Blog | West Mercia Cubs rock Gibraltar
Cubs rarely get to experience international opportunities. West Mercia County bucked the trend with their ambitious Gibraltar Cubaree.
In the year of Cubs100, packs all over the country are challenging themselves to try something new. In West Mercia County, they set the bar higher than most. ‘We wanted to something different,’ says Mark, ACC (Cubs), West Mercia. ‘Not many [Cub Packs] go on international trips.’
Having scoped out Gibraltar as a possible destination for an international trip in 2012, when Mark Bache became ACC (Cubs) in 2014, he ‘decided to go for it.’ After a lengthy selection process sifting through 250 applications, 20 Cubs were selected for the County’s first international Cub camp.
‘We had to consider a few more things [than you would taking Scouts or Explorers abroad],’ Mark admits. Like any international trip, they needed to arrange transport, insurance and a Programme to keep the Cubs busy. They were helped by their Gibraltarian Scouting counterparts to arrange activities, which Mark says was a big help.
The Cubs spent months fundraising the £10,000 they needed: they packed bags, held a disco, and partnered with a local business to create Cubaree 2016 blanket badges. They also had practice camps to allow the group to bond. Some Cubs didn’t initially know anyone else, so these weekends were vital.
Nick is a Leader at Halfpenny Green Air Scouts, 20th Stourbridge. He admits having initial reservations about taking the Cubs away: ‘when you’re 15, 20 or 50 miles from home, you can sort it out when they’re homesick. But what do you do when you’re 5000 miles away in Gibraltar?’
But, as the trip got nearer and excitement began to grow, the fears dissipated. Finally, after all the waiting, the day of the flight arrived.
‘When I got to the airport I was very excited. I was ecstatic!' says Jess, 10, a Cub at Halfpenny Green Air Scouts, with infectious enthusiasm. ‘It felt real, and I was part of it!’
The plane swooped through the dark, crossing Spain before landing on the runway, which juts out into the sea. ‘I’d never been on an aeroplane before. It was really fun and exciting,’ says Mackenzie, 9, a Cub at 4th Stourbridge (Wollaston St. James) Scout Group. ‘My favourite bit was the landing: we went really fast!’
As they stepped out of the plane into the warm Mediterranean night, they could see the world-famous Rock of Gibraltar, lit up in the darkness.
Over the next four days, the Cubs took part in a packed Programme.
‘My favourite activity was the dolphin adventure,’ says Jess. ‘We were on a boat for about 20 minutes, and then we saw some fins and we were all like, “woah!” - the dolphins came to us and swam right under the boat.’
Mackenzie tells me about the abseiling they did in the huge natural caverns inside the Rock. ‘It was in a real cave,’ he says. ‘We had to hold onto ropes and walk across the rocks.’
The Gibraltarian Commissioners put the West Mercian team in contact with some of the territory’s 300 Scouts. The Cubs went bowling together, had a barbecue, taught each other new campfire songs and went canoeing. ‘They mixed like they’d known each other forever,’ Mark says proudly.
‘I’d never met Scouts from abroad before,’ says Jess. ‘When I got to know them we had a lot in common.’ Mackenzie agrees. ‘They were very friendly. They wore the same uniform, but we had some different badges,’ he says.
After a necker was presented to the Governor of Gibraltar, and the Cubs had said goodbye to the monkeys on the Rock, it was time to fly home.
‘We’ve given the Cubs a wonderful experience,’ Mark says. ‘We’ve showcased international trips and may have inspired them to go for selection later on [in Scouts or Explorers]. They’ve all grown and prospered.’
‘I earned lots of badges in Gibraltar,’ Mackenzie says proudly. ‘I got my 15 Nights Away, Time On The Water and Nautical Skills [Staged Activity Badges]. When I tell my friends, everyone’s going to be jealous.’
Nick is positive about the experience. ‘It’s unusual to take Cubs abroad but I’d recommend it to anyone,’ he says. Throughout the trip, people stopped them in the street to say hello, and compliment the Cubs’ behaviour. ‘We’ve been invited to go back!’
For Jess, going abroad with Cubs was better than she anticipated. ‘I didn’t think it would be a big deal [to go to Gibraltar], but when I got there I wanted to scream [with excitement]. I liked that the leaders were always there with us, and I want to say thank you to the Gibraltar Cubs. It was an incredible adventure.’