Two years ago, I joined a group of 80 scouts from across Cumbria to have the chance of a lifetime: to represent our county and the UK at the 24th World Scout Jamboree in West Virginia, USA in the summer of 2019! To be offered a place, we had to attend a selection weekend at Great Tower Scout Adventure Centre where we had to demonstrate our skills through a range of activities whilst leaders observed. Out of the 80 that attended only 27 were selected and we joined 9 scouts from the Isle Of Man to form UK Contingent Unit 41 or the Woolly Bikers as we called ourselves.
We spent 2 years fundraising by selling cakes on top of mountains, bag packing at supermarkets, holding ceilidhs or quiz nights, doing sponsored events like the sponsored abseil off Carlisle Civic Centre last year and a whole range of other things. The total amount we had to collectively raise was £120,000 and I’m very glad to say that we reached exactly that!
So on the 20th of June we started our journey of a lifetime from Manchester airport to London Heathrow, from Heathrow to JFK, New York. As well as the actual jamboree, the UK contingent had organised a day of big city experience around New York before attending the jamboree at the Summit Bechtel National Campsite in West Virginia. Over 50,000 scouts gathered for one of the biggest events in World Scouting. We got to meet hundreds of different people of different countries, religions and cultures, try out a range of exciting activities, experience different cultures and attend the amazing opening and closing ceremonies put on by our American, Canadian and Mexican hosts! After the 12 day Jamboree, the Woolly Bikers travelled to Washington DC for another big city experience and a chance to watch a baseball game, organised by the UK contingent team. And for the final experience, we went to Toronto, Canada where we had a hosted hospitality from a Canadian Scout Group for a week who showed us around their hometown Mississauga, took us to see Niagara Falls, toured us around Toronto and even put on a BBQ for us!
The whole event lasted 3 weeks and I have to say that those were the best 3 weeks of my entire life as I got to see, do, eat and try some amazing things. The memories, skills and lessons I have gained from this experience will benefit both me and other Cumbrian Scouts and stay with me forever! Not only did I gain a second family from the Woolly Bikers, but I also walked away from this journey with tons of other friends whose friendships will last forever. I really recommend that anyone who is ever offered an opportunity like mine should definitely take it as it is a one in a lifetime chance!