A World of Scouting Opportunities

A local Scout council’s international representative is an important resource for promoting the world brotherhood of Scouting.


In 1998, the opening ceremony at the world jamboree in Chile featured BSA Scouts clad in their tan uniforms, the Swiss in red, Salvadorans in bright blue. Each country’s Scouts could be identified easily by their different-colored uniforms. Jamboree chaplain Rabbi Peter Hyman tells of seeing the vast hillside where the just-arrived Scouts sat and recalls its distinct blocks of color. To him, it looked like a gigantic patchwork quilt.

Dutch teenage Ventures gather at the 21st World Scout Jamboree in England.

Nine days later, though, when the Scouts gathered again for the jamboree’s closing ceremony, Hyman was struck by how the scene had changed. It no longer resembled a quilt at all but looked as if someone had dumped tons of confetti on the terrain, transforming it into a speckled sea of multicolored flecks.
Sure, some Scouts had traded uniforms. But the confetti effect Hyman saw that day represented meaningful evidence of the importance of international Scouting.

During their time together, the world’s Scouts had become friends who no longer wished to confine themselves to their own familiar groups. They had become comfortable mingling with boys and girls of different nationalities and cultures. Social, political, and geographical boundaries had merged.

“Lots of dividing lines are erased by the end of a world jamboree,” Hyman explains.

Still, it doesn’t take a world jamboree to define the universal appeal of Scouting. An essential BSA council volunteer, the international representative (IR) can connect Scouts to many Scouting events at home and abroad every year.

Kent Clayburn, chairman of the BSA’s International Committee, says BSA Scouters should know that “Scouting is a worldwide movement, in 216 countries and territories around the world. There are very few countries that don’t have a Scouting program.

“It’s important for our youth members to understand that they’re part of something bigger than what they see. Scouting is a world brotherhood.” (See World Organization of the Scout Movement at www.scout.org.)

International camp staff

Clayburn says the IR’s most basic task is to arrange participation in the BSA’s International Camp Staff program. When a council invites a foreign Scouter to join its summer camp staff, any camper can meet this young man or woman and learn about his or her country’s Scouting program and culture. In 2007, Scouters from Cameroon, Taiwan, Egypt, Slovakia, and Moldova were among countries represented on BSA camp staffs.

One such visitor, Gaetjens Bousy, a law student from Haiti, taught Scout program skills in several “round-robin” sessions when he served on 2006 and 2007 camp staffs in the Daniel Boone Council (Asheville, N.C.).

Scouts at Switzerland’s Kandersteg International Scout Centre join in the festive activities for Scouting’s centennial on Aug. 1, 2007.

“We find that teaching method is effective because it exposes the international staff member to more than one group,” says IR Pete Armstrong, who also serves as Skipper of Sea Scout Ship 758.

Armstrong’s international committee of eight, all veteran world travelers, includes Sea Scout Jenny Wallen, 20, of Asheville. “We think it’s important to have a youth voice on the committee,” Armstrong says, “because that’s what the program is all about.”

Aware that Wallen had an interest in Japanese culture and the country’s language, Armstrong nominated her for the Scout Association of Japan-BSA Friendship Program. She was chosen for the Asian-Pacific Region International Youth Forum in 2006, where she chaired a discussion group with Scouts from the United States, Japan, Sri Lanka, and French Polynesia.

“We discussed the Scouting community on a global level,” Jenny says, “and we looked at how Scouting was different from, or the same as, our own program. We also learned about teamwork and how to overcome the language barrier.”

Scouts as world citizens

That concern for teamwork in every facet of the program is why Bob Russell, IR in the San Francisco Bay Area Council, and his committee take every opportunity to heighten awareness of international Scouting. They turn up at the council’s Scoutorama, University of Scouting, and other events that adult leaders attend, manning display areas, giving talks about future events, and presenting classes that teach how to plan international activities.

The Scout Association of Japan-BSA Friendship Program allows U.S. Scouts and Venturers to make a 10-day cultural visit to Japan.

The Scouts, Russell says, “develop not only an awareness of international Scouting in the program but also an awareness of their responsibilities as world citizens.

In 2004, with a focus on international Scouting and travel, Russell’s committee chartered Venturing Crew 27. Many of its members attended the world jamboree in Thailand in 2003, and a small group returned in 2004 to help build two Habitat for Humanity houses. The Venturers worked alongside Thai volunteers.

Though none of the Venturers spoke Thai, and none of the Thai knew more than a few words of English, that didn’t hinder their progress.

“Everyone was excited and genuinely appreciative,” says crew leader Chris Stiles, who’s now 21 and living in Colorado Springs, Colo. “You’re helping, and you’re getting so much out of it.”

Cub Scouts welcome

In the Crossroads of America Council (Indianapolis, Ind.), international committee members set up a
booth at pow wow, the Cub Scout leader training day in the fall. Last year, IR Carol Bick and her committee emphasized Sweden’s 2011 World Scout Jamboree. Bick wanted leaders to “light the fire in the Webelos Scouts” by telling them, “This is something you’ll want to do when you’re 14 or 15.”

Venturers from San Francisco’s Crew 27 help build a Habitat for Humanity home in Thailand.

In the Orange County Council (Santa Ana, Calif.), Jamboree on the Air and Jamboree on the Internet connect Scouts around the world via ham radio and the Internet. The October weekend event is open 24 hours at several locations.

“We’ll talk to kids in New Zealand, Japan, Britain, South Africa, all over the world,” says IR Marc Aarons. It’s a way “to get the kids excited about international Scouting and to build good will.”

Events and exchanges

Aarons’s 20-member international committee provides information for units and districts, and world Scouting has a prominent place on the council Web site.

The “Important Dates” page lists local and international events for leaders to consider, including adventures like the December 2008 New Zealand Winter Trip and the 2009 Kilimanjaro/Britain Exchange.

Last year, Orange County’s international committee began promoting the BSA’s European Camp Staff program, in which Scouters ages 18 to 30 apply for summer volunteer positions. One Scouter worked at a Swedish camp and another at Kandersteg.

Together in Michigan

In 1994, when IR Bruce McCrea of the Chief Okemos Council (Lansing, Mich.) took Scouts to eastern Europe, he learned that troops there wanted to visit the United States. As Scoutmaster of Troop 180, he also knew of Scouts in his council who couldn’t afford to travel overseas.

A United Kingdom Scout sits among Scouts from 159 other countries at the world jamboree.

His solution: the first Michigan International Camporee (MIC), in 1997. (See “Celebrating the Spirit,” Scouting, May-June, 1998.)

This summer’s MIC will become the council’s fourth year to host the event. More than one-third of
the youth attending the event arrive from outside the United States and Canada. They spend a week in the homes of local Scouts and Venturers before attending the weeklong camporee at the council’s Northwoods Scout Reservation.

Building bridges

The BSA’s international program frequently establishes similar new friendships with Scouting organizations in other countries.

Dr. Bruce Trefz of Gastonia, N.C., a member of the BSA International Committee, was one of two BSA representatives, who visited the Muslim Scouts of Algeria in 2006. In 2007, Algerian Scouters visited camps in the United States.

“The future is going to write itself beautifully,” Trefz says of international Scouting. “Once we get the kids together in a program, the magic happens.”

A force for peace

Dr. Harold Friend, who chairs the IR recruitment effort on the BSA International Committee, says there are at least two major benefits associated with this international movement.

“First, it’s motivation to stay in Scouting as a youth,” he says. “And second, it’s motivation to come back to Scouting as an adult.”

But there’s another vital reason, too. Besides being an educational initiative, international Scouting also is a peace initiative, and peace is a prime goal expressed by the World Organization of the Scout Movement.

Riding on flights home from world jamborees, Bob Russell has asked Scouts what they’ve learned from the experience. One said, “If I had a friend from another country, it would be really hard to go to war with that country.”

“All of a sudden,” Russell says, “they have a different perspective, a different worldview.”

One such Venturer is Matt Davis, now 22, from East Lansing, Mich. In 2004, he participated in the friendship program in Japan.

“When my grandpa was 18,” Matt says, “he was lying facedown on the beach getting shot at by Japanese soldiers… I built sand castles on the beach with my Japanese host brothers when I was 18.

“I don’t think we have a perfect world yet, but I realized then that we were moving in the right direction. For me, international Scouting will always be a big part of forging peace and understanding among the world’s youth.”

Contributing editor Suzanne Wilson lives in Joplin, Mo.

Job Description for A Council’s International Representative

Three-quarters of the BSA’s councils have international representatives.

Wayne Perry, BSA International Commissioner, says a Scouter doesn’t have to know a foreign language but should:

  • have already made an international Scouting trip or an international trip with family or for business.
  • know what is involved for visitors entering the United States (such as visa and customs procedures).
  • have a thorough understanding of the BSA program. Foreign Scouters often want information and ideas.
  • be approved by the council Scout executive.

Good Travel Advice To Know Before You Go

International representative Bruce McCrea is Scoutmaster of Troop 180 and works with Venturing crews in Lansing, Michigan’s Chief Okemos Council. He has written an article, “Suggestions for Traveling Overseas With Boy Scouts and Venturers.” Useful for any destination, the
advice is especially helpful for travel in Europe. It is available atwww.troopcrew180.org/international/inat-travelguide.htm.

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