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Volunteers' Stories

From IVS, the International Voluntary Service

Founded in 1931, IVS is a non-profit organisation that promotes peace and social justice through volunteering.

This new article series will bring you stories from their volunteers about their inspirational experiences helping local communities n the UK and around the world

IVS volunteer Ros Wass-O’Donnell writes about her experience at
Leckmelm, near Ullapool

Leckmelm is a small sustainable community in the north-west highlands of Scotland. The farm is run ecologically and, where possible, tries to provide sustainable jobs and houses to local families. There is a biodynamic vegetable garden set up in 2002 run by the Lochbroom and Ullapool Growers Group, a community group which provides growing opportunities for people who don’t have land to garden, or for people who want to learn more.

This is my second trip to Leckmelm, situated on an unspoilt coastline, where volunteers stay in a holiday cottage overlooking a fabulous sea loch and impressive mountain range. The nearest small town is Ullapool, only a few miles away, and is an attractive 18th-century fishing village with a thriving music and arts scene.

Part of the work we did in March this year was to help repair the local graveyard, which inspired me to write a poem about the experience.

Repairing the Graveyard

The path bends somewhat precariously through a tough land where mud sucks boots for food, where rhoddies bloom with a murderous intent to occupy with darkness and death, and the trees stretch forlornly high over the ravages.

It was barely possible to clamber through every step a challenge while the shows fall, and the week’s showers have not died out and perhaps never do.

At the graveyard the mossy mounds speak of heritage, of history, of sacrifice and loss. There is a family tried to honour, confront nature’s indifference in the unity of the space in the linkage of bones.

We tackled the rotten fence disintegrating at our touch, and laboured long to re-enclose the graves, to re-inter the fallen in a wooden boundary, making the stubborn stones yield to our holes and the plumbing sure on the poles, and
then the planks like string to bind the structure.

It seems another gesture retrieving memories against the dying dusk, a spark of common humanity, a labour of love.


Visit the Laterlife Interest Index for more Volunteer Stories

If you are over 50 and want to volunteer with IVS please contact

Our projects in 60 countries worldwide are open to volunteers of all ages and can be accessed at

We have a project specifically for the over 50s in Belgium in July for 3 weeks supporting refugee families. You would be with 3 people from the UK and 4 from Belgium.  If you want to find out more contact

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A chance conversation led Karen to volunteering in India

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Karen Laister from Oxfordshire visited Fort Kochi in Kerala, India in November 2016. She had visited India previously on a work trip, fallen in love with the country and was keen to return.

A field report from Russia

Hello! My name is Emily a volunteer for Interra.

I arrived in Krasnoyarsk on Sunday and I will live, work and study here for the next six months.

This is my first time in Siberia! While I’m here, I will run English and German language clubs, events and presentations relating to British culture, as well as generally helping with the everyday work of Interra and the various projects it runs.
Apart from that, I’m looking forward to meeting lots of local people, improving my Russian, visiting other Russian cities and going hiking in the Stolby nature reserve!


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