If you’re a scout, you’re likely familiar with the World Scout Jamboree (WSJ), one of the most significant events that occurs every four years.
The 25th World Scout Jamboree (WSJ) took place from August 1 to August 11 in Korea and brought together approximately 43,000 participants from 158 countries, including 400 participants from Malaysia.
This time, the event was organized by the Korea Scout Association with the theme “Draw Your Dream.”
Exclusive interview with IST members at the 25th World Scout Jamboree
Despite its grand scale, the jamboree encountered several logistical challenges.
For an insider’s perspective on this event, we had the opportunity to interview Zu Wen Ng and Zhi Yuan Cheong, both members of Tsun Jin High School Boy Scout & Girl Scout and the International Service Team (IST) at the WSJ.
For context, participants at the World Scout Jamboree (WSJ) are young scouts below 18 years old who represent their countries, engaging in scouting activities and cultural exchanges.
They also camp together and immerse themselves in the jamboree’s many programs.
In contrast, the International Service Team (IST) consists of volunteers and staff from diverse backgrounds who work behind the scenes. They handle logistics, administration, health, safety, and other essential roles that ensure the jamboree’s smooth operation.
Both participants and IST members play crucial roles in making the WSJ a successful and memorable event for those involved.
25th World Scout Jamboree: What went wrong?
19-year-old scout member Zhi Yuan, first shared his side of the story.
According to him, he faced problems such as inadequate facilities, infrequent shuttles, and sanitation shortcomings, which were very evident.
For example, there were few toilets, and the frequency of buses was low, causing delays to our work.
Besides, there wasn’t any water facilities near the place I worked until the last few days of the jamboree.
As reported by international media outlets, as a result of the lack of water facilities, a total of 108 scouts reportedly fainted and were transported to the on-site hospital even before the conclusion of the opening ceremony, with over 400 participants requiring medical treatment during the first few days of the event.
‘Not the worst nightware but a valuable experience’
Despite the harsh criticism from South Korean media outlets, who have described the hosting of the World Scout Jamboree as a “national disgrace”, a “real life Squid Game” and a “worst nightmare,” Zu Wen, the 18-year-old President of Tsun Jin High School Scout, offered a different perspective:
The camping aspect was okay, just that the facilities were slightly below our expectations.
I was mentally prepared for the weather conditions and the lack of facilities, so nothing shocked me.
To be frank, I didn’t mind. I was part of the pioneering group and got to understand scout cultures from different countries, so I think that’s the main point of the event.
To exacerbate the distress, the media reports have also amplified worries among the parents of these scouts in Malaysia about their children’s safety and well-being, although Zu Wen believes that the reports were exaggerated.
He also further added that he was fully prepared for the event despite some disruptions due to Movement Control Order(MCO) in Malaysia.
Managed to find positive and enriching experiences
Despite the challenges they faced, Zu Wen and Zhi Yuan managed to find positive and enriching experiences during their time at the Jamboree.
Zu Wen shared his enjoyment in observing foreign scouts’ inventive pioneering ideas as they relentlessly worked on constructing various innovative structures.
For Zhi Yuan, the opportunity to explore a town specially prepared for the Jamboree was a key highlight, allowing him to immerse himself in the vibrant tapestry of Korean culture.
Both also emphasized the development of their communication skills. Zu Wen, who initially had social anxiety, found the experience helpful. “I learned how to interact better with people from different backgrounds,” he said.
As for Zhi Yuan, he found the experience helpful in understanding cultural taboos and boundaries.
Reflecting on the power of media
When asked about his views about on media reports about the less-than-ideal conditions, Zhi Yuan maintained a pragmatic perspective, noting that while the environment may not have lived up to its initial expectations, it remained bearable.
Zu Wen echoed these sentiments, suggesting that the media had exaggerated certain aspects.
He went on to highlight the UK contingent’s predicament, explaining that some of them reluctantly departed due to exaggeration by the media, and not due to insurmountable challenges faced at the event.
The media has exaggerated some aspects. Even the UK contingent didn’t want to leave but they had to because their insurance wouldn’t cover them after the media hype.”
Standing their ground: An emotional moment for Malaysian scouts
Before the UK contingent pulled out, our Malaysian team had a discussion. Everyone said we should persevere and showcase the resilience of Malaysians. I found it very touching,” Zu Wen emotionally shared.
He added, “To my knowledge, the UK, Singapore, and the US contingent pulled out midway. By September 9, all countries evacuated due to weather conditions.”
The evacuation plan involved moving the scouts to university dormitories.
The South Korean government arranged for foreign scouts to stay in dorms, and I can sense the hospitality and sincerity of the organizing committee who really wanted to help us.”
After evacuating, Zu Wen recounted on what he did with the other scouts. “We had two days; one day involved activities at the beach and obstacle courses, while the other was spent indoors in the dorms due to rain and an incoming typhoon, where we visited different dorms and chatted.”
“On August 11, we took a bus to the Seoul World Cup Stadium for the closing ceremony. The experience wasn’t great,” Zu Wen noted, with a hint of disappointment in his voice.
Lasting impact and recommendations
For Zu Wen, the event was an opportunity to showcase to everyone the resilience of Malaysians
We were one of the few countries to stick it out, and that made me proud.”
Both also recommend others to attend a World Scout Jamboree but with a caveat – “Be prepared and go in with an open mind,” advised Zu Wen.
As the dust settles on the 25th World Scout Jamboree, the experiences and lessons learnt by these young scouts remain invaluable. Despite the logistical setbacks and media scrutiny, the event was a unique cultural exchange platform that both Zu Wen and Zhi Yuan will cherish for a lifetime.