Creating Positivity

Reading graduate, Jack Abrey, tells CONNECTED how he brought positivity to people’s lives during the COVID-19 pandemic through his role in the Scouts.

Jack was a member of the Scouts from age six to 18, and after his graduation, embarked on a full-time career with the charity where his day job is to manage their flagship community impact campaign, A Million Hands. However, lockdown put a stop to the Scouts’ normal activities and Jack tells us how their focus turned to finding creative ways of keeping in touch with the community, and helping where they could.

An inspirational education

Jack studied Human and Physical Geography at the University of Reading, and praises Reading for emphasising the importance of leaving the world a better place.

He said: “As soon as I arrived at Reading for a self-guided tour, I knew it was the university for me; its picturesque campus and buzzing social scene, coupled with a flexible and cutting-edge course, beat any university I had visited before.

“Studying at Reading, I was lucky enough to work alongside world-class academics in the field of geography and submit research to DEFRA and the government that led to policy change. The emphasis on real world impact at the University really excited me.

“I look back on my time at Reading with the fondest of memories. It’s a fantastic place to live and learn, where you really become a part of not only the University community, but also the wider community of Reading.

“My time at Reading helped me hugely in my career with the Scouts and continues to do so every day. Reading develops good ‘all-rounders’ – people with a high-quality education and the life skills to make a real impact on the world of work.

“The University’s mantra sticks in my mind to this day – reminding me to stand up, be counted, to not be afraid to go against the grain, and above all, to combat injustice and leave the world a better place.”

Helping communities during COVID-19

Jack tells us about the impact the pandemic had on the Scouts and how they brought positivity to people’s lives during lockdown.

He said: “During the health crisis, the Scout movement’s usual activity was hugely affected as much of Scouting is based on being out and about in the community, developing life skills and living out our promise of helping other people.

“But Scouts are resilient; our young people continued to meet locally thanks to the wonders of modern technology and the dedication and hard work of our adult volunteers. In addition to our groups meeting virtually, we rallied behind causes and campaigns that helped young people take positive social action in their communities and made a difference from home.

“We created the ‘Care for Care Homes’ campaign. This came about as our young people told us that they normally help care homes throughout the year and they didn’t want COVID-19 to stop that from happening.

“We knew that care homes were facing an incredibly tough time – from residents falling ill to being painfully separated from their loved ones – the Scouts helped to improve the wellbeing of residents and reduce their isolation by sending letters, drawing pictures, painting kindness rocks and video calling residents.

“As we couldn’t get out into the community and help in the usual way, we also created social action asks that our young people could do from home to help, alongside ‘Care for Care Homes’. These ranged from sharing three things our Scouts were doing to support their wellbeing with three other people, to sharing a collection of over 150 activities that could be done at home.”

Jack revealed that the ‘Care for Care Homes’ initiative resulted in over 25,000 acts of kindness in care homes, and over 7,000 people committed to tackling the taboo around mental health.

Making a difference through kindness

Jack is incredibly proud of how the Scouting movement pulled together to do what it could to help during the pandemic – and feels honoured to have been part of this movement.

“Being able to play a small part in helping others during the COVID-19 pandemic was a huge point of personal pride for me. By simply showing kindness to others we can make such a huge difference.”

Discover more about Human and Physical Geography at Reading, or find out more about Jack’s work with the Scouts.

Since this article was published in 2020, Jack was awarded a British Empire Medal in this year’s New Year Honours List.