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Reports from everywhere - September 1965

This week, a return to Reports from Everywhere’ this time from September 1965. There were so many stories included in this issue of the bulletin, I found it hard to cut down so you have an ‘extended’ selection this week.

Straight to the point
The District Organiser for Lewisham received a letter from a 10-year-old boy in a local primary school. He explained that he was writing an essay about the social work being done in the Borough and he would like to know about WVS. The Organiser invited him to see some of the work if the school would give him permission- WVS was very surprised one morning when the boy arrived with 24 other pupils and his teacher. It proved a very enjoyable morning and the children seemed to ask hundreds of questions and promised they would ask their Mums to help and also to send any cast-off clothing. One small boy asked ‘Do you take ladies who are bored?’

Layettes from Salvage
During the past five years Finchley (a district of the London Borough of Barnet) Centre have made 564 nightdresses, 473 vests and 416 dresses for the Refugee Layette Scheme. This has been accomplished by using the good parts of worn garments destined for the Salvage sack. Shirts and sheets are used to make the nightdresses and vests, summer dresses and underclothes for the little dresses. Hand-made jumpers are undone, washed and re-knitted into shawls; 395 of these have been sent.

Members and friends, most of the latter being elderly, some being disabled and with failing sight, are tireless in sewing and knitting - Their policy is: ‘We are sending a present to these babies, so let us make it as attractive as possible’.

Not once but many times
When we see the students are enjoying themselves at their annual romp and they rattle the collecting boxes before our face, we sometimes forget the enormous amount of good the money will do when they have shared it out among the many local needs.

Money from the Aberdeen students’ campaign and the Welsh Caird trustees took 58 elderly people from Stonehaven on a bus run inland to some of the loveliest villages in Scotland. In a year when the broom and gorse was a mass of blooms they saw whole hillsides covered in golden yellow. Memory pictures to cherish through the dark days of the year.

From unwanted to wanted
One of our ‘Make and Mend’ members in Herne Bay has made about 550 babies’ day and night dresses out of unwanted cotton frocks and skirts in the five years she has been working for WVS; at 82 years of age an excellent record.

A word in time
A member working with the Bath Meals on Wheels service had been delivering meals to the elderly occupants of a very old house. The smell of the house had for some time been slowly getting worse, and when she went one week it was so dreadful that she felt something should be done about it, so she telephoned the Gas Board and asked that someone should be sent along to investigate.

They thought she had made a mistake and should have telephoned for the Sanitary Inspector, but said they would send an engineer along forthwith.

When the gas installations were inspected it was found that all the leads or pipes going into the meter were completely adrift. When they telephoned our member to inform her of this they said that had it not been for her prompt action, undoubtedly all the occupants of this apartment house would have been gassed.

Music in Braille
A blind woman living at Putney, who is being taken care of by a Wimbledon WVS member, is getting on well. Our member is taking great interest in her welfare, and is making every effort to get her some music written in Braille. She is teaching herself the piano and is very keen on music which is one of her greatest joys. She is so happy with her visitor and evidently appreciates this interest in her wellbeing very much indeed.

Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 28 September 2015.

Labels: Braille, Putney, Music, Piano, Bath, Somerst, Meals on Wheels, Gas, Make do and mend, herne bay, stonehaven, Scotland, Finchley, Layettes, Refugees, barnet, lewisham

Spinach and beet - Part 15

In case you had been missing our regular columns over the past month, no fear, the Diary of a Centre Organiser is back! This time from December 1949.

MONDAY

We were asked to visit a woman who is the mother of nine children and who is expecting the tenth within a few days. "I'm dreadfully tired of having babies," she complained.
"Then why don't you stop ?" demanded Mrs Blunt, who accompanied me.
The woman sighed. "It's the only way I know of to keep the youngest from being spoiled," she said.

TUESDAY

When our Regional Administrator paid a visit today to one of our longest-established "Darby and Joan" Clubs she recognised a grey-bearded old man who had told her his age was 77 when she last saw him. "That was four years ago, wasn't it," she suggested, "so now you must be . . . ?"
"77," he maintained solidly.
"But how is that," she asked him." Do explain."
"Explain ?" he spluttered indignantly. "There's nothing to explain. Do I look the sort of chap who would be telling you one thing one day and something else the next ?"

THURSDAY

Our County Organiser passed on an excellent tip she had picked up at the recent conference at Ashridge. "One of our members who distributes Welfare Foods keeps an eye on the laundry lines," a speaker had told the audience, "and directly she sees a row of nappies she calls at the house with orange juice and cod liver oil. It's wonderful how the number of bottles distributed by her has increased since she adopted this plan."

FRIDAY

The Centre has collected a lot of pot plants for distribution at Christmas to the more bedridden of our Meals on Wheels clients - and there will even be some over. A worried-looking man, peering through our window, ventured in to ask if we could let him have a geranium for his wife who was coming out of hospital. "I'm afraid we haven't any geraniums," Miss MacFee told him, "but we have some nice potted chrysanthemums - and here's a very pretty cyclamen."
"No, they won't do," was the gloomy reply. "It's a geranium I promised my wife I'd water for her while she was away."

Recipe

Sultana Cake

1 lb flour
1/2 lb butter or margarine
1/2 lb castor sugar
3 eggs
1/2 lb sultanas
1/4 lb glace cherries
1 teasp Baking Powder
1 breakfastcup milk
Pinch of salt

Cream butter and sugar. Sift in the flour, salt and baking powder. Add eggs one at a time, then the milk. Beat all well together for 10 minutes. Grease and paper a cake tin. Pour in mixture and bake in a moderate oven for 1 1/2 hours. When cool cover with plain white icing and decorate.

Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 14 September 2015.

Labels: recipe, Saltana Cake, Welfare Foods, babies, Darby and Joan, Ashridge, meals on Wheels, Geraniums, chrysanthemums, cyclamen, Hospital

Long to reign over us

Today Her Majesty The Queen becomes our longest serving monarch, and Royal Voluntary Service, one of the many charities of which she is Patron, wishes her every happiness.

We have a long association with the Royal family, in fact back to before our foundation. Our first Patron in 1938 was Queen Mary, who was so instrumental in galvanising and leading Home front efforts in the First World War and who had a profound influence of on our founder Lady Reading encouraging and supporting her in the formation of the WVS ahead of that second terrible 20th century conflict. She would be followed later that year when Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) who consented to be our president, a position she actively held until her death in 2002.

It was not until 1953 on the death of Queen Mary and her ascent to the throne that Queen Elizabeth II became our Patron. But this was not the first or the last time that the WVS would be associated with our current reigning monarch. As Princess Elizabeth, our members were always ready to help, and in early 1948 were responsible for sorting, packing and sending out over 1,0000 parcels a day of gifts of food sent to Princess Elizabeth from the Dominions and Colonies at the time of her wedding. WVS was also entrusted with the task of dusting the Royal Wedding Presents while they were on view at St. James's Palace.

The Royal Wedding was a huge occasion in the long hard years of recovery after the war and one celebrated to the fore by members of the WVS. In all they collected £901 18s 10d, the majority of which was used to buy the Princess a refrigerator.

In 1966, on August 4 to be precise, Her Majesty conferred on the WVS the honour of adding Royal to their name, a thank you for the sacrifice of members during the Second World War and in the long recovery afterwards. It is a title we still treasure to this day.

Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 09:00 Wednesday, 09 September 2015.

Labels: Wedding presents, Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary, Colonies, Dominions, Food gifts, Heritage Bulletin Blog, RVS, WRVS, WVS

Easing the plight of refugees

Listening to the news reports on the refugee crisis this morning, we thought we would share with you some of the ways in which WVS volunteers have helped refugees, both in this country and abroad, over the years.

The Refugee Department of the WVS was opened in May 1940 to meet the needs of War Refugees on the invasion of Holland and Belgium and later on the collapse of France, and the invasion of the Channel Islands. WVS helped with the meeting and transport of refugees and their care at reception centres in the London area. After billeting, support continued at local WVS Centres, providing temporary homes, clothing, activities, and employment. For example in 1940 a refugee from Guernsey, who was a dressmaker, was provided with a sewing machine so that she could earn a living in Britain. The WVS continues to help thousands of refugees from Poland, and in 1956 some 12,000 Hungarians.

In 1959, World Refugee Year, the WVS set up an adoption scheme, through which individuals and WVS Centres could support refugee families, particularly in Germany, Africa and the Middle East. They provided gifts of money, food, fuel, and clothing, but as relationships formed they were able to send more personal gifts such as paints for artists, wool and knitting needles, soap, razor blades, and handkerchiefs.

In 1961 many refugees from Tristan da Cunha were housed in an ex-army camp in Caterham. Caterham and Godstone WVS, with the help of Oxted, Sevenoaks Rural, and Reigate, cleaned, furnished and equipped the camp, and undertook all the cooking for the first ten days. They were responsible for welfare, daily social activities, and games for the children, and they ran a shop in the old NAAFI.

The WRVS Settlement Section were on hand to support the arrival of some 2,500 Czechs in 1968, and some 2,000 Ugandan Asians in 1973. Many arrived almost destitute, knowing little or no English, and friendless. The WRVS provided free English lessons, venues to meet fellow exiles, help with Social Security, furniture, jobs, and education.

In many case members set up lasting friendships with the individuals and families. Here at the archive we store several items of memorabilia and gifts connected with these relationships including the beautiful model boat from Tristan de Cunha pictured here.

Posted by Sheridan Parsons, Archive volunteer at 00:00 Thursday, 03 September 2015.

Labels: refugees, Baroness Warsi, Today programme, Radio 4, Hungarain, Trisan da Cunha, Poland, Holland , Belgium , Ugandan Asians, Czech, Caterham, Godstone, Oxted, Sevenoaks, Reigate