We recently caught up with Carys, who attended the last World Scout Jamboree as a Unit Member, to find out what makes a good Unit Leader.

Hi there, I’m Carys and I attended the World Scout Jamboree in West Virginia as a member of Unit 47. During the build up to and the Jamboree itself, everyone spent a considerable amount of time with our unit leaders, so it goes without saying that prospective unit leaders should enjoy the company of young people and be willing to spend loooaddddssss of time with them– you are never left alone!

Way before the Jamboree itself, there are both formal and informal events that are held for young people to meet with their unit leaders and other unit members. From a young person’s perspective, creating a good first impression is crucial in order to establish a positive relationship with others, so thinking of creative ways to first meet up with your unit is a good idea. (Our first social event was playing crazy golf which was really good fun.) 

Due to the amount of events beforehand and the scale of the Jamboree itself, organisation is key. As every member will be under 18, any last minute changes to plans may have an impact on parents and carers as they may provide the taxi service! Similarly, whilst being more applicable to the Jamboree itself, spontaneity and being able to deviate from a plan if young people want to do something different is also important. In order to do this, you must be able to listen to your unit members and take any ideas on board. Establishing good communication from the offset will make this a whole lot easier but will also make young people feel more welcome and confident. It’s a win-win situation. 

Being a unit leader is more than leading a group of young people. Being a unit leader requires matching and sometimes elevating the energy that young people possess. At the Jamboree particularly, continuously supporting and offering encouragement may impact a young person’s life more than you realise, and ensuring that every single member – shy or outgoing, feels able to speak to you about anything is crucial. In effect, you’ll be like a parent to 36 young people for 3 weeks – it sounds crazy but imagine the impact you could have on 36 young people (and imagine the amount of thank you gifts!)

I hope this gives you a flavour of what being a unit leader might be like from a participant and young person’s perspective. Beyond all of this, making the Jamboree your own experience is not any less important. Showing yourself having fun also inspires young people; provides encouragement and creates memories for everyone to look back on. The memories created before and during the Jamboree will stay with you and your unit for life. Honestly, I could talk for days about my memories from the Jamboree! It was an amazing experience I will never forget, and applying to be a unit leader will be something you won’t regret.