Hello, my name is Cheryl Collier, I’m 35 and I am the Group Scout Leader of 8th Rushden (S.A) Scout Group in Rushden, Nene Valley District in Northamptonshire. My day job is as a teacher in a local secondary school and I pride myself in being a really active leader by assisting all sections in the group, joining in or leading activities where I can! It is great getting to know all of the young people well in the group.
What has been your journey so far?
In June 1997, age 11, I was walking past the Salvation Army with my mum and I saw an inspiring display in the window that the scouts had produced. I was really intrigued, turned up to join in soon after and never really left. As a scout, I loved taking the lead and as one of the first female members of our group, I was determined to prove the to the boys that girls could also be scouts! This is an underlying aim of the group to make sure we have equality for everyone regardless. My journey has led me to my current role as a Group Scout Leader following training and roles linked to beavers, cubs, scouts and explorers, as well as now assisting in the training of adults so it has been quite varied but has equipped me with many skills. Scouting truly has underpinned everything I have done and achieved in my life so far, both personally and professionally so I don’t see myself ever being away from it and I am always grateful, never seeing scouting as any form of burden. Our group has really thrived on growing from the inside so like myself, most of our leaders have been involved with the group from an early age and many of us have grown up together too which has formed life time bonds. Friendship is the main glue that sticks us altogether. The recent journey we have been on as a global community has obviously been challenging for everyone, as with other groups across the UK we have had to work hard behind the scenes, to be resilient and really work together as a group of committed volunteers to get through the lockdowns and restrictions, but still meeting every week where we can and in whatever form.
What have been the biggest obstacles you have encountered?
I believe I have been lucky so far in my life and any obstacles have been pretty minor in comparison to the ‘big’ things that can happen so I am thankful. In scouting, the biggest obstacles came when completing my Queens’ Scout Award which in itself, requires a high level of commitment and determination but for me, I was also doing this alongside completing my basic training in the Army reserves and starting my degree, all at the same time and although some elements complimented each other, life was busy so trying to manage a balance was a big obstacle. The last year during COVID and leading up to the first lockdown has been challenging as I have had some health issues to contend with alongside personal and professional pressures like I’m sure many people have. Scouting has been something which has remained a constant despite the changes and uncertainty and the ‘family’ that it creates can literally get you through anything. Mentally, I was finding things difficult as I was housebound for a time when everything was ‘normal’ and it was tough knowing life was going on as normal without me and even thinking about leading the group on the side lines gave me a focus during those times. When COVID hit, having that same focus and knowing others depended on us really helped my mental health and it was a privilege to try and keep everyone together even though we were apart. We had quizzes, social nights and random acts of kindness between leaders as well as engaging with our beavers, cubs and scouts as much as we could. Although all of this is nothing special and is going on across the UK in many other groups, the recent times have made everyone realise the importance of the small things we take for granted so spending time with each other, sharing a laugh or even helping each other through personal tough times which might look minor from the outside. I genuinely think that the biggest obstacle is the uncertainty of life itself and something we cannot plan for, so how we deal with it is key. As Bear says, “… it’s easy to be positive when things are going well, but the heart of all great endeavours is the ability to stagger back to our feet and keep moving forward, however grim it gets”.
Who inspired you to find courage and determination in the tough times?
Inspirational people are everywhere if you keep an open mind and even the smallest things like a quick chat with someone close to you or even better, someone else going through the same thing, or who has in the past can be all you need to put things into perspective. Resilience and determination have been something I have always tried to focus on when uncertainty occurs and I love to know what’s coming so as someone who likes to be in control, these are what I find to be tough times. Finding courage comes from taking yourself out of your comfort zone and dealing with situations head on in a positive way and its amazing when you read stories about young people in particular who we could learn a lot from in relation to how they focus their mindset positively and without focusing initially on the things that could go wrong and often put us off as adults.
What is the most important lesson life has taught you so far?
Be positive as for every problem, there is a solution … never give up and never take anyone for granted!
What is your dream adventure?
I have been lucky through scouting to have been to countries around the work on lots of amazing adventures such as taking the scouts to Kenya twice which is something that I will never forget but also, changed my whole perception of life. Teaching teenagers is a different type of adventure every day, but my actual dream is quite simply, I would love to own some land and create my own place of adventure for anyone else who loves to be outdoors can use and enjoy, but also, keep going and continuing to pass on the skills I have been taught by others before me.