A well-written, informative history of a groundbreaking
20th-century volunteer organization.
Former International Voluntary Services workers provide insights
into their organization in this detailed historical anthology.
A nonprofit organization founded in 1953, International Voluntary Services, according to former IVS volunteer and United States Ambassador to Pakistan Wendy J. Chamberlin, “occupies a special place as a pioneer for fielding volunteers” that served as a model for the Peace Corps and a host of subsequent NGOs.
The anthology, divided into four sections, is a historical overview of IVS’s endeavors from the 1950s through the 2000s. While IVS was an officially nonsectarian organization, the anthology explains that many IVS members came from Mennonite, Quaker, and Christian pacifist backgrounds, and the organization offered an alternative approach to international relations in the wake of World War II and the start of the Cold War. In its half-century of activism, IVS sent volunteers on more than 1,400 assignments in almost 40 countries.
Beginning with Section II, the book’s second half transitions from an organizational history to a grassroots exploration of the experiences of IVS volunteers thrust “out of their comfort zone” and into a post-colonial world that included newly independent nations as well as those (such as Vietnam) whose futures were still being fought for on battlefields.
Sections III and IV offer reflections on IVS’s partnerships with other organizations, from churches to USAID, and a retrospective analysis on the organization’s legacy and implications for the future of international volunteerism. While edited by former members of the IVS (Alex, Chilton, and Benson), this is no mere organizational hagiography; it includes chapters written by history professors and other experts from academia who have no connection to IVS.
Collectively, the book’s 12 chapters are backed by more than 20 pages of endnotes that demonstrate a firm grasp of the scholarly literature and make ample use of primary source material housed at the Mennonite Church USA archives. As in most co-authored anthologies, there is some repeated information across the chapters, but generally the book maintains its cohesiveness. Its readability is enhanced by an ample assortment of maps, charts, text-box vignettes, and useful appendix materials.
A well-written, informative history of a groundbreaking 20th-century volunteer organization.
A Legacy of America’s Global Volunteerism: International Voluntary Services 1953–2002
co-editors: Alex, Mike Chilton and Frederic C. Benson — coeditors; contributor: Paul A. Rodell (Philippines 1968–71)
Peace Corps Writers