By Tony Woodard
Sep 07, 2015

Little White Strings – My Experience at the 23rd World Scout Jamboree

world scout 5When you arrive at a World Jamboree, there are little strings on the ground outlining your campsite.  For all intents and purposes, these may as well be international borders.  We were camped next to Scouts from the Netherlands, Taiwan, Spain, New Zealand, Germany, UK, France, and Libya.  Down the road were scouts from Nigeria, Hong Kong, Scotland, South Africa, and Poland.  All of these Scouts are members of local units back home.  They are all part of local Districts and Councils.  But, for 10 days, they are more. They are representatives of their respective nations and ambassadors of the World Organization of the Scout Movement.

world scout 3Together, we Scouts are all united under one organization, under one patch, or, as it is known internationally, badge.  Every nation represented at the event, all 150+, wears the World Crest on their uniform.  This single badge is worn with honor and pride. It serves as an emblem that Scouts are truly involved in something greater than themselves. In the BSA, we wear this badge above our left pocket. It’s a small little purple patch that many take for granted.  However, it is one of the most important that we wear.  It is a symbol that we, as members of the BSA, are part of an international organization that is on every continent and is greater than borders, economics, or politics.

As the World Jamboree starts, these little white strings serve to isolate and identify us. They provide us the comfort of a border that we are used to. After the first 24-48 hours, the borders begin to fall.  First the UK because of the ability to communicate. Then, Spain greeted us and those who knew Spanish realized that they could easily communicate in our broken Spanish and their broken English. We learned that the French were Jewish as they distributed their non-kosher supplies to the countries around them. The Dutch were immediate neighbors, so it was easy to have “over the fence” conversations with them.

world scout 9As the week progresses, a whirlwind of learning takes place. We get to see that these Scouts (male and female) on the other side of the string are just like us. They are cooking (and sometimes burning) the same foods that we are cooking (and sometimes burning). They have the same rules and ideals as us. While in our Unit, we held ourselves to higher standards than most, we were able to see that these Scouts on the other side of this little white string have similar experiences, standards, and expectations.

Soon, that little white string was no more. Our new friends came in and out of our camp as if we had been hanging out at Maple Dell Scout Camp all summer. Catholic, Muslim, Latter-Day Saint, Buddhist, or Sikh did not matter. Swiss, Korean, Thai, or Egyptian did not matter either. We were all united under the World Crest and Scouting.

The World Jamboree, as all of Scouting, challenges you to break down your personal biases and focus on your core values and beliefs. It promotes cross-cultural cooperation and mutual understanding. It allows for a relaxed environment without borders to truly understand and learn about others on a deep level that can only be understood by sharing a meal, sitting by a campfire, sharing a song, or just chatting about what it’s like to go to school.

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Utah National Parks Council Contingent to the 23rd World Scout Jamboree


For more photos from the World Scout Jamboree UNPC Contingent see our Flickr page.

At the end of the Jamboree, all 33,500 Scouts in attendance, from a myriad of socio-economical, educational, religious, and political backgrounds find that we are all family. We are all equals. We learn that, while we all have that special something that makes us unique, we are all Scouts. We all learn that in meeting new people, learning to love new cultures comes easily. If we open our hearts, our minds to learning, Scouting provides an avenue for great things to happen. Maybe it will be the fall of the Berlin Wall. Maybe it will be the sparing of a life in battle. Maybe it will just be the ability to look past a little white string on the ground and extend a hand of friendship in Scouting and offer dinner to someone in the next campsite who has burned their rice.

tony woodard

Author: Tony Woodard | Utah National Parks Council Contingent Chair, 23rd World Scout Jamboree, Yamaguchi, Japan

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2 thoughts on “Little White Strings – My Experience at the 23rd World Scout Jamboree

  1. AvatarSubin Manandhar

    This just made me remember those amazing days (not that I had forgotten or will ever forget).
    I just hope the world lived like we lived in Jamboree (Jamboreeeeeee) 🙂

  2. AvatarAnn

    What a neat experience. Thanks for sharing. We’ve had many many exchange students and my kids have always commented that even though these students live far away we’re all basically the same.


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