At 2am on Saturday the 20th of July 40 people emerged into the dark from the Ismay building at the South London Scouts Centre and boarded the waiting double-decker London bus. The centre was full that weekend and the main field was packed with tents of sleeping people. It was pouring with rain, slightly chilly and very exciting.
After 21 months of team building, planning and preparation our county jamboree unit – the Meridian Lions were heading to Heathrow Airport to board our flight and head to North America for 19 fun filled days of excitement, new experiences and personal development.
The 24th World Scout Jamboree, which was hosted by the Boy Scouts of America, Scouts Canada, and Asociación de Scouts de México, took place at the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in West Virginia, USA from 22nd July to 2nd August 2019.
We had a busy itinerary ahead of us:
- 20th July, Travel to the USA!
- 21st July, New York City adventure
- 22nd July to 2nd August, 24th World Scout Jamboree
- 2nd August, Discover Washington DC
- 5th August, Visiting Vancouver
- 8th August, Travel home
- 9th August, Arrive at The Fort
After a pleasant flight from Heathrow Airport to Toronto, a three-hour stopover and then a flight from Toronto to New York we headed to Hofstra University where we were staying. The university was home for the night for 33 of the 100 UK units. Everyone was buzzing with excitement and even though we were 27 bags missing between London and New York everyone was very happy to have finally arrived (our bags turned up 3 hours later!)
The next day we were up and out early heading to Midtown Manhattan as part of a convoy of 100 yellow school buses. The heat was on, literally, as the temperature soared to 100 degrees, we rushed around New York City determined to make the most of the 6 hours we had before we needed to board our coach to West Virginia!
Our first stop was Time Square, which was surprisingly quiet at 8:30am on a Sunday morning, followed by Central Park, we then headed to the top of the Rockefeller building, to take in the view, a trip on the New York Subway, a fast food lunch, the 9/11 memorial gardens and a ferry trip full of UK Scouts across the Hudson River to grab our bags from amongst the 4000 that were lined up and onto our coach to west Virginia!
Off to the jamboree!
The 22nd July 2019 in Glen Jean, West Virginia marked the official start of the 2019 World Scout Jamboree, more than 45,000 scouts (aged 14 to 18), and their leaders from over 150 countries came together at the Summit Bechtel Reserve to "Unlock a New World," the theme of the 24th World Scout Jamboree. The theme spoke of the new adventures, cultures, and friendships that were shared by scouts from around the world during the 12-day event.
Take a look at the amazing drone show at the jamboree opening ceremony
The 12 days of the jamboree were non-stop! Every day was a new adventure, filled with great activities, new friendships and excitement for all scouts from around the world.
The site was BIG and when we say BIG, we mean HUGE! Across the reserve there was a wide range of outdoor high adventure activities that participants could choose from, nearly 50 in fact! Wild and wonderful adventures such as white-water rafting, zip lining, rock climbing, skateboarding, mountain biking, scuba, kayaking and paddle boarding to name a few.
A hallmark of world scout jamborees is the inviting atmosphere of friendship, mutual respect and understanding, which fosters social interaction and engagement among scouts from different cultures
To foster this the jamboree programme also provided young people with the opportunity to develop leadership skills and engage in dialogue about peace and sustainability, enabling them to become active global citizens who are creating positive change in communities around the world.
The opportunity to learn about one another's cultures and to celebrate the shared values of the scouting movement is at the heart of the jamboree. The jamboree programme featured the hallmarks of past world jamborees, including:
Global Development Village
At the Global Development Village, Scouts had the opportunity to learn about global issues and how Scouting can help provide a solution. Many organizations were on site from across the globe to showcase how Scouts can take what they learn at the jamboree and translate that into helping in their home country.
Faith and Beliefs
The Faith and Beliefs zone was an area where Scouts could learn about the different religions of the world and their history and support of Scouting. Jamboree attendees also had the opportunity to participate in religious services according to their own beliefs and traditions. The Messengers of Peace program also had a booth at the Faiths and Beliefs tent.
Cultural Experience Day
Scouts had the opportunity to share their culture with other Scouts of the world through, music, dance, games, food and more. A unity show was hosted in the evening at the Summit Stadium.
During the jamboree, Scouts had the opportunity to witness and participate in many special activities, starting each morning with a flag raising ceremony, special jamboree guests, musical performances, aircraft flyovers, and campfires.
The opening and closing ceremony took place at the AT&T Summit Stadium which showcased the best of Scouting.
The Jamboree issued a piece of technology called the Novus. It was worn on the wrist and could electronically send a Scout's contact information to another Scout and was a contest to see who could collect the most contacts. This was referred to as clicking and quickly became a game among Scouts. It also provided the opportunity to gain 438 virtual badges by ‘clicking in’ at each activity they took part in.
On the final day of the jamboree we packed-up most of our camping area, leaving just enough tent space for us all to squeeze into that night and headed to the closing ceremony which was full of reflections, celebrations, fireworks and lasers, it was one big party!.
Take a look at the jamboree experience here:
It seemed that no sooner had it started the jamboree was over and the scouts that had called the camp home for nearly two weeks began to head home. But not us, we still had a week of adventure ahead!
We left the jamboree site at 6am the morning after the closing ceremony. It was a surprisingly quick departure considering 45,000 people were on the move to leave! Although there was an air of sadness, as we boarded our coach, that the jamboree was over there was also excitement in the air - we were off to our next destination Washington DC!
We spent three nights in Washington DC. All 100 UK units were staying at the University of Maryland, an amazing university campus and the food was out of this world. During our stay we visited lots of the cities landmarks, the Washington Memorial, (the big needle), the Lincoln Memorial, (which is so much bigger than it looks on the TV) and the White House, (which is a lot smaller than it looks on the TV). An educational afternoon in Smithsonian air and space museum and then back to the campus for a UK Contingent carnival party with sideshows and entertainment from each of the jamborees hosting nations. Before we knew it it was our last day and it was time for another convoy of yellow school buses as all 4000 of the UK contingent headed to a baseball stadium to the Baltimore Orioles and the Toronto Blue Jays.
No sooner had our stay in Washington DC started it was over and time to board another coach, this time to take us to Baltimore airport to board a plane to take us to Vancouver, Canada!
It was 2am when our coach picked us up to go to the airport, we boarded our flight to Vancouver at 6am, there wasn’t much conversation on the flight! On our arrival in Vancouver we were warmly greeted by our Canadian hosts, the 180th Pacific Coast Rovers.
Hosted hospitality is always an amazing experience and we are so grateful for the amazing programme that our hosts planned for us during our short 3 day stay which included a trip along (and up) the Baden-Powell Trail, A BBQ and games on the beach, canoeing, a visit to the Richmond evening food market, a day at Playland theme park, a visit to the Scout Canada shop, a visit to Gas Town. We finished with an educational trip to the Museum of Anthropology, before we headed to the Airport for our flight home.
We arrived back at The Fort at 2pm on Friday 9th August, to a very warm welcome from everyone’s family and friends. It was an emotional farewell as the unit reflected on the amazing adventures they had shared together, not only over the past 19 days, but during the 20 months since the units first get together in November 2017.
During their time in North America the Meridian Lion’s really did put South London Scouts on the map each and every one of them is a credit to their Scout Groups, Explorer Scout Units, Scout Districts and Our County. It truly was an amazing summer and to say that they lived the dream really doesn’t do this life changing adventure justice!
Our Jamboree Journey
October 2017 to July 2019