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Changing role of long-term volunteers

Origin of the text
Olivier Bertrand: Breaking down barriers 1945-1975, 30 years of voluntary service for peace with Service Civil International.
Paris (2008)

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Changing role of long-term volunteers

SCI was adapting its modus operandi to the changing needs. The emphasis on demonstrating an alternative to military service had lessened, and indeed a few countries had already ended their draft system. Foreign exchange restrictions rigidly imposed in the immediate aftermath of WWII were lifting, making travel much easier, enabling a larger supply of volunteers. Although SCI was the granddaddy, many other organizations started workcamps, ranging from those run and funded by governments, religious groups, or associations such as the UNA (United Nations Association). Still, SCI’s unique international aspect, with its network of branches and groups staffed by people from their own country, which sent representatives to the yearly International Committee meeting, as well as its independence from government money, allowed SCI to continue to play a vital role. Nonetheless, it needed to adapt to remain relevant. Community development was a new buzz word. The U.S. Peace Corps was established in 1961 and similar programs sprung up in other countries. The British government took a new approach and initially recruited and funded volunteers to be sent to projects run by existing organizations, and IVS (the British Branch of SCI) was one. First this was through the Lockwood Committee, and, later, under the arm of the Ministry of Overseas Development.

It is never precise to say which came first – the chicken or the egg. Opportunities for long-term projects always existed and now there was a means to fund personnel for these projects. The Indian Branch had been introduced to an opportunity in Madras in 1958 by the long-time SCI supporter and later Indian Representative to the International Committee, Father Pierre Ceyrac who knew the Mayor of Madras, Mrs. Tara Cherian. The project, called Cherian Nagar, was in a slum. In addition to the Kasauli project run by the Asian Secretary (1961-1965), the Indian Branch began work in a leprosy colony in Orissa, called Hatibari in 1961- 1962. (See Elizabeth Crook, Cathy Peel and Bhuppy’s accounts of Hatibari and Kasauli) By the mid-`60s there was the Rapti project (an agricultural one) in Nepal begun in 1966, Pahayria (also agricultural) in Sri Lanka, Kimpu (on a co-operative farm) in Japan, as well as volunteers placed in other projects in Thailand and with the East Pakistan Branch. (See the Kobayashi report for Kimpu and Ann Kobayashi for Thailand and Roger Gwynn for East Pakistan). Volunteers from these projects also participated in short-term workcamps, but there were no longer just the all-rounder volunteers going from workcamp to workcamp.


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