A well-written, informative history of a groundbreaking
20th-century volunteer organization.

Kirkus Reviews

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
September 2022
370 pages
$20.00 (paperback)


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  • An uncle (Father Joe Ryan a Jesuit from a Boston family) when I spoke of an interest in joining the Friends’ Abroad program (Quakers) asked me to consider the one the Jesuits had. I was then working at WGBH-TV then the educational TV station of NET –New England Educational Television. John Kennedy was then a U.S. Senator seeking the nomination for his party’s Presidential candidate. I chose to go with the new Peace Corps and went to Ghana, the first group to head abroad in late 1961 August.

    P.S. I’ll be 86 on March 21 this year 2023. (I was born in Niagara Falls, NY 1937in St. Mary’s Hospital, and from age eleven grew up in Dallas TX–North Texas grasslands and graduating from it’s Arlington State and North Texas State colleges before going up to Boston University graduate school of public relations and communications and as a Lowell Fellow intern at WGBH’s center then on the M.I.T. campus in Cambridge MA.

    A.P.S. Ghana 1 group’s still together in monthly zooms with of the original 50 is a dozen participating.

  • CHERRY-PICKING life, little life: from 1953 and other times earier

    [I was sixteen that 1953 summer working as old  Mr. Flanagan’s helper at the Campfire Girls’ camp, south of Dallas, on a ridge above the Big Brothers’ camp below, where my best friend Frank ‘Nicky’ Knickerbocker worked–his mother got us our jobs.]

    [By the end of  that summer  of nineteen fifty-three I thought I loved Ellie the Campfire Girls’ summer-camp cook’s boy friend also from her North Carolina college a football hunk working in that Big Brother camp in that valley below]

    My youth now seems a good earth original  today so achingly beautiful. Great grandmother Jane Kennedy Delehant  had often intoned “Backward, o backward/ o time in thy flight/ make me a child again/ just for tonight.” Night!  So now in this time/ over time I think it, write, say it now recalling that summer I was 16.

    INTUITIONAL TEMPLATES: Many of us could never go home even when we had not left it. Home is a windsong in our hearts. These hearts have exploded, repositioned themselves, ending as much the mends themselves.

    Lately, when i have dreamed of HOME what appears is that river bottom cabin where 2 men lived and took my brothers and me out in their boat fishing and just seeing the shore life as my father jack kicked back reclining at shore dreaming baseball.

    Back to that time and of the Pierce-Arrow with the rumble seat trunk where we rode free to the sky: cars and with dogs in them cars with the rumble seats mid-1940′s that were old even then and 2 guys back from World War II who had them, and we loved them, ducking down into the space inside when windy or cold or you were afraid–or dad or/ and the guys were a bit worried.

    We bounced over potholes, roots, humps heading down to the river and their cabin, some tributary of our Niagara River. I remember those two guys who lived down there back from WW II  and the one who’d had a leg off used to grab me to haul me over these ditches and trees, the blond hunk with the missing leg but some replacement (and I think now it was my first crush on a guy) in his 20′s who my dad used to play baseball with and the other guy my my dad’s buddy from their  boy scout days or from the Tuscarora reservation near Niagara.

    Lately, when I have dreamed of home what appears is the rumble seat in the Pierce-Arrow.

    © Copyright Edward Mycue 12 March 2015 for Laurence Roberts (Larry-Bob)

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