submitted by Nicole Lorsong
Since November, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Peninsula has served as host facility for Chapter 58 of the Navigators USA scouting group. The chapter was started under the auspices of the Social Justice Committee, following a request to the committee to look into hosting an inclusive youth scouting group. Since November, the chapter has been gradually gaining speed and currently includes 12 children, ranging in age from 5-17.
Started in 2003 by All Souls Unitarian Church in New York in response to the exclusionary policies enforced by other national scouting organizations, Navigators USA seeks to provide “a quality scouting experience that is inclusive and available to all children and families regardless of gender, race, religion, economic status, sexual orientation and social background .” The program, which is co-ed and available to all ages, advocates for children to open their “minds and creativity through direct contact with nature.” The backbone of Navigators USA is it’s Moral Compass, which is read at the opening of every meeting.
Navigators Moral Compass
As a Navigator I promise to do my best
To help create a world free of prejudice and ignorance,
To treat people of every race, creed, lifestyle and ability with dignity and respect,
To strengthen my body and improve my mind to reach my full potential,
To protect our planet and preserve our freedom.
Similar to other scouting organizations, Navigators USA focuses on outdoors activities such as camping and hiking, practicing wilderness skills and safety procedures, team building, life skill development, and especially community service. Youth are directly involved in the selection of activities and organization of each chapter, and can earn badges culminating in the Summit Achievement Award. Awards and community service hours obtained through Navigators are usable by older youth in applying to schools, jobs, and internship opportunities.
While the Navigators USA organization, which is growing rapidly and currently includes 64 national chapters as well as international chapters in the UK and Uganda, is not exclusive to Unitarian Universalists, the Navigators Moral Compass aligns well with Seven Unitarian Universalist Principles. Through its support of Chapter 58, UUFP is helping to spread the message of the inherent worth and dignity of every person, the goal of a peaceful world community, and respect for the interdependent web of existence to the youth of the local community. Like so many activities at UUFP, all are welcome.
Chapter 58 was started by Nicole Lorsong and Beth McCullers, with the support of the UUFP Social Justice Committee, UUFP Policy Board, and Navigators USA Chapter 22, also of Newport News. The chapter has been meeting monthly for skill and team building, with additional monthly meetings for outings or community service. In three months, the navigators have participated in a number of activities, including baking cookies for the PORT winter shelter, UUFP’s yard clean-up day, a group games day, and turtle painting at Sandy Bottom Nature Park. They have used group discussion and consensus to create their own Chapter 58 Code of Conduct, and voting to select activities.
The national organization of Navigators USA keeps its program instructions intentionally loose, so that each area chapter can develop a program best focused to its youth, needs, and local resources. Chapter 58 includes three age groups – Stargazers for age 5-6, Juniors for age 7-10, and Seniors for age 11-17. While the Virginia peninsula region boasts three local chapters of Navigators USA (Chapter 36 is hosted in Williamsburg) Chapter 58 at UUFP is the only chapter currently working to develop its Senior Navigator program, which goes beyond friendship and skill building to focus on leadership.
In order to keep running and enriching the lives of area youth, Navigators USA Chapter 58 needs continued community support. The chapter has been advertised solely by word-of-mouth and is open and welcome to new youth throughout the year. The children who are involved make the program what it is. All are encouraged to help spread the word on our growing chapter and invite the youth they know to join.
Additionally, adult volunteers are needed for both short and long term service positions. In the long term, new leadership is needed for the stargazers, juniors, and senior levels, to attend monthly meetings, get to know the navigators, and help them work toward their annual goals. Short term volunteers are needed to lead meetings, community service projects, outdoor activities, and more. Everyone has a special skill or knowledge to share. Do you garden? Compost? Fix things around the house? Know how to tie knots? Build fires? Enjoy nature walks? Do yoga? Short term volunteers need only commit to one hour, or even thirty minutes, of time to help Navigators USA Chapter 58 provide a quality, inclusive scouting experience.
An informational and organizational meeting will be held at the UUFP Office Building Saturday, March 15 at 10:30 am. All are welcome and encouraged to attend!
For more information, questions, or concerns, please email Nicole at Chapter58@NavigatorsUSA.org