwar and her husband Bilal Anwar to provide a space where children from the South Asian community can learn invaluable practical interpersonal life skills including teamwork, leadership, communication, and initiative, just to name a few.
Most Scout sessions take place after school during the week, but Ms Anwar decided to run the sessions on the weekend to accommodate evening commitments at the mosque.
The group had 34 children take part in their first-ever session four years ago and now has 103 children every week turning up with a long waiting list of children waiting to be admitted into the group from Huddersfield, Dewsbury, Batley, and as far as Bradford.
The organisation has around twenty full time volunteers who are fully vetted and go through extensive safeguarding training before they are allowed to work as Scout leaders.
They run three groups, Beavers for children aged between six and eight, the Cubs for children between eight and ten, and a separate group for boys and girls between the ages of ten and fourteen.
Ms Anwar said: “We opened in August 2018 after having a lot of support from one of the local Scouts leaders, Kate Quinn, who encouraged us to set up a South Asian-led Scouts group to get children from our community involved in Scouts.
“We are one of ten groups in the district, so it wasn’t as if there was a shortage of groups, but it was due to the practicality of children being able to attend on a weeknight when most of the Muslim children are in mosque. We thought if we started running on the weekend, it would give more kids the opportunity to join a Scouts group.
“Scouting is a religious organisation but is open and very inclusive of people of all walks of life. We also got support from the Muslim Scouts Fellowship, who support a lot of the new groups.”
Children at New Horizons work towards earning badges. Children in the Beavers club aim to earn their Chief Scout Bronze award and children in the Cubs aim to earn their Chief Scout Silver award.
By the end of the Scouts, boys and girls aim to earn their Chief Scouts Gold Award which is the equivalent of the Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) Bronze Award.
Ms Anwar added: “The aim for us is to make children by the age of fourteen more comfortable with taking on their DofE Bronze in high school, giving them more chance of earning their silver and gold awards which is brilliant for their CVs and university applications. It is about looking at the future and giving them the best skill set possible for them to succeed.”
The Scouting Group is inclusive of all children including those with disabilities. One mum was initially apprehensive about sending her daughter to the organisation, but her concerns were settled after speaking with the chief Scout Leader.
Sidra Tahir, a mum-of-two said: “My daughter is in the Cubs and my son will be starting at the Beavers in September. My daughter started at the group almost three years ago, a few months before lockdown.
“I think the group is amazing, my daughter has some physical disabilities and for me, it has been very difficult finding groups where she could be involved as she is mainly one-handed.
“I was undecided about whether I made the right choice in sending her to the group as I didn’t want her to look at other children and say, ‘they can tie a knot with two hands and I can’t do this,’ as many life skills do require both hands.
“Initially, it was a scary step, but the group were absolutely amazing. I explained what she could and couldn’t do and they were fine about it. My child is quite shy but has become one of the chatterboxes of the group. They adapt things to her needs and she does everything that the other children do.”
For more information or to put your child’s name down on the waiting list, please contact Sajida Anwar at email@example.com or phone 07795 902535.