Dramatis persona*

helenhead Helen Chick

I've always wanted a bumper sticker that said "I'm a female, LDS/Mormon, Scout leading, geocaching, piano-playing, bicycling, mathematics educator with a PhD in maths ... and I VOTE"!

I think this makes me a minority group of cardinality 1!

* Since there's only one of me and "personae" is plural (I think), I've gone with dramatis persona.
June 2021
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A Wood Badge for the next generation

When I started at 17th Essendon Scouts, not long after I moved to Melbourne in 1999, there was a young Scout in the troop named Matthew Cengia. Some three years later he was among the first Scouts with whom I had had significant interaction to achieve the highest award in the Scout age group (what was then known as the Premier Scout Award, and is now the Australian Scout Medallion).

A further six years later, in 2008, it was a bit of a buzz when he rejoined me as a Scout Leader at 17th; some time later we both received service awards together; and then, when I left at the end of 2011, he took on the role of running the troop.

This week I returned to Melbourne, because Matthew had earned his Wood Badge (signifying full leader qualification, involving lots of work), and he had asked me to present it to him, which I was delighted to be able to do. There was a good crowd at the hall to celebrate the achievement, and I think I managed to get most of the historical background right for explaining about the Wood Badge beads, and the Gilwell Scarf, which are the outward signs of the “badge”.


It was good to catch up with a bunch of old friends, whose friendships and shared memories are deeply valued, even it was all too brief in the general busy-ness of the evening. Most of these friends were adults, since all of the Scouts from my time have now moved on, although it was great to see one of the youngsters who was one of “my” Scouts when I left and who is now a strapping Venturer with his name up on the honour board as well.

Obviously, it was really nice to be able to recognise Matthew’s achievement and I confess I felt a little bit chuffed to have been involved in some small way with it. Interestingly, one of my other older ex-Scouts (David Bucknell, shown on the right in the photo below with Matthew in the middle and me on the left) may well earn his own Wood Badge in the next few months too. [I have just noticed, with a degree of amusement, that Matthew, like me, is carrying two Kilometric pens in his pocket: ahhh, I trained him well! David clearly has some lessons to learn! I should also point out that both of the lads are in their mid to late twenties, but they both shared stories where other leaders had mistaken them for youth members!]


After the formalities we had ourselves a good indoor campfire, with some good singing, bad jokes, and general silliness, which I thoroughly enjoyed (that’s the “Loo Lah” song below, which would be blurry even if it wasn’t too dim for photography). For history’s sake, Matthew proved he can still fit into his old Scout uniform.


My past month had been rather hectic, and I hadn’t had a lot of time to do something more personal to honour Matthew’s achievement, but I just had enough hours to make a Huon Pine plaque (I wisely decided not to try carving any words this time, in contrast to the one I did for my friend May, and I had some finer tools available, which made some aspects a bit easier). I think it turned out okay (provided you don’t look too closely!).

It was a good night.


4 comments to A Wood Badge for the next generation

  • May

    You did a great job of the presentation – no surprise! And it was touching to see you round out the badgework πŸ™‚ Congrats of course to Matt, but also to you for the great job you obviously did as a leader, instilling both the practical knowledge that is part and parcel of Scouting, but also the passionate joy that comes from it being done right. Bravo!
    And is was lovely to see you for that brief, special visit x

  • Steve McLean

    It was great to see you again Helen! I think the history side was pretty spot on in regards to the Beads & Scarf but if there were some inaccuracies, it doesn’t matter. What’s important is that Matt has achieved a significant milestone in his Career as a Leader and having his Ex Scout Leader present them to him was just that bit more special!

    Well done.

  • Matthew Cengia

    “Matthew, like me, is carrying two Kilometric pens in his pocket”

    Look closer, Helen: I’ve gone one better and squeezed three of them in there; one of them is black :-)!

    Thanks again for making the trip Helen, and thanks for the post!

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