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Refugee Scouts living in Utah invited to national jamboree

SALT LAKE CITY — Their families were forced to flee their homeland of Myanmar and arrived in Utah with nothing.

Now, some Boy Scouts from Troop 1262 will be part of an all-American summer, including a trip to the White House and the National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia.

Before going to the 2013 Jamboree, which runs July 15-24, they met Gov. Gary Herbert. On Monday, Herbert told the boys that being a Boy Scout made him a better governor.

The 65 members of the troop are united as friends, even though they represent many different faiths — Mormons, Catholics, Baptists, Buddhists and Muslims.

"We totally respect their own religion," said Bob Roylance, the troop's Scoutmaster. "And as far as the Scouting's concerned, we try and encourage them to exercise their beliefs."

The troop is made up of Karen, Karenni, Chin and Burmese refugees. Many have been in Utah for about five years. Thirty-five of them are headed to the National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia. Donations from the community, foundations and private individuals, along with funds the Scouts raised themselves, help pay for the trip.

Troop member Htee Shee, 16, says he's looking forward to meeting other Boy Scouts to trade badges and other things with them. Lupway Doh, 15, is excited to meet other Scouts.

"Meeting new people there, meeting people all over the world," he said.

They will also visit New York City’s Central Park and play a game of soccer with African refugees.

Michael Nebeker lived in Thailand, where the Scouts' families spent years in refugee camps. He has watched them grow from a group of children who knew nothing about Scouting to a troop committed to serving others and experiencing all of the adventures in all kinds of weather that Scouting brings.

"When a community wraps their arms around refugee youth, wonderful things can happen," Nebeker said.