My jamboree journey started back in August 2013, when I saw an advert on the GOLD Facebook page. I made a note of when the applications opened, filled in my form and waited without really expecting to hear anything. Having never been involved in large scale Scouting events or a World Scout Jamboree before, I didn’t think I stood much chance of being selected.
Thankfully for me, I received an invitation to the South West Region selection weekend in February 2014. The selection involved working in a group to plan a potential jamboree activity, helping to build a campfire circle and a formal interview. Again, when I attended the selection weekend I went ready for a fun few hours but not expecting to be offered a place at the jamboree.
Imagine my excitement (my colleagues did not have to imagine this, as they heard me screaming in the corridors at work) when the email came through inviting me to join the IST team for the 23rd World Scout Jamboree! I had very little idea of what I was letting myself in for, but I knew that it was something that was not to be missed.
I spent the following 16 months fundraising, which included applying for grants, selling badges and visiting Units across Gloucestershire to run Japanese-themed sessions. I found it quite a challenge fundraising for the Jamboree and this was, in part, due to the fact that I didn’t know what kind of role I would have when I arrived there. When I visited the Units and spoke to the members, I joked about not wanting to spend two weeks cleaning toilets. Little did I know that for some IST members, this was a reality!
The first stop in Japan was ISTokyo, a two-day event where 885 members of the UK IST team explored Tokyo. Included in the itinerary was a meal at a traditional Japanese restaurant which had entertainment such as a sumo wrestling demonstration (who knew sumo wrestlers were so flexible!), a visit to the earthquake centre and a trip up the 634m tall Tokyo Sky Tree.
Once our ISTokyo was completed, we then had the mammoth task of boarding a bullet train. Normally, getting Scout and Guide Leaders to board a train is nothing unusual. However, getting Scout and Guide Leaders to board a bullet train 300 at a time, carrying large bags and rucksacks, with only 90 seconds to do it in is quite unusual! We’ve been told that we made the national news.
Our bullet train took us to Hiroshima, when we were privileged enough to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Reading through the eye witness accounts and seeing the burned and melted artefacts was both harrowing and uplifting. To see such devastation alongside inspirational stories of hope was quite moving. Outside, we then explored the Peace Garden, saw the hundreds of paper cranes and had time to see landmarks such as the A-Bomb Dome. One key message came out of the memorial Museum and Garden: never again. Scouts from the jamboree were chosen to attend the 70th anniversary memorial on August 6th.
From Hiroshima, we made our way to the Jamboree site in Kirarahama, Yamaguchi. Arriving at 7pm, our first evening was spent registering, having our Safe From Harm certificates checked and putting up a multitude of tents. The first few days were a blur of trainings, making sense of the huge jamboree site and tightened guy ropes to ensure that the tents weren’t blown away by the forecasted tropical storm. Luckily, we survived the storm with only a little light rain.
The opening ceremony signalled the formal beginning of the jamboree. Seeing the flags of each represented nation brought onto the stage was like watching part of an Olympic opening ceremony! The majority of the 8,000 strong IST volunteers and 24,000 Scouts and Leaders joined together to celebrate the start of the jamboree. Scouts and Leaders across the world were also able to watch the ceremony live online so that they could also be involved.
July 30th brought with it the start of the programme for the Scouts and Guides, and the start of my proper work. I was lucky enough to be part of the calligraphy team. This meant that I worked with and made friends with IST volunteers from Japan, the UK, Sweden, Bulgaria, Korea and Slovenia. I have also picked up a lot of the theory of Japanese calligraphy and can now read a few basic characters.
Being part of this team also meant that I was lucky enough to meet Scouts from many different cultures and countries as well as have some free time to explore the jamboree site. Or hide in any shade available as the high temperatures and humidity were difficult to handle.
The jamboree continued until the closing ceremony on 7th August. The closing ceremony featured a Japanese pop group called °C-ute as well as the obligatory playing of the jamboree song, Come Together Now. It was only really at the closing ceremony that I saw the real scale of the 23rd World Scout Jamboree and its reach across the Scouts and Leaders who were present. The key moment for me was listening to the UN Secretary General’s Envoy for Youth, Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi of Jordan, deliver a message from Ban Ki-Moon was just incredible.
The following day, I helped the transport team to help see off the 24,000 Scouts onto their buses to take them to the train station and beyond. Thankfully, they didn’t all arrive at the same time! On Sunday 9th August, it was our turn to leave. We departed from the jamboree site at 7am, having taken down our tents and removed all signs of us having been there.
I had signed up for a post-jamboree tour, so spent the next five days travelling around Japan. As part of the tour, we visited the Itsukushima Shrine and Hall of 1,000 Mats on the island of Miyajima. We visited the 5th station on Mount Fuji and had free time in Tokyo where a group of us visited the Imperial Palace Gardens and did plenty of souvenir shopping!
Of course, the jamboree wasn’t just about the holiday and shopping. It was about playing a part in the development of global Scouting and Guiding and ensuring that the participants received the opportunity of a lifetime that they signed up for. The Scouts who I spoke to all talked at length about their jamboree experiences and how much they were enjoying it.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who supported me in this project, by helping with my fundraising or listening to my endless jamboree stories!
15th Gloucester Brownies & 1st Severn Robins Senior Section
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