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Beaver group shows kids are no different

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: August 07, 2014

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LANSDOWNE Infant School was a hive of activity on Tuesday evening as little ones packed in to the hall to take part in an Eid party.

The event was hosted by the 9th Burton Beaver Colony – the first in the town to cater more for children from a Muslim background – and gave visiting children an insight into a culture they had never experienced before.

And they loved it.

The hall was filled with laughter and the excited shrieks of childhood fun as the group played games, enjoyed party food, and watched the Burton group as they performed a version of The Very Hungry Caterpillar which had been adapted for the occasion.

Raffia Arshad, one of the leaders at the group, told the Mail: "It has gone really well and they've all enjoyed it. Next year we're hoping to have a much bigger event and have all of the beavers there.

"It's nice to be inclusive and have people from other groups with us.

"It's about teaching people we are not much different."

The group has only been up and running for a couple of months, but it is already full, with 11 children on the roll. All of the members at the moment are from Muslim families, but Dr Mohammed Afzal, another of the group's leaders, stressed it was in no way exclusively targeted at children of a particular background.

"We are open to anybody, and our main aim is just to build links within the community. Whatever race, colour, creed – we are open to all. We hope it can lead to greater understanding and social cohesion" he added.

Mrs Arshad approached the district scout committee last year, after she realised that there was a need for a group of this sort.

The idea came after she looked into finding a beaver colony for her own son, and realised it may be difficult to find a group which allowed him to enjoy scouting and still retain a connection with his own community.

Dr Afzal said that was exactly what the group aimed to do, adding: "I think it's very important for children from different backgrounds to get involved in scouting because it offers skills that are useful for them.

"There are not a lot of positive outlets for children in this area, and we felt it was needed here.

"It allows them to be fit and active and have fun."

The only real difference between this and other beaver colonies in the area, he said, was that leaders at the 9th group were perhaps more aware that children may have specific dietary requirements, or certain times they have to go to the mosque and carry out other activities.

This week's Eid party is another example of this. Dr Afzal told the Mail that while it, obviously, had an Islamic tine, it was not over-bearing.

Parents from the colony have been very supportive of the new group, and plenty of volunteers have come forward to help.

Graham Rothery, district commissioner for Burton District Scouts, said he was keen to see more groups which reflected the local community.

"We want to encourage scouting for all. It's not segregating, it's reflecting people who live in Burton. Scouting shows everyone is the same everywhere," he said.

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