Alaskan warmth, with Jamaican cheer

Jamaican Scout helps out at Camp Carlquist


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Jamaican Scouter Robert Rose helps a sibling in to a canoe during the family night open program at Camp Carlquist.

AMY M. ARMSTRONG

Robert Rose thought he’d be cold spending this summer working at Camp Carlquist on the shores of Edmonds Lake in Chugiak.

After all, he hails from St. Andrews, Jamaica, where Scouting adventures generally occur under sunnier skies. Yet, he’s been surprisingly warm. On recent days when the temperature pushed 70 degrees, Rose admitted that he misses the ocean breeze that cools his homeland.

The 28-year-old is participating in the Boy Scouts of America’s international exchange program. He’s been a Jamaican Boy Scout leader for nine years, earning the Jamaican equivalent of an Eagle Scout.

One might wonder why someone from Jamaica would want to spend a summer shepherding around elementary-age Cub Scouts.

But then Rose points to the mountains – and all questions are answered.

“It is beautiful here,” he exclaims in that distinctive, highly enunciated Jamaican English. “Just look at the mountains.”

Back home, aside from leading Scout groups, Rose also teaches Bible studies and mentors youth. He holds a local conference license as a pastor with the Church of the United Brethren in Christ. He is the volunteer chaplain for the local police force.

It’s a lifestyle he came to through tragedy.

 

A change in goals

At age 14, Rose wanted to join the Jamaican Defense Force when he graduated from his nation’s equivalent of high school

Then, two of his sisters were murdered and his world changed.

Rose still does not know the “who” or “why” behind the crime. What he remembers is waking up to find the doors to the home wide open. A helicopter flew back and forth overhead, and when he asked what was happening, he was told that his two sisters had been killed, and their bodies were out behind the home.

“It was so sad,” he said. “My one sister was 17 and she was going to be doing her exams to get in to college the next day.”

His Scout leaders and the pastor from church were there for him, he said. It changed his heart; it shifted his mind.

“My pastor sat me down for counseling,” he recalled. “I felt angry. I was not a person who cried outside of myself, but inside, it was bubbling up.”

Rose knew he had a choice to make. He could remain angry, join the defense force and find the men whom killed his sisters. The pastor told Rose he believed God had a better calling on his life. He believed Rose would become a minister and work to solve Jamaica’s challenges through community service and mentoring.

Rose quickly realized his goal of becoming a military man had ended.

“I said, it is best I leave it behind,” Rose said.

 

Kids are kids

Today Rose is an assistant district Scout commissioner overseeing more than 300 Cub and Boy scouts in Jamaica.

He sees a few differences between the United States and Jamaican programs: Discipline is a bit more rigid in Jamaica. When he tells Scouts to line up, the result is a straight-edge line resembling a ruler. That’s not quite what he gets from the Cub Scouts at Camp Carlquist. The line is a bit more of a serpentine - perhaps reflective of a more casual American attitude – for the first couple of days. Yet, by Friday, Cub Scouts under his wing tend to straighten out their line.

Camp Carlquist staffers have commented on Rose’s patience. But he gets that kids are kids – no matter where they live.

He’s a big believer in the mantra, “it’s better to build a boy than to fix a man.”

“When working with a child, you don’t want to push them to their limit so they get uncomfortable with you,” he said. “You want to figure out how to make them achieve.”

From the looks of the den flag he carried at the end of last week, Rose made his goal.

Each week, each new den of Cub Scouts decorates what is essentially a torn bed sheet with their den and individual names. The flag also become the group’s rallying point.

This year’s camp theme of Tall Tales is a natural lead-in for the far-fetched and exaggerated stories associated with Cub Scout camp. It’s also a new concept for Rose, who said his homeland is full of folklore and tales but not generally used in this method.

“It is helping to stretch my imagination,” he said. “I am figuring out how to take them back home and adjust for Jamaica.”

His stint at Carlquist ends July 25, but he has a few more days after that to gather more memories and experiences in Alaska. He’d like to catch some salmon. He wants to see a polar bear at the Alaska Zoo. He’s already seen plenty of moose and spotted a young black bear on the camp road. He’s learned to battle mosquitos – an insect not found in Jamaica – and the art of Dutch oven cooking. It’s a skill he hopes to teach his wife, Louise, who is a guidance counselor, education officer and accomplished baker. He learned to make cake in a cast-iron Dutch oven and hopes to amaze her with this new found ability. First, though, he must stop by the post office to find out the cost of shipping a Dutch oven back to Jamaica.

“She taught me how to bake,” he said with a big smile. “I taught her patience.”

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