I hope you forgive this self endulgent post and enjoy it for what it is: my account of the best day of scouting that I have experienced which, to me and those there, is a
I hope you forgive this self endulgent post and enjoy it for what it is: my account of the best day of scouting that I have experienced which, to me and those there, is a true celebration of scouting. My hope is to encourage you, as a leader, to embrace international scouting for yourself.
Setting the Scene
The venue is Kraganäs Scout Campsite in Sweden. By far, the venue of the best scout camp I have experienced. The day is Wednesday and by this point, Weyfarers Explorer Unit has enjoyed much of what scouting is about – canoeing on open waters, swimming first thing in the morning, cooking outdoors and meeting people from a variety of cultures. We’d been joined by groups from The Netherlands, Sweden and Austria.
Even before arriving at Kraganäs we knew of a fire ban that meant that open fires were not an option. We had coped perfectly well with hired gas burners from the campsite. However, Wednesday lunchtime all groups had news that as of 4pm there were to be no open flames at all. We no longer could cook outside. This was a challenge for us, all of us. We got together and planned.
Together, we emptied a storage container of fridges and moved in our cookers and kitchen equipment. Representatives from each group then shared in preparing food for 80 Scouts and leaders. Sweden offered their space for shared dinning. A table that they had crafted was just the right size for the 20 leaders.
The cooking happened with everyone working together. It had already been established, slightly to our embarrassment, that English was the common language. Planning happened quickly and the cooking was a breeze. Youngsters began working together, not necessarily in their natural pairings, chatting or listening to music while preparing what became a great feast.
At the end of the cooking we sat down, shared food and shared stories. Leaders comparing lives, chatting over the challenges and experiences of camp so far; the canoeing was tough; not having a fire was disappointing, but the weather was great for being outdoors all the time; the lad that damaged his collarbone was doing ok and had slept… and while the leaders chatted the Scouts did too.
The Scouts sat in two large mixed groups. Brits, Dutch, Swedes and Austrians all exchanging stories and, it turns out, Messenger / What’s App contacts! The air was filled with the buzz of contentment, chatting and laughing. It was great to see.
Using the Swedes’ washing up work station, which truly was a work of art(!), everyone washed their kit and the shared cooking equipment. My best day of scouting was not over; we then headed to the campfire.
Next to the bay where we swam and canoed from, there are rocks that surround a flat area. Behind us the sun began to set over the water, the sky becoming red. In front of us a fire extinguisher sat as the centre piece to what would normally have been a fire. On the rocks, generally in national groups but with a few international groups, expectant explorers sat. Nils, one of the campsite hosts led the most brilliant campfire that I have been a part of. Hosted in English but with all countries joining in in their native tongue, songs were sung, sketches performed and fun had. The Swedes went to so much effort and sang a Summer song over us, sharing the experience with a couple of representatives from each group, giving flower garlands to those joining in the dance. At the centre of the dance was a well made fertility symbol, a mix of a cross but with round protrusions to the side.
After this special time, we all headed back to the campsite for a football match.
The Netherlands had laid out the football pitch and were to provide the referee. Austria, playing left to right fielded a formidable team while GB made use of a couple of additional players from The Netherlands to boost their team.
For an hour or so the teams played with everyone watching, cheering and connecting through this fantastic experience. The Kraganäs team joined us and cheered our teams on.
Respectful handshakes marked the end of a hard fought game and, with the group gathering together, small groups took it upon themselves to sing to the rest of the group. Any song by ABBA was a crowd pleaser with singers, dancers, phone lights waved above heads and a happy buzz filling the evening air.
The End of My Best Day of Scouting. Ever.
I sat with a Swedish counterpart enjoying the simplicity of dozens of young people, just being young people. No attitudes, no prejudices, just one group enjoying each other’s company. It was fantastic. He wanted to get his younger Scouts to bed, but agreed it would be a shame to end what was happening.
This one day has become my best day of Scouting.
I got to collaborate with strangers in order to feed teenagers; led groups that didn’t know me in order to achieve common goals; was helped when one of my Explorers put a knife through his thumb by leaders from Sweden and the Netherlands; sat between an Austrian genetic scientist and an Austrian doctor to compare leader stories and gain some understanding of how their groups are successful. I have exchanged Scout scarves (tying my offering with a friendship knot before handing it over) with the genetic scientist and will be wearing her gift during the new term.
That is, I think, what scouting can do. Inspire, excite and challenge.
I loved that day.