When Mr. Alhendawi looks back at the event, he still exudes the excitement of a kid after a day at a particularly great theme park. For him, the Jamboree was more than just action, though, it was “simply globe-changing.”
Mr. Alhendawi is the Secretary General of the World Organization of the Scout Movement, an organization that is much larger than many might realize. More than 50 million children and youths are registered Scouts worldwide at any time, and “we estimate that close to 500 million people alive have gone through the Scout program,” Mr. Alhendawi says. His mission is to double the reach of his movement by 2023.
Scouting has come a long way since it was founded by Lord Baden-Powell, a British Army commander, in 1907. The recent Jamboree saw lots of tree-climbing, abseiling, bow-shooting and other activities traditionally linked to Scouting. A similar focus, however, was put on the global mega-trends of our time. Every participant checked into the “Global Development Village” to talk to UN organizations or NGOs like the World Wildlife Fund about the UN’s global Sustainable Development Goals, about health, faith, tolerance and climate change. There was even a tent promoting free trade.
Quite a long way from the cartoon image of a proper Scout: honest and trustworthy, with scarf and hat, building tents and roaming forests, if not helping old ladies across streets.
“See, I quite like that image,” says Mr. Alhendawi, when he sits down to talk about leadership and integrity. “I know it’s outdated in some aspects.”
Today, Scouting is open to all genders, is diverse and inclusive. “But we still need people around who are helpful and supportive,” he says.
For him, the core principles of Scouting haven’t changed all that much over 110 years. “The value of integrity is still at the center of the Scout program,” he says. Discipline, kindness and helpfulness are key elements of what Scouts learn and live in their weekly gatherings, trainings or summer camps. “Our young members take pride in living these values, enshrined in the Scout law. It is what makes them come back every week, and it is what connects us all.”