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With the tragedy over the weekend in Nepal we thought we would bring some good news of how the WVS helped the families of Nepalese Gurkha soldiers , a task that would last for over 40 years and how it all started in an account from 1948.
When the decision was made that a Gurkha Brigade would be recruited by the British to serve in Malaya, those responsible felt very strongly that if this experiment were to succeed a welfare service must be provided for the families.
These families had never been out of Nepal in their lives; had probably never seen the sea; had anything from a five to 14 days’ walk to reach the port of embarkation, and could speak no English. To go overseas to live in a strange country with strange people in unknown and unimagined conditions would be a tremendous step.
Early in 1948 WVS agreed to send members to act in a welfare capacity. There are now Families’ Camps attached to the eight battalions serving in Malaya. The families at present live in tents which are wonderfully well kept, and around which little gardens have been planted.
The work of the WVS member varies in each camp, but everywhere a main concern is the health of the women and children. She issues additional milk and vitamin foods, possibly once a week makes an inspection of the tents, weighs the numerous babies, takes the expectant mothers to ante-natal clinic, goes to hospital with all who need treatment, and generally endeavours to reassure the very nervous Gurkha woman and persuade her there is nothing to fear, either in regard to seeing a doctor or going into hospital.
A sewing machine is often provided which the women are taught to use, and the WVS member buys thin material which, in turn, the women buy from her to make light clothes for the children. When the families first arrived the children wore thick, knitted, woollen garments. In a tropical climate the result was very severe prickly heat and often outbreaks of impetigo and other skin diseases. It was not easy to convince the women at first that light clothes were suitable and would be most comfortable, and it was only by getting one or two of the more enterprising of them to try the experiment, which proved successful, that now practically all the women wear light bright coloured saris.
These Gurkha wives are most of them very young people, many of them only 16, 17 or 18. There are, naturally, some who are considerably older, but for the young ones such a tremendous upheaval must be a startling experience, it is extremely easy to frighten and upset them.
By far the chief occupation is having babies!
Every WVS. member feels a tremendous pride in the number and size of the new arrivals, and there is considerable rivalry between the various battalions !
Another activity is running a little class or school for the younger children. It is, naturally, difficult for the WVS member to teach children to count, read and write in a language of which she knows only comparatively few words herself, but nevertheless she manages extremely well by either pointing or drawing an object, the little Gurkha giving the Gurkhali word, the WVS. member giving the English equivalent, thereby both acquiring knowledge at the same time.
The women are on the whole extremely enterprising, very excited with anything new and most receptive to any fresh experience. An outing was once arranged for the wives and families from one camp, On arrival the smaller children walked straight into the sea and started paddling, many of the women immediately took off their top layer of clothes and plunged in in their underclothes. As our WVS member said: “I never thought I would find myself teaching a Gurkha lady to float, with her sari trailing on the waves behind her.”
It is extremely interesting to go round the tents and see what the different families manage to do with the same equipment. Each family is issued with the basic furniture : beds, chairs, tables, chest of drawers. Some remain rather bare and cheerless but others, from apparently nowhere, very soon have many bright flowers about and extraordinary collections of coloured pictures and photographs, and very often an advertisement cut from an illustrated paper appears next door to a brightly coloured picture of a local god.
There is no shadow of doubt that the WVS members working with the Gurkhas have done a really first class job of welfare in the fullest and best sense of the word. The work is exacting and strenuous, but I am sure that everyone who has worked with the Gurkhas is very glad to have had the experience.
Posted by Matthew McMurray at 00:00
Monday, 27 April 2015.
This month’s extract from the diary of a centre organiser come from July 1950
A “ Bright Young Thing ” called at the office this morning to make enquiries about WVS at the very moment when I had to leave for an appointment at the further end of the town. Remembering my County Organiser’s words: . . . "Encourage younger women to join. We are all of us ten years older . .. ” and so on, I beamed welcomingly, thrust a copy of “How WVS. can serve the community” and a pencil into her hands and told her to mark the forms of service in which she was most interested. She had left by the time I returned and Miss MacFee handed me the marked leaflet. “KKL” was pencilled against a great many paragraphs and my hopes rose. She had initialled, perhaps, the jobs with which she would be prepared to lend a hand? “No,” Miss MacFee told me dourly, her name’s Brown— and she says she’ll help with the ACF Canteen.” “ And 'KKL’?” I enquired, mystified. Miss MacFee looked down her nose. “She told me it stood for“ ‘Kouldn’t Kare Less’,” she said.
Mrs Grouse was holding forth in her usual delightful (?) way at today’s “Make Do and Mend” party. All the vegetables in her garden had failed; her silk sunshade, purchased only last year, had split; a frock, guaranteed “fast” colours, had faded : on and on went the tales of woe. “You’re a pessimist, that’s what you are,” Mrs Bright said at last. “You’re like the farmer who had some chickens. ‘They’re a fine lot,’ somebody told him, but he shook his head‘ The trouble is the old hen hatched out nine, and all of them have died on me but eight,’ he said.” (The rest of us laughed, but Mrs Grouse thought the farmer’s attitude quite natural. “Poor man, I expect the ninth was a pullet and all the others were cockerels,” she commented.)
Matron inculcates politeness to each new orphan very soon after his or her arrival at the Home. It is impossible, therefore, to suspect an ulterior meaning behind the words spoken by a small newcomer after her first visit to her WVS Godmother’s home. “Thank you so very much for having me,” she said fervently to her hostess. “I've been had beautifully.”
With the weather improving and summer coming on we thought we would bring you a salad.
The Salad Clock
Make a French Salad, using cold cooked potatoes cut into rings, cooked peas, carrots and parsnips cooked and diced. Add finely sliced apple and chopped gherkin and mix well with salad cream.
Place on a large serving platter and have layer of dressing on top smoothed over to represent face of a clock. Cut two hard- boiled eggs into twelve slices and place them equally round the face of the clock. Cut Roman numerical figures out of strips of any vegetable but if beetroot is used do not place it in position until the last minute as the colour runs.
Use two sticks of celery to represent the hands of the clock. Frame with slices of tomato alternating with cucumber - or chopped ham and sliced sausage.
Posted by Matthew McMurray at 00:00
Monday, 20 April 2015.
bright Young things,
Spinach and beet,
centre organiser ,
Well it has been a very busy and exciting few months collecting oral histories for the Voices of Volunteering: 75 Years of Citizenship and Service. It’s been nearly six months since I last added material to our online catalogue so another 20 volunteers’ voices have now been uploaded to the 14 I told you about in the blog post ‘Voices of Volunteering goes online’. We have also added the text transcripts of 15 of the oral histories which are downloadable as Pdfs.
You can now listen to all 35 oral histories on our online catalogue, here is a flavour of what to expect:
Find out from Jill Walden-Jones how the Social Transport Scheme was started in Dyfed in 1974.
Mary Gibbons will tell you what it was like to go on a Children’s Holiday at Atlantic College.
Winifred Simpson talks about her time as a WVS member from 1940-1964 in Coventry when she helped at the Police Station Tea Bar.
What was it like to volunteer in a WRVS Hospital Shop in Scotland? Moira Trotter has the answers.
Sandra Taylor has had many different roles as a volunteer including delivering Meals on Wheels and being a District Organiser.
Sheila Lamont discusses what it was like to be a Services Welfare Officer on the Falkland Islands.
Cyril Barnes talks about helping with Meals on Wheels and Books on Wheels in Melton Mowbray.
Want to know more about WRVS’ Emergency Services work in Cumbria? Pat Gill is the one to listen to.
Setting up a rest centre was all in a day’s work for volunteer of 20 years Jill Fawcett.
Find out what it was like to be a Services Welfare Officer in Fleet, the Falklands, Germany, Cyprus, Blandford, Litchfield, Canada and Abourfield from Jean Crosley-Ingham.
Listen to why Mary Smalley said ‘that started me on what I consider to be, in a way, the most important thing I have done outside my home and family ever’.
Also hear one of our Heritage Champions talk to Peterborough volunteer Diana Setchfield about the Gloucester Centre and the Senior Stop Café.
In other news I now have some company while on my travels around Great Britain in the form of Stella our Royal Voluntary Service knitted doll and you can follow her adventures on Twitter @RVSarchives.
A small group of rug-makers is meeting twice a week at Grimsby to make rugs for London homeless.
Kingsbridge have started the keeping of certificates for domestic poultry keepers, to obtain wire-netting.
Biggleswade salvage stewards collected 2,500 old ration books during December.
In 1944 a Bath member did 1,170 hours of hospital work, in addition to being a VCP driver, a mobile canteen driver, and a worker in a static Services Canteen.
At Tavistock a WVS member, refusing to be beaten by the weather, went out on a sledge and collected 450 articles for the Re-homing Gift Scheme.
Henley Services canteen recently served 20,714 hot beverages, 249 soft drinks and 21,685 sandwiches during one month.
During the last three years WVS as voluntary telephonists have done 10,000 hours of duty at the Royal Sussex County Hospital.
WVS members at Smethwick have collected 8,400 stamped envelopes and note paper for the use of wounded soldiers when they arrive in hospital, to notify their relatives.
Two National Savings Centres in Islington, entirely staffed by WVS, have during the past three and two years exceeded the £500,000 and £75,000 marks respectively.
An evacuee train en route through Taunton was able to stop only for eight minutes, but WVS managed to get 630 cups of tea and over 900 buns and sandwiches on board, during those few minutes.
The Army Welfare Officer at Peterborough has asked WVS to operate a “Get you Home Scheme” so that men on leave from overseas who are stranded at the stations at night can be taken home by car.
One work party member at Battle, who very specially “mothered” the relays of men manning a searchlight near her home during the fly bomb attacks, now has an average of seven letters a week from her men now serving overseas.
The WVS Village - Representative at Offley recently received a letter of thanks and congratulations from the Regional Commissioner for the “ excellent services ” rendered by herself and helpers when a Rest Centre had to be opened after an explosion resulting from a collision between two motor vehicles.
Bridgewater Welcome Club are very proud of the mural paintings done by one of the American members. D-Day came before he could finish his picture of the main street of the town, which is left incomplete without the Welcome Club. The Club hope he will come back and put in the finishing touches. He, like so many other of his countrymen, will be sure of a grand welcome.
A large number of gifts from Plymouth for the Re-homing Gift Scheme have been received from people who had been bombed-out themselves and whose offerings entailed real sacrifice. One woman gave some things which she had been treasuring in memory of a sister who had been killed in a raid ; she felt she ought no longer to be sentimental and that the things should be used now to help others.
Ipswich have started a salvage “Something for Nothing Scheme” in which small gifts are exchanged for a certain weight of rags or bones. A bead necklace, for instance, can be “bought” for 56 lb of bones, a teapot for 28 lb of rags, a bicycle bell for 56 lb of paper, etc. The response has been so enormous that the prizes have had to be “put up". Recently, in the same borough, a six-feet pile of bones, which had been stewed down for the dogs, was discovered rotting near a dog racing track and immediately collected !
Posted by Matthew McMurray at 09:00
Monday, 06 April 2015.
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