Vikki McIntyre, AESL with Meadows Explorers, Braid District, shares her experiences of supporting World Scout Jamborees over the years.

IST Handbooks over the years 

The summer of 2019 saw 36 Scouts and 4 Leaders represent South East Scotland Region at the World Scout Jamboree in West Virginia, but did you know that 9 Leaders also attended to support the Jamboree as International Service Team (IST)?

The IST is a huge team of volunteers aged 18+, who come from all over the world to help run the World Scout Jamboree. Their roles are highly varied from running visitor tours, managing a Subcamp, leading activities, coordinating repairs, or even working in the Jamboree shop. The organisers fit the volunteers to the roles as best as possible based on their skills and interests. A Jamboree aims to be the most exhilarating, life changing, cultural experience for the participants, and the IST are the cogs that work together to keep the Jamboree machine going. It can be intense, working long, hard hours, but it’s an opportunity like no other to experience how Scouting is done across the world all in one place.

There is a selection process to join the IST which is run by the UK Contingent, and varies from Jamboree to Jamboree, but usually consists of an application form and a selection day at an Activity Centre. During the selection day candidates are interviewed, complete team challenges and complete a service project on site. The UK Contingent also organises two National camps, an IST weekend and an All Adult weekend which includes the Unit Leaders. These events aim to help prepare the volunteers before the Jamboree, not to mention some socialising before the hard work begins! Before the 2019 Jamboree, the Scottish IST also got together to support the Scottish Units at the two pre-Jamboree events, organise badges and t-shirts, and co-ordinate a herd of cuddly toy cows on Instagram (#BrooCoo for those of you who are curious).

2019: Some of the Scottish IST after a Ceilidh – spot the #BrooCoos

 I joined Scouting too late to be a participant at a World Scout Jamboree, but I have been fortunate to attend 4 World Scout Jamborees as IST: 2007 in the UK; 2011 in Sweden; 2015 in Japan; and 2019 in the US. My roles have all been part of the Programme Team, mostly in the Global Development Village (a collection of workshops focused on engaging the Scouts in taking action on global issues), but most recently I was asked to co-lead the Cultural Exchange Basecamp Activities Team. This role put me in charge of a team of 60 volunteers, where I was responsible for planning activities for the participants in their subcamps. In the run up to the Jamboree, I took part in lots of video calls with the wider Jamboree Planning Team that didn’t finish until 1am UK time (thank you time difference…). In April 2019, 4 months before the Jamboree, I travelled to the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia for the Programme Site Visit. This was a fantastic opportunity to see the site and then spend the rest of the day discussing the latest updates to the Jamboree plans. This really helped build the bigger picture of how our team plans were going to pan out. It all worked out right in the end and we delivered a fantastic programme for the participants on their subcamps with – only a few minor bumps in the road, and only a few extra grey hairs!

Being IST can be an emotional rollercoaster, working so hard, meeting so many new people from around the world, it can be overwhelming, and it can be a challenge to adapt. In Sweden I actually changed jobs 3 times in one day as they needed to rejig some of the teams! The days can be long and tiresome, and depending on your role, you might go a few days without seeing any participants, or even your tentmates at all. But it’s so satisfying knowing that all the work you’re doing is making a difference to the scout’s experience – and potentially change their outlook on life. In Japan, while running workshops, we introduced participants to the then soon to be launched UN Sustainable Development Goals, we challenged the participants to find ways to make positive change in their communities and it made me realise the massive impact the Jamboree has beyond the campsite. Baden-Powell’s ethos of “leaving the world a little better than you found it” well and truly in practice.

It’s not all hard work though – there’s also plenty of opportunities to kick back and enjoy your spare time at the Jamboree. Badge swapping takes on a whole new level, culture day shows you exactly how many different international ways there are to cook pancakes, and the ceremonies reveal that partying is a universal language! My favourite Jamboree memories involve Ceilidhs. As Scots, we often have a lot of interest in our culture and its great fun sharing it with as many people as possible. I love getting my international friends to join in the chaos of hundreds of scouts trying to keep up with the moves, then seeing the joy on their face when they realise it’s not as hard as it looks. But it’s also the quieter times: like playing UNO with your team before your shift starts; bumping into an old friend in the dinner queue; or making new ones pitching tents. The Jamboree atmosphere is electric, and it sparks the most amazing moments.


2019: With Angel, an IST from Mexico

The Jamboree also gives you amazing opportunities to travel – not just to and from the campsite! The last two Jamborees there the UK Contingent have organised a range of UK IST Tours after the Jamboree to let the volunteers experience more of the host or neighbouring countries. For those who prefer a more package style of travel or just a more social group to travel with, these tours can be a fantastic extension of the Jamboree and delay the inevitable “Post Jamboree Blues”.

The 25th World Scout Jamboree is due to be held in South Korea in 2023, celebrating their Centenary year with the theme “Draw your Dream”. Selection for the UK contingent IST usually begins roughly 2 years in advance, to allow for the training and fundraising required to get to the Jamboree, and you can find out more and register your interest in any adult role at .

If you are interested in volunteering at a jamboree but don’t want to wait until 2023 or want to stay closer to home – there’s lots of more local options! Blair Atholl is an International Jamborette held in Perthshire every 2 years (though due to the ongoing pandemic it has been sadly cancelled for 2020), and a number of Jamborees are across the UK each summer, for example, Auchengillan Jamboree, Poacher Jamboree, and Kent Jamboree. There’s always demand for adults to help as staff to support their events – so what are you waiting for?

Vikki McIntyre
AESL with Meadows Explorers, Braid District

2015: Running a workshop in GDV