British Scouts surprised, delighted by Newfoundland experience
By Mark Squibb | Vol 7 No. 16 (Aug. 15, 2019)
Last week, about 80 UK Scouts traded in the double decker buses, red phone booths, and Brexit anxiety of jolly old England for the maritime charms of Newfoundland.
At least some things about the province reminded them of home, like the Metric system – and the rain.
The adventure actually began for the scouters two weeks back, when they packed their bags for the 24th World Scout Jamboree in West Virginia, attended by Scouts from all over the world.
“We were in the mountains of West Virginia with 4,500 people from over 170 countries,” said Steve Kent, Canadian Head of Contingent for the 24th World Scout Jamboree 2019.
Four years ago, he was asked by Scouts Canada to lead the Canadian Contingent to the jamboree in West Virginia. While working with other contingent leaders, an idea began to germinate.
“In preparing for that over the last four years, I became fairly close with the leadership of several other world contingents, and about two years ago, I was approached by Germany and Ireland and the United Kingdom about potentially coming to Canada following the world jamboree for what we call a Hosted Hospitality experience,” explained Kent. “As a result of that planning over the last couple of years, this week we have close to 6,000 Scouts across the country, from coast to coast, meeting with and being hosted by local scooting groups like what’s happening here in Mount Pearl.”
Last week, 4,000 Scouts from the UK, 1,500 from Germany, and some 400 from Ireland had the opportunity to experience Canada— and Canadian Scouting.
“We landed, and they had posts saying, ‘Welcome UK’, and we felt very welcomed,” said Holly Skingsley of London, 17, who has been scouting since she was 7. “The people here are just lovely. They’re so sweet and so welcoming. A lot of people have asked me where I’m from, because they hear my accent and they love it,” she continued. “People have been talking to me like they’re known me for years.”
It’s quite a change from the hustle and bustle of London.
“You don’t make eye contact with people on the tube,” joked Ben Wright of Hampshire.
In a whirlwind four-day tour, the group sea kayaked, went boat touring, swam in the ocean, had a fish fry and bon fire, tried poutine, explored Mount Pearl, Petty Harbor, Signal Hill and downtown St. Johns, and, at the Royal St. John’s Regatta, even got the chance to catch a glimpse of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was in the province to speak at a Liberal Party fundraiser and take selfies with fans.
“I really enjoyed the sea kayaking. I thought it was really very beautiful,” said Abby Young, 15, of Hampshire, who has been scouting since she was 11.
Alexa Haykal, 14, of London, who has been scouting for two years, agreed, adding the boat tour was one of her favorites as well. “You don’t have that sort of thing in England,” she said.
For Holly, Ben, Abby, and Alexa, who had never been to Canada before, as well as the almost 80 other Scouts, there was some semantic stumbles; see, in England, cookies are biscuits, potato chips are crisps, highways are motorways, subways are tubes, garbage cans are bins, and cotton candy is candy floss.
Most have a story or two about the confusing cultural differences, including ordering chips (as in French fries), and expecting crisps (as in potato chips), or being asked to put something in perfectly good shape in the bin (a box, not the garbage can.)
It’s all part of the experience, and Scouters say that they’re better for being Scouts.
“I’ve been to Switerzland, to America, to Canada, and I would never do that on my own, and I would never go camping with my mates,” said Holly. “It teaches you life skills, and gets you involved.”
“It boosted my confidence so much,” said Alexia. “There’s nothing sort of similar to Scouting. It’s really unique.”
Contingent leader Steve Kent joined the organization as a Cub back in 1986.
“Scouting is all about building great citizens. It’s about helping young people discover things for the first time. Along the way, through those discoveries, they become healthy, confident, capable, well-rounded citizens, who are better prepared for life and better prepared for success in the world,” said Kent. “Through Scouting I had my first exposure to community service, to leadership opportunities; I wouldn’t be where I am today and I wouldn’t be who I am today if it wasn’t for Scouts.”
Events like the Hosted Hospitality experience help foster the national Scouting experience, explained Kent.
“Helping Canadian young people understand that they’re a part of the biggest youth movement on the planet is something that’s really important to the two Scout organizations in Canada,” he said.
And it couldn’t be done without local volunteers, businesses, and organizations.
“These young people have had a wonderful time this week, but our local leaders, who’ve really stepped up to help, are having a wonderful time as well,” Kent said. “There was an overwhelming amount of community support and we’re really grateful that so many of our local businesses and community groups stepped up to make this experience a great one for these young people.”
And with a trip planned to Northern Ireland in 2021, and the next Jamboree taking place in Korea in 2023 (average youth cost to attend is about $3,500), Kent expects the 1st Mount Pearl Scouts will have some fundraising of their own to do over the coming years.