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

Peace Day 2016

The 21st of September is the International Day of Peace. Peace Day was officially recognised in 1981 when the United Nations General Assembly declared, in a resolution sponsored by the UK that the International Day of Peace, be a day devoted to commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace.

Peace Day has a different theme every year, with this year’s focus being the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

To inaugurate the day, the United Nations Peace Bell is rung at UN Headquarters. The bell is cast from coins donated by children from all continents except Africa, and was a gift from the United Nations Association of Japan, as “a reminder of the human cost of war”; the inscription on its side reads, “Long live absolute world peace”.

This year, the International Voluntary Service asked its membership to send in stories from times spent volunteering abroad.

“In 1963 I went on an International Workcamp in Egypt through United Nations Association GB. The Cold War was fairly hot. I was the only one from the UK and apart from two Dutch and a small group of West Germans( East and West Germany divided then) we were the only ones from Western Europe.

" The others were groups from Cuba, Russia, most eastern block countries and I think even North Koreans. Anti-imperialism and anti-colonialism was the top issue. It was fascinating, the Czechs warned Hank (Dutch) and myself to be careful, as we spoke our minds quite freely, they said two of the Egyptians were undercover agents keeping an eye on us. We had great fun playing tricks on them. Key point though is that at the start the West Getmans and the East Germans were incredibly hostile. Arguments about whose flag went up the pole and so on. In no way would they cooperate or communicate.

" One of our tasks was to hand crank huge diesel water pumps, the electrics and batteries were no use, and it took two on the crank handle for about ten minutes. After two weeks, and I still have a picture of this, a West German and an East German jointly cranked a pump! Two weeks of living and working together had a remarkable effect. I have many other memories of that time in Egypt and also of a similar Workcamp in Yugoslavia the year before."

- John


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 here.


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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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