SSAGO at the 25th World Scout Jamboree

Jack Woodward (National SSAGO)

Tuesday 15th of August 2023

This summer was the 25th World Scout Jamboree, in Korea, and a whole load of SSAGO members attended! In the face of perhaps the most disastrous WSJ ever, SSAGO members, with plenty of support from our good friends in SAGGA, stepped up to help make the most of an event that no one was expecting!


The 25th World Scout Jamboree in Korea was not what anyone was expecting. A whole host of problems and challenges not worth mentioning here made it the first Jamboree ever to be moved off-site in the middle of the event. By that point, the UK Contingent, including its small collection of SSAGO members, had already left to return to Seoul, with the monumental task of improvising a programme worthy of being a Jamboree experience, and to make the years of hard work preparing and fundraising worthwhile for the over 3,000 young people in the UK Contingent.

SSAGO, in partnership with our good friends in the Scout and Guide Graduate Association (SAGGA), saw an opportunity to make a difference, and so the SSAGO Olympic Park Challenge was born. With the overriding aim of providing an opportunity to have fun, and blow off steam, we created a collection of silly and ridiculous challenges, from welly wanging to feeding a mascot marbles with a shoe horn, found an incredible venue in Seoul’s Olympic Park, devised an elaborate and needlessly complex scoring system (including bonus points for correctly responding to “Is Everybody Happy?”), and invited along the units to have a good time.


After 4 days of activities - 2 of which ended up being in the public spaces of a 5-star hotel thanks to a typhoon (we decided it was probably best to drop the welly wanging, at that point), we were visited by almost 1,000 participants, with overwhelmingly positive feedback. An incredible feat, considering we had less than 48 hours from arriving in Seoul determined to do something, to then plan and design the idea, get approval from the Contingent Management Team, find the location(s) to run it, write up and risk assess all of the activities and the challenge itself, buy all of the equipment (with money generously provided by the SAGGA development fund), makeup and print scorecards from a Korean computer, and then coordinate a team of volunteers to actually run the challenge.


We selected the Olympic Park to host the event, as despite being the opposite side to the city from where most of us IST were staying by the airport, resulting in a 2hr/60km commute each way (for reference, a UK equivalent would be us staying in Reading and the activity being in Hyde Park), it was handily located for the majority of participants and offered a good amount of shade to keep people safe; as well as helpfully having some good facilities including a nice cafe we may have tested on a couple of occasions! There was also something special about it being the Olympic Park, which brings together people from across the world, which is what the World Scout Jamboree is all about; whilst the weather didn’t hold out for long enough, we were gearing up to welcome Scouts from all over the world who may have wanted to participate in our activities too - some did get the odd local wanting to have a go! Over 90 minutes, the teams could take part in as many of the 12 bases as they could manage to score points.


Our first base was making Hangul characters (that is, the Korean alphabet) out of themselves.


The second base was competitive jigsaw solving, going against the clock to solve it as fast as possible.


Next up was our sheep herding challenge: one member acted as a shepherd, with a whistle, and the rest of the team were blindfolded. After a short time to agree a code with the whistle, no talking was allowed and the shepherd had to navigate their sheep-like teammates around a course and into a pen.


We then had a very british activity - welly wanging! This definitely caught the attention of some locals.


After this we had our mascot feeding base - we had some toy cats and a pile of marbles, and had to get the marbles into the cat’s mouth with a shoehorn.


A reflective challenge followed, as we asked participants to create a 30 second video covering the highlights of their jamboree journey.


Snack attack was next up, with the young people testing their chopstick skills whilst moving some korean delicacies between bowls.


We then remembered that it was scouting that took us here, so we tested if the teams remember the motto ‘Be Prepared’ as we tasked them to use their ingenuity with what they had in their rucksacks to create a fleur de lis.


Balls were next - each team had half a dozen length of cord, and had to combine them and get a ball to travel along it into a bucket at the end, all without touching the ball.


Next up the teams had to “cross” the Han River as we brought the farmer, fox, chicken and corn boat crossing challenge to life. Full of decorations to distinguish the roles, including a paddling pool acting as a boat, the teams tried to cross the river without leaving the chicken and corn or fox and chicken together.


Our penultimate base was island hopping, crossing the snake-infested waters between the mainland and Jeju Island, where they would be able to enjoy a relaxing seaside break. Teams could only cross using the doormat-like water lily leaves as stepping stones, only moving when they were holding one of our plethora of snake-repelling items (which ranged from a squeaky chicken to a plastic poo!).


Finally we tested their jamboree food distribution skills, with the teams using tongs to pass a pile of [rubber] chickens and Pocari sweat bottles along the line.


Congratulations once again to the winners of each of our scored sessions:

  • Unit 71 - Water
  • Unit 48 - Seagulls
  • Unit 45 - Don’t Know
  • Unit 78 - Eva’s Angels
  • Unit 39 - Josh’s lot


None of this would have been possible without the small team of SSAGO and SAGGA members who came together to organise everything and let this take over their Jamboree experience. It also wouldn’t have been possible without the large team of IST volunteers that actually ran the challenge - some SSAGO members, some soon to be SSAGO members, and some SSAGO members of the past, plus plenty of IST that had never even heard of SSAGO before, but just wanted to help out, and make a difference and did.