- Events, Contingents & Contingent Leaders
- Other Opportunities
- Australian Scout Events and Visiting Australia
- International Scouting in Australia
- Pen-Pal Program
- SISEP - International Exchange Program
- International Competitions
- Fundraising, Grants & Scholarships
- Resources, Forms & Links
- Contacts in Australia
- Scouts Australia National website
Victorian Venturers support Scouting in Kiribati
For most Victorian students, Monday the 22nd of September 2008 would have been the first day of school holidays and most likely you had a sleep in. I know I would’ve, but for me, it was the opposite. I woke up at 4:00am, had a shower, a quick bite to eat, hopped in the car, and slept while Mum drove me to the Melbourne Airport.
We arrived at the airport about 6:30 and we grabbed the last take-away meal I would have for the next two weeks, McDonald’s. We then met up with our Leaders Julie and Terry, and the other eight Venturers. By this stage we were so excited, as we were about to head off on a 12-day trip overseas. For some, it was the first time they had been on a plane. We checked in, had some group photos taken, then waited around till it was time to board.
The Venturers, Christian, Andre, Andrew, Daniel, Lachy, Pippa, Carolyn, Emma, and myself, had an opportunity to have a bit of a walk around and catch up, while our parents chatted about how much they would miss us!! Well, that’s what they told us anyway!!
Boarding began; we all said our goodbyes, took some last minute photos and boarded our plane to Sydney. We had a delay there before our flight to Fiji, so we had a look around, called or texted our family from the Vodafone shop for free, and then boarded for our three-and-a-half-hour flight to FIJI!!!!! Bula!!
Well, then it all began. We spent our first night in Fiji, it was three guys to a room. I got the double bed, Lachy had the single and Andre opted for the floor. In the morning we had breaky, then off to the airport for a three-hour flight to Kiribati.
It was amazing. The locals all line up at the airport fence to watch the visitors. As Scouting is very popular in Kiribati, we had many families come to greet us. The airport security is a little different to what we’re used to. There is a large fence blocking the locals from the tarmac. However, this only goes for a couple of hundred metres, and often locals run or play on the tarmac when there are no planes. As there are only two flights in and out each week the tarmac is, more often than not, part of a playground.
Kiribati is amazing. The country is very poor. Our hotel was three star, and each room came with its own can of bug spray. The locals generally share their home with their extended families. They eat mostly fish they catch, and vegetables they grow. Their homes are huts with no walls raised off the ground with thatched roofs, they have no plumbing, and everyone sleeps on thatched mats. But they are such happy people.
We felt a bit like celebrities in Kiribati. The locals have a great respect for white people, and they will do anything for you. We spent our days visiting the hospital to donate supplies, touring the island (which took all of about one hour) and attending local schools. I even taught a Year 10 maths/science class.
We were even fortunate enough to be invited to a wedding. The people of Kiribati welcomed us into their community, and we had an absolutely amazing time.
Scouts Victoria run Scouts in Kiribati, and nearly all families are involved. It’s a bit different from here, as kids start at about three, and the whole family is involved.
Approximately every 3-5 years, Scouts Victoria sends Venturers across to take Scout supplies, medical supplies and also things such as pens, pencils and exercise books, things we take for granted, but which most families in Kiribati cannot afford.
As the saying goes, “When in Rome…” Well, although we had been funded to eat all our meals at the hotel, we mostly ate from a local and very cheap shop. By the end of the trip, we had so much money to spare. Julie came up with a great idea… more of that later!
Being boys, we were lucky. We could wear shorts, singlets and thongs. It was soo hot. The girls unfortunately had to wear long skirts or lavalavas (bit like a sarong) and shirts that were up to the neck.
The boys also got to spend a night under a maneaba (meeting house). It’s a roof with no walls. We and some of the local boys had a fire, a sleep, then got up early and walked to the causeway for a swim in the glorious Pacific Ocean.
Kiribati is a very small country made up of 33 islands of which only 21 are inhabited, with a population of just over 100,000 people. It is in the north Pacific Islands one degree north of the equator. This is approximately halfway between Australia and Hawaii. The climate is tropical, very hot and humid. Kiribati has few natural resources, and financial aid comes from UK, Japan, Australia, and China. The local language is called Kiribati, although English is their second language.
Religion is mostly Roman Catholic and Protestant, although there are others. The capital of Kiribati is called Tarawa which is where we spent most of our time. The country is very flat, and the average height of the island is 12 metres above sea level. Kiribati people love to sing, dance, and wear traditional costumes during celebrations. They make money from handicrafts and fishing.
Most Kiribati people have never seen TV, tall buildings, buses, shopping centres, washing machines, dishwashers and so many of the things we have access to. A traditional Kiribati shower is a bucket of water, collected from a well, then using a scoop to splash water over their body.
We were sad to come to the end of our trip. Unfortunately, myself, Pippa, Terry and Daniel were unable to attend the farewell the locals put on for us. We had got terribly sunburnt from snorkelling earlier that day. Again, our departure attracted many of the locals who came to farewell us and wish us well. They had enjoyed our visit as much as we had.
That evening we swam in the hotel pool at Fiji, went out for dinner and tried to sleep off an exhausting but incredibly satisfying 12 days.
I learnt so much in Kiribati, and it gave me so much appreciation for my home, my family and my education, and of course Scouting. The experience is one I will never forget and it was something I would never have done without Scouting. So, when you think about how sick and tired you are of tying knots with your Leaders, or you’re still eating that dinner on camp you just don’t want to eat (but have to!!!)… remember Scouting is respected and valued in all but six countries in the world. It can provide you with so many opportunities and without people such as your Leaders and the many volunteers who give up their time for you, your weekends would not be nearly as fun and exciting.
Being Venturers got us through immigration and customs without delay or hassle, simply because we were wearing our Venturer uniform and Australian Scouting scarf.
With the money we saved by making some changes during our trip, we saved enough money to fund the travel and cost of two I-Kiribati Scouting members to travel to the Australian Venture in Perth in 2009.
Thankyou for reading and I hope it has inspired you all to keep on Scouting.
By Samuel McEwan