The reason I travelled out to Japan for three weeks is because I was working at the 23rd World Scout Jamboree. I was supporting over 4000 people from the UK travelling to Yamaguchi for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The jamboree is the world flagship event in Scouting. Like the olympics, it happens every four years and countries bid to host it. Japan were chosen to host the event in 2015 mainly due to coinciding of the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima atomic bomb attack and their harnessing this anniversary to create an event around the theme of international unity.
33,000 scouts from all over the world congregated to take part in challenges, workshops, community days and adventurous activities.
I arrived on site a week before the UK scouts were due to reach the site. A small group of team members and I spent days getting ready for their arrival, setting up the UK office, distributing 21 tonnes of tents around a 3km site , unpacking four 40ft shipping containers full of equipment. Meanwhile we were also being warned of the nasty looking typhoon that was billowing its way towards the site.
(Typhoon proofing the tents)
The brunt of the storm was due to hit on Sunday 26th July, the night after 900 of our adult volunteers were due to arrive on site and pitch all their tents – nightmare!
Just as we were about to make the call to evacuate everyone from the camping area into the giant dome structure for the night, the news came through that the typhoon had actually now blown out and the most we could expect was 20 mph winds and light rain – relief!
The units arrived a few days later, some arriving from a pre event in Tokyo and others from staying with Japanese families throughout Japan. The first time we saw everyone together was at the opening ceremony in the main arena and it was on seeing the sea of thousands of people, flags flying high which really drove home the magnitude what we were taking part in.
Over the next ten days, I took a rather unglamorous role in precedings; instigating insurance claims, buying food parcels for people with dietary requirements and attending meetings with the Japanese organisers.
I drank more than my own body weight in Pocari Sweat (rehydration drink), ate hot dogs for breakfast most days and slept in a tent for about four hours each night because it became too hot to stay under canvas much past 5am each morning.
I also got to meet people from Poland, Norway, Bhutan, Vanuatu, El Salbador, Sweden, Australia, India and USA to name just a few. I joined in the Jamboree kit swapping phenomenon and exchanged my UK rucksack with a friendly member of the Honk Kong contingent. I had dinner with the unit from Birmingham and got to chat to the young people about their incredible experiences and new world perspectives.
My job may not have been glamorous and it may have been the hardest I’ve ever grafted in my life both emotionally and physically but it was also exciting and humbling.
It was a privilege to work with so many people who believe in the development of young people and are willing to give up all their annual leave to provide these teenagers with the trip like no other, to impart to them the skills they will need to navigate an increasingly complicated world and take them on an international adventure that they will remember for the rest of their lives – as will I.