My Scouting Life – Brigitte Therivel

 

When Reece Kilbey asked me if I wanted to write a blog about all I have done in Scouting my first reaction was: “No, I don’t think anybody would be interested”, but then I thought that it would be fun to record my journey from a little girl in Nazi Germany to Bronze Wolf Award recipient. I learned more as an adult in Scouting than I have ever learned anywhere else. I learned skills, counseling, parenting, personal growth AND, thanks to Scouting, I made friends with thousands of like minded people all over the world. So here it goes:

Girl Scouting – My first 15 Scouting years

         I got late to Scouting. In 1970, when my daughters were 10 and 8 years old we returned from a 4 year stay in France, and Riki and Silvia needed to learn English, since at home we spoke German and Italian. What better way than to enroll them in Girl Scouts, they would learn valuable skills and would have good friends. Little did I know that 50 years later I was still a registered scout, convinced that Scouting is the best education any child can have and that scouts are the best friends worldwide.

I became a Girl Scout leader in Katonah, NY and for 15 years I led Girl Scout Troop and then Cadette Troop 115 of the Taconic Girl Scout Council. We sang in nursing homes, marched in the Lewisboro Memorial Day parades, rubbed  historical gravestones in the local cemetery, had canoe races against other councils (and won), organized Thinking Day cook outs in freezing February weather, backpacked on the Appalachian Trail, traveled to Washington D.C. and Valley Forge, even trekked to National Center West in Ten Sleep, Wyoming. I ran Day Camps and adult training courses, was a delegate to the GSUSA National Convention, and in 1975 was awarded the Girl Scout Thanks Badge

We also hosted Girl Guides from foreign countries and used to travel with them. One girl guide from Lahore, Pakistan, who stayed with us during the summer of 1972, was so excited when we took her to the beach in Cape Cod, that she rolled up her long trouser legs and waded in the water, but begged us to never let her grandmother know, because showing her legs was unacceptable and she would never find a husband. We learned a lot from each other.

When we moved to England several years later, Silvia joined a Rover group and I helped with Brownies and Girl Guides in Seer Green, Buckinghamshire.

I still have my GS Leader uniform, a Life membership in GSUSA, tons of photos, and fond memories of my good friend and admired mentor, Sandy Cowen, who got me started on my scouting journey 50 years ago.

Boy Scouting – the beginning

Fast forward to 1981 when my son, Laurent, joined Cub Scouts in Katonah, NY, Westchester Putnam Council, and I became first den mother, then Committee Chair. After we moved to Kingwood, TX, Laurent joined Troop 1377 in the Sam Houston Area Council. Females were still limited to admin roles, registrar and treasurer, so I joined the District Committee as Membership Chair, and later a Boy Scout Roundtable Commissioner. I made it all the way to Division Commissioner, where I served under Roger Mosby, who was Council Commissioner at the time and is now BSA President. I was later awarded the Distinguished Commissioner Award.

Special Training Courses Taken

In 1988 I was so excited to be invited to take Woodbadge. There weren’t many women at that time taking this advanced training course. I am an Owl of SC370 and my outstanding Scoutmaster, Jim Joplin, my patrol counselor, my patrol buddies, and the Woodbadge course syllabus changed my life. When I wore my McLaren tartan scarf, I was generally more accepted in the then mostly male environment. In my troop, I went to all monthly campouts and was chosen as a co-crew advisor for our troop’s Philmont trek in 1990.

Subsequently, I staffed 8 Woodbadge courses and served as Scoutmaster of SR108 in 1996, the first female Boy Scout  Woodbadge Scoutmaster in my council.

For Cub Scout Trainer Woodbadge I had to travel to Wisconsin to take one of the last of those great trainer courses, which gives me another Woodbadge family in the Central Region.

When the first Powderhorn course was offered in the Sam Houston Area Council, in 2002, I was one of the first to sign up and later staffed on two Powderhorn courses.

As council Venturing Training Chair I earned my Sea Badge and also staffed a Kodiak course. At the end of my tenure, I received the Venturing Leadership Award.

Being a council trainer in SHAC was a coveted position and teaching at the University of Scouting, Train-the-trainer, Mini Philmont, or other courses was a privilege. I taught and chaired all of them. One of my favorites was teaching “Supermarket Backpacker” with Michael Engelhardt. We baked chocolate chip cookies in an Altman Oven, cooked delicious bread pudding in a bake packer, and dehydrated whole backpacking meals on a shoestring budget.

I started a program in our council where we brought between 20 and 50 urban youths to camp once a month. They slept in tents, cooked their meals, earned awards, and especially they learned to get along with each other.

Youth leader training was another first as female Scoutmaster of JLTC in my council. It was exciting to coach and then mentor the incredible youth staff of these youth-led courses, and even more so when I served for several years as Scoutmaster of the Apache troop at National Junior Leadership Instructor Camp (NJLIC) at Rocky Mountain Scout Camp at Philmont (1998-2001, 2005). When NJLIC was replaced by NAYLE in 2005 I served on the NAYLE design team and staffed the Pilot course in 2006.

I owe a big thank you to Tom Krouskop, who believed in me and championed my leadership in this, so far, all-male environment.

 

Order of the Arrow

Another incredible experience was my induction into the Order of the Arrow with my Ordeal done at Camp El Rancho Cima and a completely surprising Vigil Honor call out in 1996. I was awarded Signed Certificate #137.

Camp Accreditation Team

One of my most enduring services is being a Southern Region camp inspector/ visitation specialist/ accreditation specialist (the name changed over the years). In the mid-1990s I joined the regional team of nationally trained camp inspectors assessing scout camps for safety, good facilities, program, and financial viability. The Southern Region was grateful for my service and I was awarded the Silver Antelope Award, to join the Silver Beaver Award from my council.

2 Philmont Treks and 1 trip to BWCA

I went on 2 Philmont treks in 1989 (50th anniversary year) and 1990, the last one as a co-crew advisor for one of my troop’s 4 crews. From the Japanese scouts who couldn’t understand why they could not shelter from the rain in the ladies’ shower, the open-air pilot/copilot seats, the cow poking at my tent in Miranda, to the hard-earned views from Baldy and the Tooth of Time, those are lifelong memories.

As are the memories of loons calling in the evening, the portages, and the rhythmic singing while paddling against a strong headwind in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. I like the combination of physical challenge and camaraderie.

COPE

I took training as a COPE facilitator in 1998 and one of my teammates was Dan Ownby. He became council COPE director, and we led several COPE courses together, not only for scouts but also for businesses. I remember we organized a team-building course for the Pappas restaurant group, who flew in their managers from as far away as Chicago. This cooperation became a lasting friendship and ultimately brought me to International Scouting.

International Scouting

My previous Girl Scout involvement with International Scouting, my many foreign travels, my languages (I speak German, Italian and French), and my being a first-generation American with a German accent made me a good candidate for the SHAC International Committee. Dan Ownby sponsored me, I joined in 1999 and I am still a member, at times as vice-chair. For many years I organized International displays at the annual Scout Fair, presented courses on International Scouting at the University of Scouting, organized hosting for visiting foreign scouts, and talked about the World Brotherhood of Scouting at Roundtables. In 2008 I helped with the Seminar for International Representatives at Philmont, and since my first National Jamboree in 1993 through 2013 I had always been a staff member in the International Hosting group, as an interpreter, hostess, commissioner, chauffeur, or just friend to foreign scouts.

I was never a member of the BSA International Committee, but because of my contributions to promote International Scouting in BSA and to represent BSA in foreign countries, I was named BSA International Ambassador, the only one of two, Pete Armstrong being the other one.

BSA – SAJ Friendship Exchange

In 2006 I was chosen as a female advisor for a group of 31 youths and 8 adults traveling to Japan for the BSA-SAJ Friendship Exchange. The 3 day Youth Forum of 23 Asia Pacific Region countries plus BSA, 3 days sightseeing in Kyoto, Nara, and Tokyo, and 3 days of wonderful home hospitality showed us the great generosity and popularity of Scouting in Japan.

Then, of course, there were all the World Scout Jamborees and World Scout Conferences.

20th World Scout Jamboree in Sattahip, Thailand, Dec. 28, 2002, to Jan. 7, 2003

Dan Ownby and I traveled together to the World Scout Jamboree in Thailand. I worked in the interpreter group, translating the daily newsletter and interpreting at contingent meetings and press conferences. I even worked for the then Secretary-General, Jacques Moreillon, who called me “ma petite” (my little one) even though I was 2 years older than he was 😊. We rode everywhere on rented bicycles, ate cafeteria food we had never had before, and made hundreds of new friends.

In the evening, during stage presentations by various countries, I interpreted in Italian or German, for the official commentator. The closing show with live elephants was spectacular. After the Jamboree, Dan and I were “adopted” by two Thai Scouters, who for three days showed us the “tourist” and the “insider” Bangkok. I was hooked and I signed up for them:

21st World Scout “the CENTENNIAL Jamboree” 2007 in Chelmsford, UK

The most memorable event was the Sunrise Service on August 1, commemorating the birth of the Scout Movement 100 years earlier. Each participant received a yellow scarf and we were encouraged to collect 100 signatures from scouts we did not know before. Girl Guides from Egypt, scouts from Mongolia, an older scouter from Aosta, the city my husband’s family comes from – we all were a big family of friends, who had never met before.

22nd World Scout Jamboree, 2011 in Rinkabi, Sweden         

The Jingiijamboree in 2009, the pre Jamboree to the Swedish Jamboree, had a special excitement for me when Dan and I were invited to the campsite of King Gustaf Adolf of Sweden, to share a cup of hot chocolate with him. The King is a lifelong scout, who visits his scouts’ camps and led a sing-a-long on stage during the World Scout Jamboree in 2011.

During the 2011 World Scout Jamboree in Sweden, I served as manager of the BSA Contingent HQ tent under Allan Brown.

24th World Scout Jamboree, 2019, The Summit, WV

This was the Jamboree when I met some of the most incredible Scouters from around the world when I coordinated the Bronze Wolf Luncheon on WP Point at the Summit. I also served as escort to Kirsty Brown of Australia, the chairman of the WOSM Awards Committee, and to Alexander Wong of Hong Kong. As a member of the BSA Contingent, I was responsible for Special Projects.

In the years between WS Jamborees, I attended several World Scout Conferences.

The Conference meets every three years and is hosted by a member association. At the World Scout Conference, basic cooperative efforts are agreed upon and a plan of mutual coordination is adopted. Also, the venues for the next World Scout Jamboree and World Scout Conference are voted on, and the members of the World Scout Committee are elected for the next three-year term. 

2008 Jeju, South Korea. This was my first World Scout Conference.

2011 Curitiba, Brazil. I really went to see Dan Ownby being elected for his first three-year term at the World Scout Committee.

2014  Ljubljana, Slovenia Dan was reelected and was chosen as vice-chair for Finance for the World Scout Committee and I reveled in the wonderful Slovenian food and beer.  

2017 Baku, Azerbaijan. The city was amazing, very modern with colored light displays at night and their pre-historic museum Gobustan NP was spectacular. Andy Chapman had the youth team lobbying for him and he won one of the 12 seats on the World Scout Committee and was voted one of two vice-chairs.

For Ljubljana and Baku, the BSA International Department held orientation meetings in Houston for the BSA youth members of the delegation. They prepared, and then presented and successfully defended resolutions at the Conference. I was proud to be part of their support team.

 

2016 Interamerican Scout Conference in Houston

In 2016, for the first time since 1972, the BSA hosted the Interamerican Regional Scout Conference, this time at the Sam Houston Area Council Office in Houston, and I served as an executive assistant. It took 2 years to plan, together with the WOSM Regional Office in Panama, and with more than 350 attendees from all over the world, it was a big success.

There were more International meetings: the 2014 Orientation of the new World Scout Committee at 10 Mile River Camp in New York, the WOSM Finance Comm. meeting in Houston, the Audit meeting in Atlanta. I am grateful to Dan Ownby for asking me to help. He also initiated the trip of a group of US and Canadian Scouters to Dhaka, Bangladesh, to participate in the 2012 Asia Pacific Regional Conference.

After the conference, a small group of us flew to Bhutan, to meet their scout leadership and visit the only scout camp in the country, for which the United States Fund for International Scouting (USFIS) had contributed. Bhutan is a remote kingdom in the Himalayas and 24.000 of its 750.000 inhabitants are scouts. Bhutan’s government has pioneered the amazing concept of GNH – Gross National Happiness. It was one of the most interesting countries I have ever visited.

The Interpreter Strip

Few people realize the importance of the interpreter strip to boost self-confidence in scouts, who normally feel left out, because they belong to a minority, speak a foreign language at home or have a handicap. Earning the interpreter strip, which can be worn on the scout uniform, is something special.

For the 2010 National Jamboree, the last one at Camp A.P. Hill, I designed a program, where scouts, and Scouters, could earn the interpreter strip in a little over one hour at the International tent. With a team of three testers and many stand-by testers, we had the possibility to test in 16 languages, including American Sign language, Russian, Mandarin besides the regular Spanish, French, and German. We even tested a German exchange student for his US interpreter strip! In all, we approved 368 interpreter strips, with maybe 50 rejections. The program continued for at least 2 more National Jamborees,

 

ILT – Interamerican Leadership Training

ILT is a leadership course for scouts in all 34 NSOs in the Interamerican region, led entirely by youth with mentoring from adults. The idea of an Interamerican Leadership Training originated in 2011 in Houston, and a small team of young and adult scouts, mostly from BSA and Scouts of Guatemala, worked to set goals, create a syllabus, find funding, locate a venue and recruit and train an International staff. The first ILT pilot program took place at Camp Strake in Houston from December 27, 2013, to January 4, 2014. The course is now in its 7th year and has been held in the USA, Guatemala, Ecuador, and will be in Panama next time.

For my work on this project, I have been honored with the ”Gratitud” Award from the Scouts of Guatemala and the “Youth of the Americas Award” by the Interamerican Scout Region.

 

The Bronze Wolf

The most incredible surprise in my now 50 years of Scouting was a phone call at 10 o’clock at night on March 2018 from Kuala Lumpur, when Secretary-General Ahmad Alhendawi told me: “Congratulations, Brigitte, the World Scout Committee has awarded the Bronze Wolf to you.”  I, Brigitte Therivel, Bronze Wolf No. 366! I am still humbled, incredulous, and very happy to be a member of this very special Scouting brotherhood.

“I have thousands of friends in the world, I just haven’t met them yet”, this saying on the t-shirt of a scout I once met, says it all. I still have a lot of travel in the future to meet all my friends.