“I thought the world was a big place, but no it is small”
The 15th World Scout Moot took place in Iceland 25th July – 5th August. I attended as one of 800 International Service Team (IST) members. The theme of the event was Change. The Moot organisers asked everyone to make some change. Mine was to meet with people from different Scouting backgrounds, and countries I had not interacted with before. Here you will find ten interviews with Scouters and Rovers, (and a Guider) who shared their Scouting history, life plans and stories about hiking.
After sharing a little insight into Scouting in Ireland with them, I gave each interviewee a set of SPICES beads.
-Ger Hennessy, Programme Scouter and Moot Media Team member
Asociación de Scouts de El Salvador
Camila ‘Cami’ Monico is 20. She comes from the Antiguo Cuscatlán municipality in the republic of El Salvador, in Central America. “It’s the second biggest city in ES”, she tells me, ”it’s bigger than Reykjavik”. Cami has been working with me on the World Scout Moot Media Team, her role being to manage social media and digital engagement of Scouts on World Scouting channels with the Events team. She has been working as an intern in the WSB office in Kuala Lumpur for the past 9 months.
Antinguo is 30 minutes from the sea. Cami joined her local Scout Group at age 8, as a Lobata (Cub Scout) and has been a Scout ever since. “I joined because my cousins were members”, she says, “I hung out with them a lot.” Three years ago, Cami was awarded a scholarship to attend the Interamerican Leadership Training event (https://www.facebook.com/IAR.LeadershipTraining/). The event aimed to create young leaders in the Interamerica (North, South and Central America) Scout Region. The event took place in Texas. “After the event we started service projects,” says Cami “I worked on projects which were of benefit to El Salvador.” The next year she had roles at National level in ES. “We developed an ES version of the ILT course,” she explains “with 40 direct participants.”
Scouting does not have a big profile in El Salvador. “There are difficulties due to the country’s situation”, Cami says “our focus in not so much on nature and the environment, but on education, because ES has the highest rate of illiteracy in Latin America. Only 20% go to University” Cami’s Scout Group works on projects with public schools, with the aim of getting graduates into university or skilled jobs.
Cami’s first job was at age 18 working with social media for a local web agency.
When the opportunity to work for WOSM came up, her family were very supportive, allowing her to postpone her studies. But the move was not easy. “The first few weeks were hard, “ she admits ”working in English, dealing with people from different countries and cultures, not knowing many people there.” She’s thankful for the many mentors she’s had in her Scouting life.
Cami once attended a National Rover camp in she was one of only 10 girls out of the 200 participants. Despite this she is happy that girls are treated the same. “It’s never been an issue!” she says.
Cami is very happy to be a Rover Scout, in a country where Rovers are dedicated to service. “I love it!” she exclaims. “It gives us the opportunity to work with young people in schools,” she continues, “and I love the reactions we get from young people when they see other young people who are there to help them.”
But what of the Moot? This was Cami’s first World event, and her first time in Europe. “It’s surprising how organised & clean everything is at this camp,” she says, ”and people here are
perhaps colder compared to latin people.”
Family is important to Cami. “We communicate five days a week through Whatsapp, with at least one phone call.” It’s 9 months since her move to KL, which took four flights and two days.
She’s only been able to travel home once in that time.
When I ask her about who inspires her Cami mentions world famous people like UN Secretary General and Malala Yousafzai. She also shared a personal story. Her uncle was a scout leader and he discovered some scouts in difficulty in a river. Unfortunately he lost his life while saving the life of these two young people. Cami is proud of her uncle and this event is an inspiration in her life.
Beli Christian Etou
Les Scouts du Burkina Faso
Beli Christian Etou is 22. He comes from Bobo-Dioulasso, the second biggest city in Burkina Faso in West Africa. He joined as an Éclaireur (Scout) at aged 13. He considers his scouting friends as his “new family, beautiful friends”. He is impressed by the shared single vision of Scouts around the world. “My group is mixed, Muslim and Christian, all are equal,” he says.
Burkina Faso represented at the Moot with the assistance of the Aurora programme, a solidarity fund established by the Moot hosts. The federation of the two Scout associations in BF , Fédération Burkinabé du Scoutisme were asked to nominate one Scout to attend the Moot. Beli was lucky enough to have been chosen. “I found out in March, that they had selected me,” he says.
Beli’s life is family centred. He studies in his local town. His day begins with greetings for his family members. Meals are shared and stories exchanged.
Beli has enjoyed the Moot, and has made many, many new friends. He has been keeping a diary of his experiences.
Daniel Morales Castro
Guias y Scouts de Costa Rica
Daniel Morales Castro is 26. He comes from San José, the capital city of Costa Rica, in Central America. He joined his local Lobatos (Cub Scout) at aged 7. “My uncle was a leader there”, Daniel tells me, ”my cousins were also joining and they didn’t want to be alone.”
After a gap of a few years , Daniel rejoined as a Tsuri (Senior Scout) at age 16. He really enjoyed camping and campfires. The symbolic framework used in CR builds on the symbolism of the indigenous people, with ceremonies similar to those uses by native cultures.
Daniel is a current Lobato leader. “Kids are awesome!” he says, ”they’re funny!” His scout name is ‘Happy’. Scout names are common in CR. I ask if this is ever an issue. “At the recent celebration camp for 100 years of cub scouting, whenever a lobato/a was separated from a group, all they could say about their pack leader was the name ‘Akela’!”
Daniel is a trainee pilot. His qualifications are FAA recognised, so he will be able to fly internationally. He prefers small planes to large commercial airlines. “It’s not really flying,” he explains, “it’s mostly switches and electronics in big planes! Also I’d prefer to transport cargo than have 200 lives in my hands every flight”. He’d like to work abroad, perhaps in Germany.
Daniel really enjoyed his Moot experience, working in the Information Centre, but it was not without difficulties. “Moving into the expedition centre was challenging,” Daniel says, “there were problems with lost baggage, running out of sugar, misinformation.” I ask if it is a thankless role. “We’re here to help,” he answers, “they need help. I help them. And afterwards I am happy that I have helped!”
I’ve long been a fan of Costa Rica, and it’s people “Ticos”. I ask Daniel why CR is considered amongst the happiest countries in the world. “Outsiders sometimes complain about services,” Daniel says, “we also complain, but when we do, we are nice to each other! The phrase ‘Pura Vida’ (Pure Life) mantra defines us. We haven’t had an army since 1948, and we value peace.”
This love of ‘peace’ does not always equate to ‘peace and quiet.’ One of the culture clashes encountered by the CR delegation, (and other latin delegations) is that they tend to sing and chant on regular occasions. “Our driver asked us to be quiet,” Daniel admits.
Xander Krolis is 22. He comes from Marie Pampoen, Willemstad, on the Caribbean island of Curaçao. It has a population of about 160,000. Xander was among c.100 Moot participants who, due to airline difficulties, arrived without any luggage. “All I had was my uniform, 1 pair of pants, and pyjamas,” he says, ”but everyone was so helpful. Scouts from Germany helped me with a tent and some extra clothes.”
He has really enjoyed his Moot. His highlight was the opening ceremony in a Reykjavik sports hall. “There was lots of cheering for Curaçao,” he recalls, “even tho we are only 2 participants!”
He met his Moot Patrol as they were loading bags onto the bus. His patrol had members from Brazil, Hong Kong, Argentina, the UK, Taiwan, Tunisia, and El Salvador. They were based in the Hveragerði expedition centre (pronounced “Hurdy Gurdy”).
The programme was based on hiking, hill-walking, trekking, walking and hillwalking.
“The first day we were supposed to walk 8km,” Xander tells me, ”but in the end we covered 18km. The next day there was a further 24km. The third day was gruesome. My feet had blisters, but I wanted to continue as the total distance was equal to the length of Curaçao.” The Red-Cross were required to treat his injuries at the end of the expedition. “I missed a little of the main ceremony,” he admits. All was not lost however, as he only has good things to say for the first aid team. “Everyone is happy there!” he says. He was patched up in time to wave his country’s flag at the end of the ceremony.
Xander joined the Royal rangers youth organisation at aged 5, but joined the local Scout Group at aged 7, and he’s still a member there. There was a short hiatus in his membership following a disagreement on a fishing trip, but it’s all good now.
Xander likes how Scouting helps youth with self growth. In 2014 he organised a training camp. He attended a Caribbean Jamboree instead of a family vacation and there he “saw a different world.” At the World Scout Jamboree in Japan he helped out at the Water Programme base.
Getting to the Moot has taken a lot of fundraising working with a tight budget of c.€10,000 for the delegation of two. This covered tents, equipment (which didn’t arrive in Iceland), travel and after-camp activities. Xander is grateful to all who have supported the delegation, and was planning on finding suitable souvenirs for them all.
As part of the expedition Xander ran a vlog (https://www.facebook.com/CuracaoScoutsJourneyIceland/) which he found really interesting. He was also looking for one badge from every contingent
Xander is a student of International business and management studies in the University of Curaçao. He’d like to take part in an exchange, maybe in Japan, Europe or the US. He’d like to set up a business, expanding, so that when the time is right he can retire. “I want to work so hard that I don’t have to work hard anymore,” he says.
Other members of the media team who heard me interviewing Xander were also impressed by his attitude. His review of the first-aid tent was included in a trip-advisor style article in the moot newspaper Ratatoskr.
Yiet Chern (Daniel) Lau
Persekutuan Pengakap Malaysia
Yiet Chern “Daniel” Lau is 26 ‘and a half’. He comes from Malaysia, but is currently living in the UK. His Moot expedition centre was Hólaskjól. As a member of the International Service Team he asked to work in programme. This involved lots of hikes, and helping out at a boating activity. “The hikes differed each day,” Daniel explains, “ one had a 20-metre river crossing. Another included sandy terrain, with views of lava fields. We had a sandstorm, but we didn’t stop. I’ve had some navigation experience from KISC, so I appreciated the task.” Not everything was as well prepared as it should have been. “I was leading a group with just 4 walkie talkies, and four assisting IST,” he says, “we had to get in touch with the subcamp every 20 minutes. Instead of a route card, the plan was to reach the top.”
Daniel joined his local Scout Group in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, at age 7. It’s a city close to Kuala Lumpur. It was a free-choice to join. He initially liked collecting badges, campfires and singing songs both traditional and new. He has since moved into Rovering both with Sea Scouts and actual land Scouts. “They have a different focus, but the goal of obtaining the BP Scout Award is shared”
Daniel is disappointed with the lack of awareness about Malaysia from his fellow Moot participants. “There’s a certain level of prejudice here,” he says “my country is not really known. People ask if I’m from Taiwan.” He has tried to increase awareness of Malaysia, as well as with the small delegation of Singapore, due to their shared colonial history.
He hopes that future Moots can overcome issues with visas, that poorer regions can be better supported in attending, and that indigenous peoples can be more represented. “The more open to diversity we are, the more enjoyable this event can become,” he concludes.
Mary Wangari Kariuki,
Wachira Mary ‘Petite’ Wanjiku
Kenya Scouts Association
Despite a plea to the contrary, Mary, 24, from Kenya and Mary, 24, from Kenya refuse to be interviewed separately. They have the same name but are different people. Where one quote ends and another begins is anyone’s guess. Between them they can speak four languages. “This was one of the best experiences of my life”, says Mary, “we’ve seen such beautiful scenery. ”Our friends had seen Iceland on tv and have asked us to bring back woollen clothes,” adds Mary, ”and ice-cream”.
Mary joined Scouts in secondary school. She thinks it represents all of the interests of young people. Scouting has a good reputation in Kenya, and generally people know what ‘scouts’ are.
Mary is a recently appointed female youth leader in Kenya. She hopes to represent the young who can feel bullied sometimes. She also hopes to show how Scouting is not just a commercial enterprise. “It’s about passion. Passion and nature.”
Karen Paola Zúñiga Rodríguez
Asociación de Scouts de Guatemala
(photo credit: Cami Monico)
Karen Paola Zúñiga Rodríguez is 21. She comes from the largest city in the Central American republic of Guatemala, Guatemala City.
She joined her local group at age 9, with no scouting in her family background. “I was shy,” she says, ”so it was suggested to do something without my little brother. Hopefully I would like it in Scouts”. She did.
“Scouting is the heart of my life!” she exclaims, “My life is built around it.” At a recent National Assembly meeting, she was elected as a Rover advisor to National Board. This was a newly created role. “They wanted someone different to represent youth/women”, she explains, “the other advisor is aged 20”.
Karen has run the GLT – Guatemalan leadership training – for 15-21 year olds, based on the ILT.
Scouting does not have a high-profile in Guatemala. “It’s a little invisible, “ she says, “we recently changed the colour of our uniform. Many people think we’ve gone!”
Karen is a third-year student of Sociology in University. She would love to do different research projects.
Guatemala is a traditional country, change comes slowly. Scouting there is no different. “We’ve recently elected the first lady in 10 years on to the national board.” she says, “People think Scouting is just for boys.” There is also competition from the Guiding organisation there.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Savez izviđača Bosne i Hercegovine
Mateja Trivić is 18. He comes from Banja Luka in northern Bosnia. “The Moot is really good,” he says, when asked for his impressions. “It’s a lot of fun,” he adds, when pressed for something more substantial. “It’s not as mixed as possible,” he notes “my patrol is mainly from Europe and South America.”
Mateja was based in Heimaland expedition centre. “I loved the campsite,” he tells me, “there are really beautiful views there. It wasn’t too cramped. There was a lot of space for games.” He is impressed with the landscapes. “There is so much beautiful scenery here, everything is much better kept than at home,” he thinks “I hope we can be more like Iceland.”
Mateja joined Scouting 2 years ago when he found out about his local group in high school. He’d known about Scouting long before then. “I dreamt about being a Scout as a child,” he says “I saw what Scouts do in a lot of movies!” He is impressed by the aims of Scouting. “We all have something in common, “ he says, “we’re all trying to be a friend to nature”.
Although Mateja is not old enough to remember, Bosnia was affected by civil war less than 25 years ago. I ask him how much Scouting has contributed to peace in the former Yugoslav countries. “We can do more, but times need to pass,” he says “it is working now, but we need to do more in future.”
Next on the agenda for Mateja is a university degree in mechanical engineering. He’d like to get qualified so he can join the family business.
The Peoples’ Republic of Cork
Lucy O Donovan
Irish Girl Guides
Lucy O Donovan is 23. She qualifies for this series of articles as she is from the non-circumscribable area of the island of Ireland known as ‘Cark’ and she is also a ‘Girl Guide’. I speak to her without the need of a translator. “The Moot’s been great,” she says, “it’s very good so far. It’s a new experience.”
No stranger to being a Guide in Scout branding, Lucy was also a participant at the previous Moot in Canada. “The programme is very different here.” she says, “I’m really interested to hear about Icelandic culture.” Being in an international patrol has meant that there were some communication barriers. “But we were overcame them, and learned to listen to other points of view.”
Lucy joined the Ladybirds at age 6 because of her best friend in primary school. “It was Thinking Day (Founder’s Day, 22 February) and they were being intercultural,” she explains “I wore a Japanese dress.” She was initially drawn to the friends she made, earning badges, especially the unusual ones.
Lucy has stuck with Guiding into adulthood as she feels the need to give back to the organisation that has given so much. “I get to travel the world, and meet new people.” Lucy is one of those people who likes to juggle a number of neckerchiefs – you know the ones. She helps out at weekend camps. She’s currently the I’m the IGG representative on the National Youth Council of Ireland’s International advisory Committee. She’s vice chair of the new communications team. “I’m just having a go!” she adds.
She’s a student of Marketing, Innovation & Technology up in Dublin. “There’s lots of project work,” she says, “which I like.” She’s improved SEO for a real company, and is proud to see it has improved the click-through rate.
So, has the fact that she’s not a Scout been an issue at the World Scout Moot? “They all know I’m in the Guides,” she admits, “but I’m used to Scouting because most of my camps are with Guides and Scouts.”
Her ‘civilian’ friends think it’s pretty cool, and they are always amazed by her packing skills. “You quickly learn how to be a very very savvy packer in Guides!”
What are the differences she sees between the two Movements? “I like Guiding’s aim of ‘Giving Girls Confidence’ and ‘Free Being Me’” she says, “and I think Scouting does really well at youth empowerment.”
Lucy doesn’t think a merger of Scouting and Guiding will ever happen in Ireland, but wouldn’t be surprised if the IGG and the Catholic Guides of Ireland ever united. “IGG, CGI co-exist peacefully,” she explains, “because of geography there’s not much of an overlap and CGI also have an open policy, despite their name”. Given how much time it took for SI to merge, she doesn’t think the Guides will move anytime soon.
Whenever she meets Irish Scouts, she finds it is her duty to convince them that Guides are not idiots. “After some interaction, they say stuff like ‘Wow you’re not horrible people’ and ‘you’re actually really nice’!” Praise indeed.
Saudi Arabian Boy Scouts Association
Faris Alzayedi is 24. I speak with Faris as interpreted by Joseph Yazbeck from the Lebanon. Faris has been very impressed by the Moot. “It’s very good,” he says “we have worked as one team with unity! It has been good to meet new people, new friends, new cultures.”
Faris appreciates the way that so many people have learned to work together. “We met all cultures, but everyone respects the laws of the Scout community,” he says.
Faris joined Scouts at age 15 or 16, through school. Someone encouraged him to join, and after some reluctance he loved it. I ask him what motivates him to keep going week after week. The question seems unusual to him. “It’s an unconscious thing, I never think of stopping!” he says.
What will he say to others considering coming to such a big event? He thinks that it is difficult to prepare oneself for this. Even when you think you are ready, you are mistaken. “I thought the world was a big place, but no it is small. Be ready with excitement – it will be a great experience!” he says.