“Everyone thinks Scout groups are loaded, we’re not.”
These are the words of Daniel De Feo, recently appointed leader of the Wood End 24th Scout group. The group relaunched last year, but the arrival of Covid-19 swiftly put a stop to its efforts to rebuild.
Sitting in Coventry’s Henley ward, Wood End is an active and thriving community. It has two churches, a popular supermarket, a busy family hub and a handful of community centres which offer everything from bingo to pay as you feel cafes.
But the area also sits in the top 10% of deprived neighbourhoods in the country.
So how does a Scout group set up to equip young people with skills for the future contend with all of this ?
With operations put on hold due to Covid-19 restrictions, they have based themselves at their allotment as they gear up to welcome children back later this year.
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CoventryLive popped down to meet Scout leader Daniel De Feo, who spoke of his concern around future running costs, and passion for the area.
“There’s a lot of good in Wood End” he said. “We just want the best for the kids. Kids in Wood End have a really bad reputation, and we’re trying to change that.”
We are sat in the shelter at their patch in the Henley Mill lane allotments, which, sandwiched in between two major estates in Coventry is quiet idyll for green fingered locals.
Dan is preparing the allotment for the return of the Scout group, and is excited about the sessions they will be able to run there once normal activities can resume.
The long term vision is to go back to their original home in St Chad’s church down the road, and run breakout sessions here at the allotment.
“A lot of our children don’t know where flavours come from, fruit and veg. We want kids to know things come from nature.”
The plan is to build a wildlife habitat, seating area and bird and bat boxes in the eight and half thousand square foot plot.
This would usually be funded by membership costs, but with those on hold, they are raising money to get the allotment project off the ground.
Dan thinks that children here may not necessarily get the opportunities that others from different areas might get, and has heavily subsidised membership costs to help families under pressure.
“Covid-19 has dealt a substantial hit to our finances.
“For local parents, even though [memberships costs] are £2 a week, that’s still £8 a month. We didn’t want additional stress on our young people and families, as we are in one of the most under privileged areas.”
With Scout uniform costing up to £25, before Covid-19, the group had a pay as you can system, where they bought the uniforms first, and allowed families to pay it back in instalments.
But that has been put on hold as their income has disappeared, and their main aim at the moment is to get the group back on its feet, raise money to furnish the allotment, and eventually return to systems like subsidised uniform costs.
At around 15 members, Wood End’s 24th Scout group is one of the only Scout groups in the region that charge the lowest membership fees, and Dan wants to ensure there are no barriers in place for children to experience as much as they can.
“Kids deserve a chance to be judged for who they are, and not where they are from.
“How many kids from Wood End have the chance to go rafting, or rock climbing? We have to start seeing the good in Wood End.”
Dan wants to create change in the area, so that young people can get involved with decision making that impacts the community.
“Wood End needs young people to get involved, there are no voices of young people. If we can have a small impact, and that grows each year, young people will have a chance.”
He has received help from neighbouring Potter’s Green Scout group leader Sarah Hodgkins, who is mentoring the group to ensure they can run sustainably.
The Potter’s Green group has around 20 members and specialises in supporting SEN children. Sarah said: “You can see the difference between where they were when they started, the children grow in confidence.
“[The Scouts] is so much more than knot tying, with things like the world jamboree, there are global opportunities.”
Wood End’s 24th Scout group aims to re-open at the end of September, but Dan is hesitant about what those initial few weeks will look like.
“We’ve got to hope the kids come back.”
You can contact the group on Twitter: @24thscoutsCov and Facebook: @24thCoventryScouts
You can find their allotment fundraising page here: https://gf.me/u/ymsayk
Deprivation statistics in this article were taken from English Indices of Deprivation data: http://dclgapps.communities.gov.uk/imd/iod_index.html