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What was it like to be a WRVS District Organiser

Between 1974 and 1992 WRVS was divided into Districts along the same lines as the Local Authorities, each District was managed by a District Organiser.  Some of the volunteers who were interviewed as part of the Voices of Volunteering project talked about being the District Organiser for their local area. Doreen Harris who participated in July 2014 was North Norfolk District Organiser from 1975 to 1985. Here are some of her experiences:

How did you become District Organiser?

"Well, it was because the County Organiser, Joan, that I’d worked with for 11 years, she decided she wanted a change and she was going to leave. Well I didn’t want to leave but I felt that they’d have to get a new County Organiser and she wouldn’t want to get landed with me she’d want to pick her own secretary was the way I looked at it. And so the Regional Organiser came down and said ‘Well I’m glad that you’re not resigning too, what can we do with you’? So I rather cheekily said ‘Well I’d like to look after North Norfolk’, I knew they hadn’t had an Organiser, a District Organiser for some time. ‘Oh well’, she said ‘that sounds a good idea you’d better give it a go’. I worked from home at first, I’d asked if I could have an office if I could find an office and was told ‘Prove the work’s there and we’ll see about it’. So I worked for several months at home, which in a small bungalow you can imagine it wasn’t that easy. I began to get people interested to approach them again and they said ‘Yes, okay look for one’, so I found a little office in North Walsham which was lovely and so a little team of us went there. And North Norfolk has, is always my favourite district, and it was lovely because it went right round the coast."

As District Organiser Doreen was also called out on emergencies in North Norfolk

"I was called out when the sea came through at Walcott, this lovely inspector rang me up and says ‘Mrs Harris my boys it happened on the coast, they are so cold and miserable and can you help’? This is about nine o’clock in the evening, I said ‘Well, we must do something about them mustn’t we’? So I said ‘We’ll pick our team and be there as soon as possible’. So I gathered up the ladies with the tea, we got the urn and down we went to Walcott. And it was rather strange because the police were pretty looked after but we went into the village hall and they had wisely got a group of local ladies, mm, were looking after. And at first I think they thought we’d come to interfere, we said ‘No we just want to make sure you’re all right’, and we said ‘have you got enough blankets, because if not we’ve got some we can let you have’, ‘Yes’, they said ‘that’s, that’s fine’. So we said ‘Okay we’ll leave you to it, you know where we are if you want us’.And then we went on and fed and watered the police as well." 

You can listen to the full story and find out about Doreen’s WRVS work before she became a District Organiser on our online Catalogue.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist at 09:00 Monday, 11 April 2016.

Labels: Norfolk, District Organiser, Emergency, Voices of Volunteering, Oral History