International Scouting events inspire young people across the world to carry on Scouting
By the time he was 16, Sam Chatterley had been in Scouting for a decade and, by his own admission, was losing interest in his group’s weekly meetings. Then, in 2015 he went to the World Scout Jamboree.
“I had never done international Scouting,” the British Scout, now 20 and studying at university in the UK, told scout.org. “I went to the Jamboree and it was probably the most “endorphinised” experience I had ever had. It hooked me.”
The following year, Chatterley headed to France for Roverway 2016 where he was a member of the Rover Band. The next year he went to Iceland for the Moot, and now he’s in the Netherlands and back at Roverway again – this time as one of the two managers for the band.
For young people like Chatterley, international Scouting experiences are an opportunity to re-connect with Scouting and go beyond the weekly meetings in the local community that are the bread and butter of the Scouting experience throughout the world. At international events, young people get to see how other countries practise Scouting, find inspiration for activities and make new friends.
While the biggest contingents at Roverway were from Europe, young people flew in from as far afield as Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Lebanon and Ghana. After camping together on the beach at The Hague, the more than 4,500 participants split up into their different programmes, known as paths, which had been organised in towns and rural areas throughout the country, before gathering for the final five-day camp about an hour’s drive east of Amsterdam.
On the opening night, Frans Timmermans, a former Foreign Minister of The Netherlands and an EU Commissioner, took to the stage to address the thousands of young people gathered on the sand. A Scout as a child, Timmermans spoke of the need for cultural understanding, curiosity about the world and a determination to make things better.
“I wish you could stand for just one second where I’m standing and see all these people coming together with the same spirit of friendship, of curiosity about each other’s world and each other’s aspirations,” he said, later taking questions on global issues from a number of Scouts. There were people from 53 countries at this year’s event.
Luna Hardan, 18, and Maria Merheb, 21, joined a path exploring the town of Breda in the southern Netherlands with Scouts from across Europe. They went on hikes on local nature reserves, kayaked around the canals of the old town and spent a day getting to know the city better in a challenge competition. In the evenings, they sang songs and learned more about each other’s countries.
Scouting hasn’t yet developed 100% in Lebanon, so it’s great to learn from other areas of Scouting,” Merheb said, as the group settled down to picnic in the town’s main park. She made notes about each new game or activity they learned, as well as the songs each group sang. Once Merheb gets back home to Lebanon, she plans to introduce the ideas to the group of young female Scouts she leads.
Merheb and Hardan’s initial reservations about joining Roverway – their first international experience – were quickly proved wrong as they got to know their group.
A highlight was the international dinner that took place one evening, with groups of Scouts from each country cooking their favourite dishes. The Lebanese cooked tabbouleh, hummus and a traditional chicken and rice dish known as riz a djej. Before they all ate, each team explained to the others about the foods they had chosen to cook and their significance.
“I’ve loved it, and I’m going to try to go to as many international camps as possible,” Hardan said the next day as the path came to a close.
On a break from rehearsals, Chatterley and the Rover Band enjoyed a morning abseiling down the bell tower of a church near where they were staying. There was an easy spirit of camaraderie as they stepped from the roof and bounced their way carefully down the tower.
“I loved that,” Chatterley smiled as his boots touched the ground.
Next year, he will travel once again to the World Scout Jamboree, which will be taking place in the US. He’s thrilled at the prospect even though he won’t be a participant this time, but a member of the international volunteer staff. It was, after all, a jamboree that helped the student rediscover his passion for Scouting.
“It changed everything,” Chatterley says of his trip to Japan in 2015. “I can honestly say there’s no better feeling than the central camp of the World Scout Jamboree.”