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Sunday, 1 December 2013

Money, Money, Money...

Must be funny in a rich man's world. Abba's dress sense might not have always been on the money, if you'll pardon the pun, but their lyrics certainly ring true! In terms of fundraising we are looking at around £140,000 by Summer in 2015. Some have described it as "impossible" and have told us to "jog on" (both me actually) but we, well... the group, seem to think we can do it! Part of the money we raise for the 36 Young People and 4 Leaders in the Unit goes towards helping Scouts from less advantaged backgrounds in countries, such as Kenya, join us in Japan.

So this weekend the mammoth task  began with 2 Xmas fairs: one at my school in Warwick and the other in my village, Bodicote. With a stall booked at each all we had to do was decide on our product. Although the idea of selling off Scouts and Explorers to the highest bidder seemed to be very popular, mainly with the parents in the unit, we settled with chocolate apples and biscuits. On Friday night we met and worked late into the night creating and wrapping our chocolate apples. James and Orlando showed some outstanding initiative, even Lord Sugar would have been amazed, by creating a new product: The Diet Chocolate Apple. Unlike its full fat brother, the apple is only half covered in chocolate. Some have called it "revolutionary in the world of chocolatey fruit" and "it will change the way we look at food" (I really must stop quoting myself) I should point out it had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I had not bought enough chocolate to fully cover all the apples.

On Saturday, we were off to Warwick. James, Harry and I were behind the stall. After a slow start, not helped by me constantly buying and eating our own stock, things began to heat up. Loads of people were interested in our adventure and donated generously to  our cunningly placed money bucket. The stock we had left over I then sold at 1st Bodicote's Xmas fair. Overall, I think we raised around £230 which isn't too shoddy. As they say "every little helps"! (Other supermarkets are available)

"Morgan, is that you on page 6 of the Banbury Cake?"

"Yes, yes it is!" - Sadly this is only a hypothetical conversation (at the moment). But after the past few weeks' media frenzy around the unit I'm sure it will become a reality soon. With a nice, cheesy photo of me Young Leading at 1st Bodicote Beavers (not Cubs as it reads in the papers) I was rather chuffed with the article!

If you missed them check the articles out:

Banbury Cake
Oxford Mail
Oxford Journal

In other news, the Oxfordshire Unit logo has been unveiled. It looks pretty awesome!

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

1st Training Camp (JOTA-JOTI)

It's late on a Friday night, and as I look around me I can see the faces of the Oxfordshire Unit to Japan. Already, I call them my friends. This is our first, of many, training camps away together in which we practise skills needed for our adventure. The venue was Youlbury Scout Activity Center, it seemed like only the day before that we were in the same place competing for 1 of the 36 places. But now we were all together, discussing how we each reacted to our letters. We were participating in JOTA-JOTI (Jamboree On The Airwaves - Jamboree On The Internet) an international event that connects Scouts from all across the globe through the use of technology. It was also a relaxed opportunity for us to bond as a unit.

Fundraising was a hot topic of conversation,  and we all had plenty of ideas. One of the more alarming suggestions was some sort of public waxing in which a normal member of the public would pay a certain amount to pull off a strip of body hair. What exactly Doris from down the road would get out of such a cruel and sadistic act, is past me, but I'm assured that it would bring in the dosh. Hopefully we will not reach a stage where this is necessary, but I fear that with such an enormous target of £130,000 you may very well in the near future, whilst popping into your local Greggs, hear the screams of an adolescent publicly losing his dignity (as well as a serious portion of his leg hair).

We managed to talk to fellow Scouts who were also going to Japan, held a virtual campfire with some Finnish Scouts and I even got to discuss the US Government shutdown with some charming US Girl Scouts. By far the highlight for me was to Skype my Scouting brother, Andres, from Columbia. We met on JOTI last year, and have been messaging each other ever since. We managed to set up Skype and it was great to finally talk to him in the flesh, about his culture and Scouting in his country. I persevered in explaining the laws of cricket to him, although I fear I may have failed miserably! I did not have much success, either, with describing what a Yorkshire pudding is! Despite the language barrier we spoke for hours, and I am honoured to call him a close friend. This is a great example of the power that Scouting has to unite young people across the world, and we all left with a taste of what to expect in Japan!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

The News!

The letter has arrived! For the past 3 days I have not been able to stop thinking about Japan, but the waiting is over. I had no idea how I'd done, but it was going to be tough with there only being 36 places for 170 applicants. My mum brought the letter when she came to collect me from the train station from school, I was going to wait until I got home but I couldn't resist it. I ripped open the envelope, in the car, and unfolded the sheet of paper. My eyes, scanned the paper until I saw the words: you have been selected. I got in! I couldn't believe it, I was going to Japan. I would be camping with 30,000 other Scouts for 12 days in one of the most culturally different countries to my own I could go to. A World Jamboree is a once-in-a-lifetime event, I was ecstatic. Of course, I felt bad for those who had sadly not managed to get on but it is important to remember that Scouting is a movement, and there is always a new opportunity just round the corner. I recognised that this was the beginning of a 2 year journey, a new adventure that would come with its own difficulties. Mainly in the challenge of fundraising £130,000 to get us all out there!

Selection Weekend

On Friday 20th September 2013 around 170 Scouts and Explorers, myself included, from all across Oxfordshire descended on Youlbury Scout Activity Center for a weekend camp. The aim: to be selected for 1 of the 36 places in the Oxfordshire Unit to the 23rd World Scout Jamboree in Japan, 2015.

After being given a numbered vest, which was used for us to be marked, I was introduced to my patrol who I would be camping with for the next 2 days. I recognised a few from previous District/County events but the majority I had never met before. Within seconds I had tried to identify any fellow cricket fans, my textbook conversation starter, but in a move that I suspected was planned by the selectors I was surrounded by 'non-lovers'. Despite this barrier, we quickly began to form bonds and my very poor knowledge of Oxfordshire's geography became far too apparent as we exchanged which Scout groups/Explorer units we all came from. Once we had erected our tents, which is far more difficult in the dark and without enough pegs (my fault entirely), all the applicants came together for a big welcome from Unit Leader, Mike Suggate. I 'got to know' some of my new friends, in a giant human worm with some rather cosy moments. It was only then, whilst nearly suffocating in one pretty rowdy conga line, that I truly grasped how many of us there were! Already, though, I felt completely at home and all initial awkwardness had disappeared entirely.

The challenges began on Saturday, we were put through our paces with a huge range of tasks. Volleyball became particularly competitive and three-legged football resulted in me spending most of the time crawling around on all fours, trying not to be trampled.  Our schedule was jam-packed, we were challenged physically and mentally whilst being marked by assessors on our teamwork, communication skills etc. Hands sore from a particularly aggressive defeat in a war of tug, we returned tired but smiling to our camp for lunch. A classic Japanese dish of noodles was on the menu, but after 30 minutes with us the noodles resembled something quite different from anything fit for human consumption!

In the evening, we all came together for one of the best campfires I've seen. Old classics, joined with some very modern and relevant sketches made it a very entertaining evening. I am glad to report that all were done tastefully and within the realms of appropriateness, I suspect this might be because the assessors were still marking us. 'We like traffic lights' seemed to become the anthem of the camp, although it did become rather grating when renditions were still ringing out late into the night and the next day.

 'The Gang'
Sunday morning saw more challenges, the first of which was to wake my fellow camper, James Bushrod, which is far harder than it sounds. Demands for bacon, which some of us had gone without for over 36 hours, became widespread and there were fears of some sort of Lord of the Flies situation. Fortunately, a substitute of ham was given to us for Sunday's lunch which quelled any tribal uprisings. I also got my first true insight into Japanese culture from Paul Thompson, CMT for Japan, who helped us make Japanese origami cranes and shared the story of Sadako Saskai. Sadako was a Japanese girl who lived near to Hiroshima and was exposed to radiation from the atomic bomb when she was 2 years old. She developed Leukaemia and whilst in a nursing home began to make a 1000 cranes as according to Japanese legend you will be granted one wish if you create a 1000 cranes. She sadly died before she could reach her target, and now people leave cranes at her statue in her honour. Part of the Jamboree program is a day visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, and to see her statue. I think I can speak for all of us when I say how touched we were by this story, and it gave us an insight into the history and culture of Japan. It was a sobering way to end the fantastic range of activities for the weekend.

In what felt like a graduation ceremony, we ended the weekend by throwing our numbered vests in the air, liberated of the confounds of just digits. Cries of "I am a person, not a number" rang out. Looking back, it refreshed my passion for what Scouting is about. To see so many of us work together so well and form new friendships was, I feel, a tribute to the quality of young people in Oxfordshire. It was one of the best camps I've been on, if I was successful in being selected or not!