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Evening Meeting With Amanda Mckean, Director Canterbury Festival

30th April 2024
Venue: Cricket Ground

Evening meeting with Amanda McKean, Director, Canterbury Festival.
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Lunchtime Meeting Agm & May Business Meeting

7th May 2024
Venue: Cricket Ground
Lunchtime meeting 12.30pm for 1pm meal Annual General Meeting to be followed by the May Business Meeting.
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World Scout Jamboree in South Korea, 2023

We had a lovely – and lively – time the other evening when four participants at his year’s World Scout Jamboree came to speak to us. They were, of course, well prepared – sharing wonderful mementoes and anecdotes from their trip.

This year’s Jamboree in South Korea was the 25th such event in scouting history (the first was held in London in 1920). Its attendance was remarkable – a total of around 143 thousand people from 158 countries all over the world.

The Jamboree was to be an amazing opportunity for youngsters to mix and mingle and experience the best of South Korean culture and hospitality. Unfortunately, as readers may well be aware, the Jamboree was beset with problems from the outset, including unprecedented temperatures, heavy rain and flooding, and a typhoon – issues that impacted on what the youngsters could do while out in there. Despite this, they certainly all had a wonderful and perhaps life-changing experience.

The four youngsters that visited us were Scouts, Arthur, Hugo and Jack (all from the 14th Canterbury Scout Group), and Ranger Guide, Alice. Each of the four had received sponsorship of £500 towards the cost of attending the Jamboree from funds available from the Rotary Club of Canterbury Millennium Scholarship Trust Fund (MSTF).* Also at the meeting was David Bentley, Group Scout Leader for 14th Canterbury Scout Group. All four youngsters were very grateful for our backing.

The work for the Jamboree started well before the trip itself. Each UK participant had to raise around £4,000 in total**. This meant they’d all had to do many fundraising activities before setting off. Alice, for example, described “lots of cake sales!”

The youngsters also had to attend several training camps in the build up to the trip to help them prepare for the experience. In total, around 4,500 youngsters – a good mix of guides and scouts – travelled to South Korea from the UK.

During their talk the youngsters shared pictures with us – of the opening ceremony, of beautiful sunsets – even of adventurer Bear Grylls (current Chief Scout). They described how the Jamboree was a “crucible of cultures”, with one recounting how you could meet people of all nationalities just walking around the site. Of course, not all Jamboree partcipants were English speakers so the youngsters had to find ways to communicate.

We learnt how the opening ceremony had been an incredible event to take part in. It included an “awesome” drone show that had a picture of Baden Powell (the founder and first Chief Scout of the Scout Movement, and co-founder of the Girl Guide/Girl Scout Movement).

The youngsters took informal turns to tell us about their unique experiences. Although all four travelled from the UK they were split into different groups on arrival, so were involved in different events and activities (even Arthur and Hugo, who are brothers).

Hugo started off with his experiences; he spoke of a number of planned activities that he’d taken part in, such as visits to local palaces (“we saw impressive parades and amazing Korean architecture – so different to anything I’ve seen before,” he said). He’d had the opportunity to visit N Seoul Tower – an amazing observation tower from where one can look across Seoul. “There were lots of mountains and hills in between parts of the city” described Hugo, adding “it really was such an impressive view”.

Because the Korean’s “felt bad” about the problems at the Jamboree, it seems they often apologised to the participants and gave them small gifts or offered free experiences to the organisers. Jack told us about a free football match he’d been able to attend – “it was really fun and had such a nice, friendly atmosphere,” he remarked.

Jack described how he and his friends had also been keen to try the local cuisine while out there. “I tried dog!” he exclaimed. Prompted by a shocked-yet-curious audience who wanted to know more about that particular experience, Jack described how it had been “delicious – a little like duck”. When asked what the perfect accompaniment was, Jack laughed about the challenges of communication – they didn’t speak Korean and the staff didn’t know English. But they had all enjoyed their meal; the price, around £60 for 12 of them, proved affordable.

Jack’s group also went to a youth centre where they learnt to do K-pop dances, made pottery (Jack made a mug), and saw a magic show. All of his group received a little gift box and photos as souvenirs.

Arthur described setting up tents at the Jamboree site – the temperature there was up to 38°C, with 80% humidity and “no wind whatsoever”. Hugo faced the additional challenge of arriving and setting up at night. The youngsters described how they would leave tent doors open to let air come through and how, despite the heat, they also got “rather a lot of rain” and they were thankful for the massive ponchos they’d been given.

By the end of a week of heavy rain almost the entire site was under water! Alice described how they’d initially used wooden pallets to even the ground following the rain and subsequent flooding. Luckily, both heat and humidity dropped at night – although mosquitoes would “go crazy” in the dark, despite bug spray! It also “did smell a bit”! One might have expected some theft at the site given the number of people, but on asking we heard only that the attendees had been told to be careful with solar panels; our group didn’t experience any theft or illness themselves.

Going back to their experiences, Arthur recalled a memorable visit to the Korean National War Museum; there, he was struck by the “thank you” given to all the countries that had helped the South Koreans during the Korean Civil War in the 1950s – “it was quite a nice touch,” he said. Arthur also had a chance to go on a trip to the demilitarised zone (DMZ; a buffer region between North and South Korea) from where visitors can see into North Korea. He even showed a us a piece of barbed wire he’d brought from the gift shop there.

Alice was one of nine guides selected to attend the Jamboree from the Southeast (UK). While in Seoul, she had the chance to stay in Gangnam (from where the term “Gangnam Style” originated). She described some of the smaller details that caught her eye – such as the ubiquitous advertising that was even projected on the floor. She was also amused to find an Irish pub there to tell her Irish father about. Alice related her own experiences with Korean food, telling us how one Scout had gone “bright red” after eating a dish at hottest spice level 3!

Like some of the others, Alice also had a chance to visit the DMZ, War Memorial and the N Seoul Tower. She’d watched performances from traditional dancers – “happy and smiling, always”. The local architecture was described as “absolutely beautiful”, with one place they’d visited being full of “lots of very pretty houses and flowers all around”. The sunsets there were “amazing” – Alice even enjoyed a memorable one on her birthday.

Alice recalls shopping – “there were so many clothes and jewellery at good prices!” she said. She also saw a taekwondo musical, went on a waterfall hike and visited Legoland! A special memory for her was dressing up in traditional Korean clothing with traditional hairpieces and going to the palace.

One of the things we learned about the Jamboree was the exchange of badges, bags, neckerchiefs and other items between attendees. Apparently, each contingent provides items to share and/or keep! We were shown a T-shirt from the Indonesian contingent which had information about the country, a colourful backpack, a Polish hat and an Australian neckerchief. But it wasn’t just items the youngsters exchanged – they also exchanged cultural experiences. Arthur, for example, recounted talked about music and other things when they’d invited some Americans over.

Of course, not everything was great considering the problems: a lot of planned activities got cancelled, including sporting and pioneering activities. Nevertheless, there were some sports – such as rafting – on offer…though we were told it was “hotter in the water than out!!” Thankfully, it all got a little cooler following the typhoon.

There were other problems too – people were falling poorly and there were lots of ambulances needed. Alice described how she was scared to use her phone following a rumour that phones could explode if they got really hot! She told us how she was grateful to have a pink tent – she described how the Germans, who had black tents, had to sleep outside because of the trapped heat and how they were keen to sleep in the UK tents after Alice& co had left. Apparently Alice didn’t really know a lot of what else was happening at the Jamboree until her mum sent a picture of a newspaper front page.

When one of our members asked what the Jamboree’s legacy was, David Bentley remarked that the youngsters probably don’t even realize what they had gained as yet. He added that when they go through life they’ll be able to use these experiences and will already have lots of skills (such as leadership skills) that will help them in their future lives.

It was clear that all the youngsters had “so many good experiences”.  “The Korean people were really generous and hospitable,” said Alice, while one of the others remarked how there were “more countries represented there [at the Jamboree] than in the UN”; another stated how “although we were only there for a few days it was really good fun – and we managed to make a lot of friends”.

Finally the closing ceremony, which bought attendees all back together, was described as “absolutely insane”!

 

*Usually used to support youngsters going overseas to do charity work; the Trustees agreed that the four youngsters could be supported given the Jamboree’s emphasis on cultural exchange and world peace.

**This amount would help cover the costs of other countries for which the experience was not so affordable.

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