The Story of Volunteer Youth Service

I am looking forward to the time when the average youngster --- and parent or employer --- will consider that one or two years of work for the cause of development, either in a far away country or in a depressed area of his own community, is a normal part of one's education.


First published 1968

cover notes:

International voluntary service for young people has only gained widespread recognition since the creation in 1961 of President Kennedy's Peace Corps. In the last seven year's the growth of full-time voluntary service has been phenomenal. Over 250 organizations ---national and international, governmental and private, of various inspirations --- are now involved in recruiting, training, and sending young volunteers from North America, Eastern and Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand to the Third World.

Arthur Gillette has written a stimulating and comprehensive history of a movement that began with a work-camp rebuilding farmers' houses on the Verdun battlefield after the First World War and is today a prominent feature of international co-operation --- mutual aid not charity.

The author shows how service has affected volunteers and the peoples with whom they work, and draws guide-lines for the future of international voluntary work.

Arthur Gillette was born in New York in 1938; he read French and Spanish at Harvard and graduated in 1961. He has held a variety of jobs, including deck-hand on a West Indian fishing smack and engine-boy on a Norwegian freighter. He has also travelled in Asia, Africa, Latin America and most of Europe, managing to get in some workcamping on the way. From 1961 until 1963 he did alternative service as a conscientious objector, helping to administer an international voluntary service organization; he then worked in Unesco's Youth Division, and in 1967 he became a free-lance writer and jobs consultant, usually connected with out-of-school youth education. Until recently he has been resident in Paris; he now lives with his French wife in Ethiopia, working as a youth consultant. Arthur Gillette has published articles in New Society, the Unesco Courier, Américas, and other magazines. His other interests include politics, the sea, classical music and printing.



My parents, Pierre François and Glyn





 The First International Voluntary Workcamp
 Pierre Ceresole
 Early Workcamps in Switzerland. The Movement Attains Momentum
 Liechtenstein: Floods and Volunteers
 1930 --- A Turning Point

 2. 1930-40: GROWING PAINS

 Volunteers and jobless
 The Movement Multiplies
 The Role of Service Civil International
 Bihar and the 'Village of Peace'


 The War
 Reconstruction and Proliferation


 Towards Synthesis?
 The Slump: Re-thinking the Method


 Geography and Domestic Underdevelopment
 The Socially Underprivileged


 Studying the Effect
 East-West Workcamping .


 Youth in Development
 The Elite Serves the Nation
 Mass Mobilization


 The Threshold
 Below the Threshold
 Above the Threshold


 A Job to Do
 Doing the Job


 Latin America
 The Industrialized Nations
 Exchanges between Industrialized and Developing Countries




 List of Initials and Abbreviations used in this Book:

AdJ Youth Construction Work (Austria and Germany)
AFSC American Friends (Quakers) Service Committee
AJSS American Jewish Society for Service
AJWC Associated junior Work Camps (USA)
AMA Argentinian Missionary Action
AS Atonement Action (Germany)
BSS Service to India Organization
CIMADE Inter-Movement Committee for Evacuees (France)
CMP Christian Movement for Peace (international)
CoCo Co-ordinating Committee for International Voluntary Service (international)
COFO Council of Federated Organizations (USA)
CSV Community Service Volunteers (Britain)
CPU University Community Co-operation (Peru)
CUSO Canadian University Service Overseas
CYC Company of Young Canadians
FAO Food and Agricultural Organization (UN)
FOR Fellowship of Reconciliation (international)
GDS German Development Service
IAL International Workcamp Association (Sweden)
IBO International Builder Companions (international)
IBTEY International Bureau for the Tourism and Exchange of Youth (international)
IJGD International Youth Social Service (Germany)
ILO International Labour Office (UN)
ISVS International Secretariat for Volunteer Service (international)
IVS International Voluntary Service (American and British Branches of Service Civil International)
J & R Youth and Reconstruction (France)
JYC Jamaica Youth Corps
Komsomol Young Communist League (US S R)
KVT International Workcamp Association (Finland)
LVT Volunteers at Work (Togo)
MAJNU Argentinian Youth Movement for the UN
NCV North Carolina Volunteers (USA)
NYC Neighbourhood Youth Corps (USA)
OAU Organization of African Unity
OCA Operation Crossroads Africa (USA)
OD Operation A Day's Work (Sweden)
OHP Volunteer Labour Squadrons (Poland)
PUMF Peaceful Uses of Military Forces
SCI Service Civil International (international)
SIW International Workcamp Foundation (Holland)
SP Service to Poland
SUT University Work Service (Spain)
SW Steiermark Conservation Association (Austria)
TEQ Student Workers of Quebec
UFUCH Chilean National Union of Students
UNA UN Association of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
UNDP UN Development Programme
Unesco UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
UNRWA UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees
VISTA Volunteers in Service to America
VITA Volunteers for International Technical Assistance (USA)
VSA Volunteer Service Abroad (New Zealand)
VSO Voluntary Service Overseas (Britain)
VWAG Voluntary Workcamp Association of Ghana
WFDY World Federation of Democratic Youth (international)
YHA Youth Hostels Association of England and Wales
YSV Youth Service Volunteers (Britain)
ZWM Union of Fighting Youth (Poland)



VOLUNTARY service by young people only gained widespread recognition around the world with the creation in 1961 of President Kennedy's Peace Corps. Since, the growth of similar programmes sending young people from industrialized to developing countries for a year or more has been phenomenal. Over 20,000 long-term volunteers from two dozen countries are now at work in a hundred developing nations and territories. About two hundred organizations --- national and international, governmental and private, of various inspirations --- are now recruiting, training and/or sending medium-skilled young volunteers from North America, Eastern and Western Europe, Japan, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand to the Third World. Clearly, long-term voluntary service has become a permanent feature of international co-operation among young people and well merits the public's attention.

What many people do not know is that the Peace Corps, although the largest programme, was not the first initiative of this kind. Voluntary Service Overseas began sending British youngsters abroad in 1958 while Australia started exporting volunteer teachers to its needy neighbours in 1950. In fact, international long-term volunteers have been working in different parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America since Pierre Ceresole --- son of a president of Switzerland --- led the first team of Swiss and Englishmen to India in 1934.

Another fact unknown to the general public and to many specialists as well is that long-term service is the younger brother of a much larger, if less publicized, kind of voluntary service: youth workcamping. Every year hundreds of thousands of young people spend their holidays and weekends working with their hands: redecorating slums in Paris, New York, London and Stockholm, building roads in Poland, India, Togo and Yugoslavia, rural co-ops in Senegal and Ceylon, schools in Peru, Ghana and Chile ...

In the last decade two new forms of service have become popular. In Europe and North America, community social service has offered increasing numbers of young people the opportunity to aid their underprivileged fellow citizens --- without imposing on them. In Africa and Asia, national civic service corps and pioneer movements enable youth not lucky enough to continue school to receive an education and contribute to national development projects.

To be sure, the concept of service did not first appear with Pierre Ceresole's organization, Service Civil International. Throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America old institutions of neighbourly aid still subsist today. It is called Donkpè in Dahomey, Mingas in Ecuador and Bayanihan in the Philippines. And the YM and YWCA, Scouts and Guides and other youth movements born of the harshness of the Industrial Revolution included service in their credos. But Service Civil International was the first to go beyond charity that treated its beneficiaries as objects, rather than human beings. And the movement unleashed by Service Civil International has helped modify the entire idea of service.

Modern voluntary youth service began with an SCI workcamp rebuilding farmers' houses on the Verdun battlefield after the First World War. It is today a method used around the world, not of charity but of mutual aid, and the annual number of volunteers taking part in projects lasting from two days to two years is now well over one million.

The Peace Corps and similar programmes in Britain, France, Canada and other countries receive general publicity, and these and other long- and short-term service schemes have been described to some extent in specialized literature. But no chronicle of voluntary service as a whole has yet been attempted. One Million Volunteers is meant to fill that gap.

One Million Volunteers does not claim to be an exhaustive history of all forms of modem voluntary youth service. It is, rather, a panorama, a fresco in which certain scenes are described and interpreted in detail while others --- for want of space --- are glimpsed in passing. For those who wish to become conversant with voluntary service this is a phrase-book, not a dictionary. And, through extensive use of quotations, the actual volunteers and their leaders are made to speak for themselves.

Some readers may be surprised not to find a one-phrase definition of voluntary youth service in this Preface or elsewhere in the book. The functions and forms of service are too diverse for all or most organizers to agree on a single definition. Indeed, some may not find it appropriate to include in one book all the types of service covered here. For them, the author sees One Million Volunteers itself as an attempt to define voluntary service.

A number of people have provided indispensable aid to the author. Where letters and conversations have helped him understand periods about which written material is no longer (or not yet) available these are credited in the footnotes. Gary Fullerton of Unesco's Public Liaison Division deserves credit and gratitude for originally suggesting the idea of a book on voluntary youth service. Thanks are also due to Jean-Michel Bazinet, until recently Director of Unesco's Co-ordinating Committee for International Voluntary Service. His patience in answering the author's many questions and intelligence in inducing him to raise the he key issues have been equalled only by his constant good humour in lending numerous valuable documents from the Committee's archives. Jeremy Hamand, an inflexible enemy of newspaperese, has lent a hand in unscrambling ideas and English. Robert Hutchison and Adrian Moyes have helped pluck the original manuscript to Pelican size. Frank Judd, too, has helped more than he would admit. The advice and aid of these and other people has helped make One Million Volunteers a truer and more readily accessible representation of voluntary service than would otherwise have been the case. However, ultimate responsibility for ideas expressed --- and possible errors of fact --- lies, naturally, with the author.

Finally, the author is grateful to Mmes Valery Brasseur and Renée Derosch and Mlles Flora Azulay and Nicole Silly who have struggled valiantly to wade through and retype his draft.

Paris, March 1967

Chapter One