Letter: Voluntary efforts

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The Independent Online
Sir: It should be possible to admire Voluntary Service Overseas' current work and its exciting plans for the future without implying that the early years reflected only an outdated adolescent idealism ('In search of those who volunteered their services', 18 June). VSO's original thinking reflected a belief that there are problems which do not permit of a technical solution, where it may be as important to influence attitudes as to impart professional skills. Partnership was the core of the early briefing: they would learn as well as teach. Additionally, they were to encourage those they were helping to befriend others.

Overseas governments and agencies requested their sending in full knowledge of their youthfulness. They hoped that these volunteers would activate their own young people in service. Because that aim requires an institutional framework, the Nigerian government, for one, has made a year of service an integral part of university education.

Some of the early volunteers were in fact highly skilled. Among the first dozen, sponsored by Rolls-Royce on completion of their apprenticeship, one became the only faculty member at Thailand's Institute of Technology who could translate a blueprint into a working model within hours.

Out of those first beginnings I concluded that there were needs in Britain to which young volunteers could make their contribution and founded Community Service Volunteers for that purpose.

Yours faithfully,

ALEC DICKSON

President

Community Service Volunteers

London, W4

18 June

The writer was the founder of Voluntary Service Overseas.

(Photograph omitted)

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