Three members of the 5th Weyburn Scouts, along with leader Allen Klassen, had the “experience of a lifetime” attending the 24th annual World Scout Jamboree over the summer in West Virginia, preceded by a week in Washington, D.C., with scouts from all over world.
All of the Canadian Scouts met in D.C. for tours of the U.S. national capital, numbering about 650 with Scouts and leaders, and then from July 22 to Aug. 2, they were at the Jamboree with around 40,000 Scouts and 20,000 staff and day guests on a wild tract of land in West Virginia. This was the fifth largest such gathering for the Scouting movement, with the Jamborees only held once every four years.
The Scouts from Weyburn were Allen’s daughter Kendry, along with Dominic and Mathew Soles.
The week in Washington for the Canadians was a busy one, and Scouts from several other countries also joined in, from Sweden, Finland and Bolivia, among others. The Scouts visited most of the major monuments and museums, including the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the White House, and the Smithsonian museums such as the Museum of Natural History, American History and a spy museum, which was a favourite for many of the Scouts.
Kendry loved the spy museum where she got to see the Enigma machine, used for decoding of messages from Nazi Germany in the Second World War.
For Mathew, the Holocaust museum was particularly meaningful, along with the air and space museum.
As this summer marked the 50th anniversary of the landing on the moon, a special event was held to celebrate that, including projecting the Apollo rocket onto the side of the Washington Monument.
Once the Scouts were at the Jamboree, they were divided up into sub-camps of some 8,000 Scouts in each, and each one had a central gathering place in addition to the main stadium where the opening and closing ceremonies were held, along with a special cultural day.
The Jamboree was jointly hosted by Canada, the United States and Mexico, with Canada hosting the opening, Mexico took care of the cultural day, and the host U.S. hosted the closing ceremonies.
The list of activities was a long one, including white-water rafting, kayaking, rock-climbing, a shooting range that included the opportunity to shoot black-powder rifles, blacksmithing, BMX biking, skateboarding, rappelling, scuba diving, paddle-boarding and zip-lining, to name just a few.
For Kendry, her favourite activity out of all of these was scuba diving, the first time she’s ever tried it, and she hopes she will get to do it again back at home.
“I enjoyed the social events,” said Mathew, noting that with badges, jackets and neckers, they could trade with other Scouts from around the world, with tents set up specially to accommodate this.
“They had a tent completely for religions, a huge tent,” added Kendry, explaining that every religion represented by Scouts from around the world were able to have a display or information table in this tent for people to explore and ask questions about.
Dominic enjoyed the food court, where every culture had food tents set up to offer dishes from their home land. Allen helped in the Canadian tent, where they offered maple-flavoured dishes for visitors to try out.
He also noted he enjoyed the canopy tours, which had zip-lines set up high in the trees, and a person could zip from tree to tree, as opposed to the single long zips, such as one set up over the main stadium.
One feature of the large camp was a huge suspension bridge for pedestrians, which had one main path down the middle, and two single-lane paths that were above it. On evenings with events, such as for a concert at the main stadium, there would be thousands of people going across it and it would be bouncing and swaying just from the sheer volume of traffic on it, noted Mathew.
In spite of the huge numbers of people, local wildlife could be seen, such as whitetail fawns that Mathew saw, or a small black bear that attracted the attention of many of the campers, added Dominic, who tried warning them to be careful that a mother bear might be nearby. There were photos and video of a black bear that got into a tent and searched through it looking for food, but Allen noted that in spite of occurrences like this, there were no reports of anyone being injured by a wildlife encounter.
There were injuries, such as broken arms, legs or sprained ankles, mostly due to the rugged terrain which many young people were unfamiliar with how to walk or climb it.
Some of the entertainment that impressed the local Scouts included a band that played on recycled items as instruments, and one evening that used drones to form words and shapes in the sky. Dominic said he was particularly moved by one moment when the drones formed the symbol of the Scouts salute, and all of the estimated 45,000 people in the stadium held up the Scout salute in response.
A fireworks and laser show was also very impressive, added Allen, saying with a chuckle, “It was a sensory overload”, as a person didn’t know where to look with so much going on.
There was a strong emphasis on the Jamboree being sustainable, with promotions of recycling and reusing, and a four-storey tree house was on display that used solar and wind energy.
The Weyburn Scouts were also impressed by the experience of meeting people from so many cultures and learning how that people can really get along together in peace.
“Within all that diversity, you realize how you’re all human,” said Dominic, and Mathew added, “It was a global village.”
“We weren’t Canadian scouts, we were just scouts,” said Dominic.
A former secretary-general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon of South Korea, spoke at the opening ceremonies, and said this Jamboree was proof that the world can get along and co-exist.
A touch of modern technology was used at this Jamboree, where every Scout and leader was given a Novus, which could automatically pass on contact information to other Scouts when you met them and talked with them, with a GPS built into them.
The Scouts had red ones, and the adults had blues one that could only connect with other adults. Dominic said he came home with something like 1,400 contacts with Scouts from around the world, and many lifelong friendships were made.
“This was an experience of a lifetime, and the memories you make … you take with you for the rest of your life. It makes you realize that we’re all human, and we can all have such a large impact on life and on society in general,” said Dominic.
Mathew added that one leader he talked to said that Scouts and leaders who attend Jamborees come home more mature and changed after every experience.
For Kendry, she learned that “no matter how different your culture is, we’re all people.”
“The biggest thing for me is to watch the growth that every person has. You see youth at the beginning of the three weeks, and they’re completely different people at the end of that,” added Allen.