When my boss casually enquired whether I found sleeping under canvas a pleasant past time, I thought he might be beginning an informal chat about my holiday plans (we are a very friendly organisation after all) or perhaps opening a discussion around the potential affect that the credit crunch may have on the average British holiday. Little did I know that it was the start of some subtle probing to work out whether I would be able to cope with five thousand scouts, four peer educators and a portaloo.
I am currently writing this entry from the middle of Windsor Great Parks (the Queen’s back garden). No, I am not trespassing on Red Cross time; I have spent the week at WINGS (the Windsor INternational Guide and Scout jamboree-so it’s not just the Red Cross that are acronym happy). The eager attendees, all members of scout and guide units from far and wide, are given a programme to complete during their week-long stay on site. This programme includes time spent at the global development village where I am stationed for the week along with four trusty peer educators. We are running two sessions for the week, one teaching first aid-in which the participating scouts and guides can earn a badge if they complete the set challenges in bleeding, recovery position, burns and incident management. The other is the humanitarian session where participants are challenged to guess the mystery object-have a go yourself by looking at the picture above (there is a clue on the page)-and then are led through a role play scenario where they decide whether their actions during a conflict situation contravene the Geneva Conventions.
Now, I am a seasoned camper; all my holidays as a child spent in a tent en famille and I have continued this tradition through adolescence (although I have been reliably informed by a senior scout master at WINGS that attending music festivals in patterned wellies do not a camper make-personally I am very proud of my star print sparkle wellies and received no end of compliments about them from the brownie units on camp). I also have several years experience of running sessions for young people, but nothing quite prepared me for the site of camp laid out before me on my entrance to the Great Park, the sea of canvas as far as I could see did rather take my breath away, to say nothing of the 450 strong scouts advancing on the global development village on day one of camp.
The week has passed quickly in a haze of bandages, scouts, refectory dining, scouts, wellies, scouts, discussions about war crimes and scouts-with a few guides thrown in for good measure. The peer educators and I ran a total of eight sessions of first aid and eight sessions of humanitarian education per day-amounting to an exhausting eighty sessions in total, reaching nearly 2,000 young people during the week. Whilst we imparted our first aid and humanitarian education knowledge to the scouts by day-by night the learning process was reversed and we learnt how things go down at camp.
Should you ever find yourself stranded up camp creek without a tent, here are some useful tips that I have picked up-survival scout style:
- Attempt to get to all mealtimes early-camp life is a tough one and by mealtimes everyone is hungry and ready to eat-get there early to avoid the crush!
- If teaching at a scout event try your very best not to be positioned directly under the flight path for one of Europe’s busiest airports-if you do bring some honey and lemon.
- If you do find yourself in this predicament, use it to your advantage as the thundering noise of the jets can make a decision making role play imagined in a conflict situation seem far more realistic; flexibility is key.
- Evening entertainment should be entered into wholeheartedly. From silent raves, to bingo calling new skills were learnt by all and in one particularly lucrative night Team Red Cross managed to win four prizes in one evening. They loved having us there.
- A torch is an essential part of camp kit, forget your toothbrush, towel and t-shirts, the torch is your friend, particularly when you are wending your way back to your tent from the shower block in the pitch black.
- And finally, my parting gift for this blog is the advice that, when sharing a portaloo that is cleaned twice during a twenty four hour period with 7,999 other people, timing is everything.