Forbes columnist commends BSA’s response to crisis at World Scout Jamboree

Logo for the 25th World Scout Jamboree

The United States contingent to the 25th World Scout Jamboree in Saemangeum, South Korea, departed the event after just five days because of ongoing extreme heat and the resulting conditions at the Jamboree site.

The event ended up shutting down completely a few days later due to an approaching typhoon.

Heather Wishart-Smith, a contributor to Forbes magazine and parent of a youth who attended the event, wrote about her impressions of how the BSA handled the challenges.

“The USA Contingent recognized problems with the site early on,” Wishart-Smith wrote in a column published on Saturday. “2023 WSJ attendees are learning how to innovate in crisis, are creating bonds forged in adversity, and experiencing what will become the subject of many stories and quite possibly, college application essays in the years to come.

“Families entrusted their children to USA Contingent leadership, and they are fulfilling their duty to honor that trust and keep children healthy and safe.”

More than 1,000 Scouts and adults from the BSA traveled to the World Scout Jamboree. Overall, there were 43,000 Scouts and international service team members from 158 national Scouting organizations at the event.

“World Jamborees are a unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience; however, the ongoing weather conditions and the impact on site services and infrastructure made it necessary to depart early,” says Lou Paulson, the contingent lead for the BSA.

South Korea is currently going through a severe heat wave. For the first time in four years, the South Korea Ministry of the Interior and Safety has raised its official hot-weather warning alert system to the highest level available.

The extreme heat has resulted in unsanitary conditions, in addition to an unreliable supply of food, water and shower facilities, Wishart-Smith wrote.

The health and safety of our Scouts is our No. 1 priority,” the BSA wrote in a letter to parents of Scouts attending the World Scout Jamboree. “On-site leadership has been monitoring weather and site conditions closely and has decided to leave the site early out of safety concerns.”

The U.S. contingent moved to nearby U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys. Contingents from other countries made the decision to leave the property as well.

Moving to safety

The 25th World Scout Jamboree was scheduled to run from Aug. 1-12 in Saemangeum, South Korea. Extreme heat and humidity caused challenging conditions for attendees at the mostly outdoor event before it ended early due to the incoming storm.

BSA’s on-site leadership remained in continuous communication with representatives of the World Organization of the Scout Movement and the Korea Scout Association. The Korea Scout Association engaged all levels of their government to support the Jamboree and ensure a safe, quality experience for youth and leaders.

A gathering of Scouts at the World Scout Jamboree
Photo by Enrique Leon

Why the decision was made

The Korea Scout Association and the South Korean Government worked to mitigate the impact of the heatwave through the early days of the event by increasing shaded areas and water around program activities, making more air-conditioned spaces and transportation available, deploying additional doctors and nurses, and increasing the availability of medical facilities and ambulances.

Still, the persistent heat and humidity ultimately led the U.S. contingent to make the decision to depart the Jamboree property.

The Boy Scouts of America is grateful to the Korea Scout Association, South Korean Government and WOSM for their efforts in the face of this historic weather event.

Tents at the World Scout Jamboree
Photo by Jean-Pierre Pouteau

What is a World Scout Jamboree?

Not to be confused with the recent National Scout Jamboree, which is organized and hosted by the BSA, The World Scout Jamboree is a gathering of Scouts ages 14-17 from all over the world. It is hosted by the World Organization of the Scout Movement.

The 24th World Scout Jamboree was held at The Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia. Other past hosts include Rinkaby, Sweden, and Sydney, Australia.

The 21st World Scout Jamboree in 2007 was held in Hylands Park, Essex, United Kingdom, and celebrated 100 years of the Scouting movement.

Sign at the World Scout Jamboree
Photo by Jean-Pierre Pouteau

About Aaron Derr 436 Articles
Aaron Derr is the senior editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines, and also a former Cubmaster and Scouts BSA volunteer.