|These kids can do anything. They’re good at astronomy, sailing, sewing, and navigating a plane. They are prepared for any challenge or obstacle. And they learned it all through Plast, a Ukrainian scouting organisation that celebrated its 100th birthday this past summer.
Over the course of a year, Plast conducts more than 100 education camps which specialise in sports, swimming, sailing, diving, aeronautics, arts, skiing, mountaineering, archaeology, horseback riding, ecology and more.
When we think of scouts, we usually think of children, but Plast memberships are lifelong and adults are encouraged to participate as mentors long after they’ve stopped earning medals. It’s a lifetime of learning, and even the youngest members, cub scouts (age 6-12), are likely already better versed in most of these activities than an adult who has never joined Plast.
Plast is helping to raise a perfect generation of wholesome, well-rounded children. What’s truly exceptional about this organisation is that it is Ukrainian through and through, and shows a steadfast commitment to Ukraine’s language, traditions, and values; something that seems more and more necessary these days.
100 Years of Ukrainian Values
2012 is a momentous year for Plast, as it marks the 100th year since the organisation was founded. In 1912, the first Ukrainian scouts swore their first Plast oaths and began ironing out the ideological framework for the group, planning out educational activities and priorities for future scouts. The bedrock of the organisation was Ukrainian values and traditions. The rest is history.
Plast did so well in Ukraine that it has expanded abroad, with branches in Australia, Argentina, Canada, Germany, Poland, Slovakia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The organisation boasts 15,000 members worldwide, and all of them celebrated the Plast centennial with their respective Plast organisations. Olga Kiykovska, the coordinator of Plast’s anniversary celebrations, proudly shows me a worldwide map with Plast’s celebrations highlighted. “The whole world celebrates our anniversary,” she says with a smile.
How does the Ukrainian Plast differ from its overseas counterparts, like the Boy Scouts of America? Olga is quick to respond. “It’s true that the concept is mostly the same, but we took the concept of scouting and imbued it with Ukraine’s cultural identity. Every facet of the Plast programme dovetails with Ukrainian culture and tradition.”
Ukraine itself has changed by leaps and bounds since the beginning of the 20th century. But Plast has stayed nearly the same. What have changed, according to Olga, are the organisation’s goals. “Globalisation has presented a whole world of opportunities for Plast. Fifty years ago, the group was trying to help preserve the national identity of a country that had no state. Now, the goal is to strengthen and develop the Ukrainian character and share it with the world.”
Although family primarily shapes a child’s value system, socialisation is crucial for blossoming patriots. Plast brings young nationals together through camping trips, educational programmes, field trips, bonfire nights, and walking tours. As a child, the endless possibilities made Olga a dedicated member of Plast. “At first, I had no desire to become a scout,” she admits, “but when I started participating in the activities, my attitude changed completely. It had such a positive impact on my self-development and it fostered many lifelong friendships.”
Bright Eyes, Clear Minds
When Olga starts to list all the qualities that Plast seeks to inculcate in its members, I’m taken aback at how impressive it all sounds. “A Plast member strives to be conscientious, exact, just, thrifty, polite, friendly, reasonable and useful. Furthermore, he must take care of himself and nature and think positively.” And those are just the desired personality traits.
As for the practical skills a scout must cultivate, there are countless Plast trials to measure those. In every area, from first aid to fishing and board mechanics, Plast offers young members the chance to prove their prowess and earn medals to proudly display on their uniforms. By rewarding these improvements, Plast ensures that its young members constantly strive to perfect the skills they already have, while testing out new activities.
Plast is not a hobby that takes up a few hours a week, it’s a lifestyle. “When you think about the values Plast promotes, it becomes a way of thinking and it essentially gives you an exciting new lease on life filled with so many learning opportunities,” gushes Olga. “It takes time to adapt to the lifestyle,” she concedes, “but you ultimately come out with new skill sets and a love for learning new things. Plast arms members with the discipline and willpower to achieve their goals.”
Find out more about Plast for you or your child at www.plastscouting.org