A Magical Week for WS2017

After two and a half years in the planning, 3,500 Scouts, Guides, Senior Section, Leaders and Adult Volunteers arrived at the South of England Showground in Ardingly for a week long camp known as WS2017. The camp occurs every four years providing an opportunity for members of Scouting and Guiding aged from 10 to 17 years from West Sussex to come together with their International counterparts and partake in a wide range of activities such as archery, climbing, kayaking, rafting, zip lines, It’s a knockout style inflatable challenges, rifle shooting, drama workshops, science and craft, as well as getting up close and personal with bugs, insects, owls and other birds along with many other adventurous activities. WS2017 also took on a Harry Potter Theme which we are very thankful to Warner Brothers for allowing us this opportunity.

The different Scouts, Guide and Senior Section Units were divided into 4 subcamps which were named after the houses of Hogwarts – Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin plus Dumbledores Army for The Senior Section members. The activities team formed the Order of the Phoenix, Sites Services were the House Elves and the main camp arena and HQ was known as Diagon Alley.

Diagon Alley played a key role through the week as a central meeting point for groups, the main camp admin area, the information centre where you could find out what was happening and where. Multiple shops were selling Scouts and Guides merchandise as well as WS2017 branded clothing and other items and most importantly was also home to the coffee shop and the tuck shop where many cakes and tubs of sweets were consumed over the week!

The camp was opened Saturday night with all the participants attending in Diagon Alley. The ceremony started with each subcamp presenting their house badge which formed a larger camp badge. The Camp Chiefs Dave and Debbie Phillips, dressed as Dumbledore and Professor Mcgonagal, then arrived riding into Diagon Alley on the back of a moving scale model of the Hogwarts Express fitted with sound, smoke effects and a real train whistle! The Camp Chiefs welcomed all the participants including those from 22 different countries who had travelled to attend the camp from as far as the USA, Hong-Kong and Australia to WS2017. Dave and Debbie said “We encourage everyone to have fun over the week, to work together, build new friendships, challenge yourselves with the many activities organised for you. For this truly is the Scouting and Guiding ethos.” Saturday night was then topped off by DJ Nev and Phoenix Club Band providing entertainment into the late evening.

On Sunday after completing challenges in the sub camps which contributed to the camp Tri Wizard Challenge Badge, Reverend Trevor Marshall lead an interactive and humorous service for Scouts and Guides Own. He reminded the congregation how the uniform plays an important role in expectations. How through skills, scouting and guiding had taught them that scouts and guides from every country being represented at WS2017 had saved someone’s life. As scouts and guides, we should take opportunities to work on things which make us uncomfortable, and to do our best. WS2017 offers an opportunity to expand our boundaries and build new relationships and experiences. We should all be there to listen to each other, to care about each and look out for each other, and make a difference in the world. All the participants then created a Snitch, using foam balls, feathers, a label with your name, unit and sub-camp, which was then attached to the Snitch before all 3000 soared into the sky. The aim was to find a Snitch which was a different colour and to find that person over the week.

Monday morning meant the start of the main activity days, where the subcamps were split up into groups and each attended one of the eight different activity zones. They would get to spend a half a day in each zone across the four activity days throughout the week. It was great to see Scouts and Guides embracing new activities they have never done before most of which did so with hesitation and those weren’t quite sure were quickly encouraged and reassured by their friends. The activities also meant that they got to spend time with new people from across West Sussex or even another country and was a key time when we saw new friendships being formed.

During the evenings Diagon Alley ran many different events to keep the young people occupied. This included an International evening during which each of the attending countries had a stall and supplied a traditional food dish, as well as a chance to interact and learn about their different cultures. They also hosted their own talent competition called WS has talent. Each night different performers would take to the stage in different heats, each looking to win the highlight of performing at the closing ceremony on Friday night.

Wednesday was a non-activity day for all of the Scouts and Guides already on camp but this didn’t mean a rest for everyone as it was All Sections Day. This was the day that all the younger age groups within both Associations – Beavers, Rainbows, Cubs and Brownies, were invited to experience the fun of an International camp. The Activities team put on a scaled down version of many of the activities so they could get a true feeling as to what the camp might be like for them in the next four or eight years’ time. An additional 1,600 young people and their leaders, along with various invited VIP’s from the local area attended camp which added to the excitable atmosphere that was present everywhere you went.

Wednesday was also a bad day for the weather with much rain and wind but we didn’t let this stop us with some last-minute change of plans we moved The Muggles Charity Fair Stalls under cover in the Abergavenny building creating a busy market place. Each group provided a 20p per turn Charity stall in the afternoon that anyone could partake in. All monies raised to be split between our two chosen charities, The Coco Foundation and Chailey Heritage DREAM Centre Appeal.

The Coco’s Foundation is a charity founded by Chris Connors, which works with orphans in South Africa. Representatives from the charity regularly visit, to see the work that is being done, and to build houses for the orphans. There is a clothes 4 clothes project, where donated bags of old clothes or rags which will be exchanged for school uniforms for children. Additionally they have the food 4 life project where they provide hot meals for those who need them. On the trips, they also help at the local orphanage and in the local community. The money raised on camp is going to go towards building houses for child lead families,

The Chailey Heritage Trust is a charity that works with severely disabled children to allow them to participate in everyday life by providing opportunities that they enjoy, vital care and equipment to promote independence. The money raised will go towards a new facilities for the children to enjoy and take part in many different activities.

Thursday and Friday were again activities days in the lead up to the closing Ceremony on Friday evening. WS2017 closed in spectacular fashion as all the sub-camps paraded into Diagon Alley. All the hard working teams all had their moment of glory on the stage to receive applause and cheers from the participants. Sharon from CoCo’s Foundation and Helen from Chailey Heritage, the two camp charities, were presented with a cheque for £4500 each from a total of £9,000 raised by WS2017 during the afternoon on Wednesday. Sharon was so impressed by all the different activities which went on despite the weather said the amount of money raised was unbelievable. Helen told us that the money raised would be going towards their DREAM Centre.

The 3 County Commissioners from West Sussex County Scouts, Girlguiding Sussex Central County, Girlguiding Sussex West County then took to the stage, to thank all the leaders & volunteers who worked tirelessly this week, the international contingents for their presence and contributions to the week and finally to Dave and Debbie Phillips, Camp Chief and Assistant Camp Chief who made the whole week come together. WS has Talent 2017 Winner Jennifer aged 10 years returned to the stage for her fantastic performance and we all danced the night away to more amazing music from Supernotes and resident DJ Nev who kept the party going.

Saturday saw many tired Scouts, Guides, Senior Section, Leaders and Volunteers begin the task of packing up their tents and begin the journey home towards no doubt a nice warm bed, and a decent shower! Thanks to everyone for attending and special thanks to all those who helped support the event whom without we would not be able to put on such an amazing experience for our Young People!