The Girl Scout Motto is “Be prepared.” At least, I think it is. I wouldn’t know since I wasn’t a Girl Scout growing up. So, I certainly, was not prepared when two weeks into my Fellowship at UNICEF USA, my supervisor, out of the blue, told me that the World Scout Jamboree would be taking place in West Virginia and that I would be attending.
Once I arived, I felt as if I was living amid the song, "Take Me Home Country Roads," with 40,000 Scouts from 152 countries singing in harmony. Scouts in kilts, scouts in kimonos - just the whole scout world and me.
The plan was for my colleague Morgan and I to talk about UNICEF with the Scouts. We’d leave on Sunday (it was Friday at this point), and my first thought was - what exactly is the World Scout Jamboree? Looking back now, I can say that nothing could have truly prepared me for what I was about to walk into - hiking in the mud, with no internet, and the constant smell of camper's breakfast hash.
Once I arrived, I felt as if I was living amid the song, “Take Me Home Country Roads,” with 40,000 Scouts from 152 countries singing in harmony. Scouts in kilts, scouts in kimonos – just the whole scout world and me.
At first, it seemed pretty straightforward – Morgan and I had a stand, where we talked about UNICEF, and handed out badges, until one day, I was asked to present to a bunch of different troops in an auditorium.
I didn’t think this would be a challenge, but that changed when I got on stage and stood in front of about 200 scouts, who seemed to be looking more confused the longer I spoke. As I was 5 minutes into my presentation, one of the scout leaders leans over to me and tells me that not everyone here speaks English.
To put it in Girl Scout terms, this was my chance to "put words into actions."
At this point, part of me was ready to bolt. I was embarrassed and should have never assumed. But I know I can’t do that. So, I need to change strategies right now. This is going to show if I have the communication skills that I say I do. To put it in Girl Scout terms, this was my chance to “put words into actions.”
I then asked the audience who could translate English into their native language and brought those people on stage. But of course, some troops didn’t have a translator. Luckily, I had some UNICEF swag to giveaway and then turned the presentation into a pantomime game. Here, I was now mime acting a UNICEF 101, explaining mid-arm circumference bands and throwing UNICEF shirts at people. I spoke slowly and used simple language, so it was easy to translate. And finally, I could see the audience reacting. Nods and laughter. Probably at me. That's ok, though. I was getting a reaction.
I don’t know how much was actually understood, but the next day I did see a group of scouts wearing UNICEF USA shirts. Most likely because they were out of clean clothes, yet it made me smile. At that moment, I learned something. No matter how many great ideas you have or what you say - all of it means nothing if you can’t connect with your audience. That is something I think back on all the time and which influences how I go about my work on the Community Engagement Team here at UNICEF USA.
I am proud to say that I received a neckerchief at the end of the week and now proudly refer to myself as an honorary Scout. I, for one, will never forget the adventures of this week and will always be grateful for the camaraderie and the creativity I came to witness, and the lessons I learned. For that, I want to end by saying Thank You, Scouts! Also, I now understand why your motto is “Be Prepared!”
Are you a Girl Scout or a Troop Leader, who is looking to do good with UNICEF?
- Physical activities like dancing, workouts, and yoga
- Activities that teach girls social-emotional skills and spark conversations on social justice and change, resilience, and more.
Tip: Introduce your girls to UNICEF Kid Power and then have them select the videos they want to play at upcoming meetings!