Bringing JOTA to Your Council

Over the years we’ve heard many stories about the challenges of getting Jamboree on the Air started in a Scout council that all too often appears to be oblivious to the largest Scouting event in the world. This past week we had this email message arrive:

I am wondering if there is someone at K2BSA that can come into our council and get the ball rolling for ham radio. I tried setting up my own station during JOTA at the scout camp last year and had poor results with visitation by Scouts.

We’re sure that many of you have thought of sending a similar message. And, maybe there is someone nearby who could help. In fact, there may even be other JOTA stations in operation within your council that neither you nor your council know about.

JOTA 2016 PatchEven so, we know that you can make a difference. In response to this email, Donald Sonnefeld, KD2FIL, Radio Scouting Chairman of the Greater Niagara Frontier Council and Secretary for the K2BSA Amateur Radio Association had this response. You’ll find it offers sound insight that can also be used in your own efforts.

DON’T GIVE UP!! You are the right person for the job, you just need more people on your team. (In Scouting, we always want more people on our team.)

I started organizing JOTA stations for the Greater Niagara Frontier Council in Buffalo, NY in 2012. The first couple years we had less than 10 Scouts—the first year we coaxed them in from the Scout Shop while their parents were shopping. The next year we had a couple that actually came specifically for it. We’ve had the most success when we piggy-backed district camporees that had been scheduled on the same weekend. We contacted the event organizers and told them (not asked) that we were going to set-up a station. Some put us in the program rotation, others offered it as a free-time activity. They were all glad to have more program options for their event. This year we specifically targeted Arrow of Light Scouts, since the new program includes an adventure requirement that specifically mentions Jamboree On The Air. (Building A Better World, 10d).

Over the last year we have organized a Radio Scouting Committee in our Council. It started small, but as we got the word out Scouter Hams started coming to us. We’ve even had a couple long-time Scouters get licensed. We set-up a demo station at our University of Scouting, at Spring Camporees, and are going to put up a station in our Scout Camp this summer. A local Rotary club provided grant money to buy equipment for the Council. We also partnered with a local Radio Club who has been fantastic about providing assistance. We discovered that there are active Scouters involved in 4 different area clubs, and we are now trying to get their help as well. We sent flyers for all districts to use in their annual Program Launch. (Every June we dedicate a Roundtable to sharing information on the upcoming program year to the units). During the year we try to go where the boys are and do things that spark interest. One example: we take a CW oscillator and a copy of the Morse code and invite Scouts to tap out their name. When they do they get a certificate that has 2 “tickets” to upcoming Amateur Radio Events. (I’ve attached a copy—feel free to modify & use. BTW, I used a Morse code font and spelled out messages for the name, signature, and date lines.) [Here’s the file for download Morse Code Certificate]

Don’t get me wrong, it has been frustrating at times. But as you work with the Council Staff and district volunteers to find opportunities to promote your events you’ll find greater numbers participating, which will generate interest going forward. Ask the Council Scout Executive to appoint a staff advisor to help draw resources. Now is the time to start putting it together. We had our first JOTA planning meeting last night.

That’s superb advice. It’s all about getting started whether that’s at the council, district, or even the unit level. You can make this happen.

We’ve published a great deal of resources on this website that are meant to provide insight into working with your local council. Here’s the starting list:

I would also recommend reaching out to your local ham radio club and getting them involved. It’s a tough task for any single individual.

Now’s the time to get started. Good luck.

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