While staying home protects us, Scouting connects us.
As virtual meetings and camp-ins link families within cities and towns, this same technology allows Scouts to reach across oceans to share in the Scouting spirit.
Last month, Scouts BSA Troop 1345G of Burke, Va. (National Capital Area Council), enjoyed a 90-minute Zoom call with Scouts from Troop 2 of Kabul, Afghanistan.
Through an interpreter, the girls talked about their country’s traditions, values and holidays. They spoke about hobbies, school subjects and sports.
While they struggled a bit with unfamiliar expressions and explaining traditional foods (like bolani, a stuffed flatbread), they soon realized they have more in common than you might think.
The biggest similarity: They’re all Scouts.
More than just a Zoom call
At first, the girls of Troop 1345G and Troop 2 thought their uniforms were nothing alike. But when the girls started looking closer and explaining what each patch means, they began spotting similarities.
The big one: Scouts in both countries wear the World Scout Emblem, a purple patch that signifies membership in the World Organization of the Scout Movement, or WOSM.
The BSA is a proud member of WOSM, and in January 2020, Afghanistan rejoined the movement, becoming its 171st member.
“It was a wonderful exchange and very rewarding to be a part of,” says Alyssa Hoseman, development director of PARSA, the nonprofit organization that helped re-establish Scouting in Afghanistan. “And the Kabul internet connection held up to allow a 90-minute call, which was equally impressive.”
During their call, the girls learned that Scouts in both countries:
- Focus on life skills
- Care about protecting the environment
- Serve their community
- Practice leadership skills
- Work on merit badges and rank advancement
- Wear uniforms that show where they’re from and what they’ve accomplished
How it happened
Overcoming the unusual 8.5-hour time difference — when it’s 9 a.m. in Virginia, it’s 5:30 p.m. in Kabul — was the easy part. Connecting the two troops took innovation and hard work.
It began with an idea from a First Class Scout in Troop 1345G.
The Scout was inspired by one of the leaders in her troop: Lt. Col. Natalie Trogus of the U.S. Marine Corps. Trogus is currently deployed in Kabul as a gender advisor to the Afghan Ministry of Defense and is the mom of one of Troop 1345G’s Star Scouts.
Trogus helped set up the call, working with families in both countries to coordinate the timing and make sure everyone had Zoom set up on their computers. She verified there would be adults present to ensure Youth Protection rules were followed.
Once the call began, everything just fell into place.
The Virginia Scouts learned that Afghan Scouts meet weekly, earn merit badges, host an annual camporee in the summer, and conduct regular community service activities like planting trees, distributing care packages to hospitals and distributing cloth shopping bags as part of of “Say No to Plastic” campaign.
The Afghan Scouts learned that the Virginia Scouts have gone backpacking, canoeing, climbing and swimming — all in the troop’s first year of existence.
The connection between these two troops is just beginning. They plan to stay in touch, sharing stories, exchanging recipes — and proving that Scouting can unite people across cultures.
Thanks to David Miura of the BSA’s Pacific Skyline Council, who sits on the PARSA board, for the blog post idea.