Fourteen-year-old twin brothers Andrew and James Batty are both members of 1 st St Helens Scout Group, Bishop Auckland. They have been involved since 2012 where their mother Sue Batty has been a major influence in their scouting careers, both lads having gained the Gold Chief Scout award the highest award a scout can earn.
This is a remarkable achievement for any scout but especially for the Batty lads both of whom have Dyspraxia and Autistic traits, a condition which affects physical co-ordination.
Andrew and James both applied to go to the 25 th World Scout Jamboree in Saemanguem South Korea in 2023.
They were invited to attend a selection day to prove their individual ability in teamwork activities and 36 were chosen to attend the Jamboree the Batty lads being two of them.
With the need to raise £4,000 each to attend, Sue rallied them along and they began many fundraising activities, such as sponsored abseiling, bag packing, raffles, coffee mornings and event challenges.
Sue wrote many letters asking for sponsorship from companies and local businesses with little success.
Local teacher and Freemason, David Frew who is a work colleague of Sue heard how hard they were trying to raise funds and suggested they apply to the Durham Freemasons for a Youth Support Grant.
David contacted Owen Craggs the Benevolent Representative at the Lodge of Progress where David is a member. Guidance was given to Sue and the lads resulting in them submitting the appropriate forms with supporting letters.
After a long wait during the Covid period, the family had given up hope that anything would come of it. They had a particularly difficult summer with many personal situations arising causing a great deal of grief and distress to the family.
David returned to work at the school after the summer holidays and within the first week of being back, Sue Batty came into the classroom before the school opened with a card and cake, wearing a huge smile on her face. She broke into tears when she told him that both boys had received letters from the Durham Freemasons Benevolent Committee and had been awarded £1,000 each. The anxiety, worry, stress and depression had lifted to joy, and she said it has made her realise that there are still good people out there in the world who are willing to help others to lead happier and better lives.
Thursday 22 nd November was a very joyous occasion for Freemason and former Scout Leader Christos Katsambis, donning his scouting attire woggle and all, chaperoned by David Frew and members of the Lodge of Progress. They met up with Sue, Andrew and James accompanied by their Scout Master John Horsman.
Christos was delighted to present the lads with a certificate to go along with the £1,000 Youth Support Grant they had each received pointing out the many similarities between the Freemasons and the Scouts, people working together for a common aim of enjoying life, helping others within a band of brothers. At this point Nigel Seymour, Master of the Lodge of Progress presented Andrew and James each with a £100 cheque from their members.
The gathering concluded with Christos reminiscing with humorous anecdotes of his time as a scout many years ago in Cyprus.
Andrew and James made a pledge that on their return they would visit the Lodge of Progress and report back on this fantastic opportunity they have been given
Group photo – L-R Christos Katsambis, Donald Mackenzie, Andrew Batty, Nigel Seymour, Owen Craggs, Steve McLaughlin, James Batty, David Frew