Adrian Elsener about to lead the Swiss boy scout movement

The saying goes that, once a boy scout, one is one for life, and, for Adrian Elsener of Menzingen, this certainly has been the case so far.

Having been a cub in a local pack and having previously risen to chief scout in Zug, as from Monday 18 February he will be the nation’s chief scout.

The headquarters of the boy scout movement in Switzerland, which consists of some 47,000 members, are in Bern, where Elsener, a qualified primary schoolteacher and business studies graduate, will be responsible for operational leadership with a team of 13 others to support him.

Indeed, in his new role, non-governmental organisations always having had an attraction for him, he feels he will be able to make use both of his teaching and business skills. He mentioned how pleased he was boy scouting matters would become the centre of his activity and was looking forward to greater contact with various scout troupes across the country, representing them at many conferences across the country and lobbying for them at state level. At present the 35-year-old is doing a course in French in Paris, after all, the organisation of the movement in Switzerland covers three areas where different languages are spoken, with target numbers for membership in each of them, too, which he admitted was “quite a challenge”.

It was as a nine-year old he first became a cub in Menzingen, going on two years later to take part in his first camp in the Napf area, part of the Emmental alpine region between Bern and Lucerne. Having become a pack leader locally, he took some time out to get involved in another, not unrelated area, that of orienteering. It was not long afterwards that he was asked by the leaders of scouting in Zug if he would take over responsibility for cubs in the canton and this he duly did, going on to be leader of scouts in the canton between 2006 and 2010. Looking back over recent years, he recalled with great pleasure the Scouts’ Folk Festival which took place in his home community of Menzingen in 2015, his being responsible for finances.

When asked about how he practised what being a scout meant in everyday life, he mentioned the promise, for scouts aged between 18 and 25 at any rate, to act conscientiously, as this he feels can be applied to all areas of life. “The old scouts’ oaths may seem somewhat antiquated, but many are still relevant today,” he said, as he cited care for nature and all forms of life. “Values I hope to inculcate in my soon-to-be two-year-old daughter,” he added.

What has been most encouraging for the movement is that, after stagnating numbers around the time of the millennium, membership is on the up again, not least in Zug where, thanks to proactive measures, it grew by 100 over 2018. As to why this is the case, Elsener thought this was because there was a yearning among young people to return to their roots, to be amid nature, and leave their smartphones behind.

As he becomes the nation’s chief scout, he is happy the movement is doing well. “Being a boy scout is of the time, is of proven benefit and brings you into contact with others,” he said. “I look forward to motivating other young scout leaders to carry on doing good scouting work,” he concluded.

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