This is an accessible and entertaining analytical history of VSO, brought to life through personal accounts by young people who have been transformed by service - those whose outlooks on the world were never the same again. As journalist Jon Snow says of his time with VSO in Uganda, "The discovery of real people beyond the tiny world I had occupied in England had a profound impact on my attitudes. The experience led me to journalism and a thirst for more contact with worlds beyond our own." Alec Dickson, VSO's charismatic and energetic founder - "the man with no brakes," as a Nigerian colleague described him - was inspired by his experiences of helping fleeing Hungarian refugees across the Austrian border in 1956. He described "a kind of fierce joy at feeling needed," a joy he wished to share with young people from Britain. He hoped that school-leavers who taught overseas would project warmth, freshness and approachability, as well as learning from those they helped. From Dickson's early vision, through VSO's long and sometimes painful process of transition, Never the Same Again provides a fascinating insight into changing British attitudes to 'abroad' and development. 'Doing VSO' not only changes those who volunteer, but the organisation has itself adapted in response to public and media perceptions of its role. VSO has recruited ever more professional and experienced volunteers, and although many still go to teach, it also sends health workers, librarians and engineers to do vital work in countries with a shortage of trained professionals. What hasn't changed is the altruism of the volunteers, who often accept very basic living conditions and a backward step in their careers in return for supplying their expertise. Published to coincide with VSO's 40th anniversary, with a Foreword by President Jerry Rawlings of Ghana, this book will not only appeal to all those interested in overseas development work and to returned volunteers, their families and friends, but will undoubtedly inspire others to take an active role. You can visit VSO's web site at http: //www.oneworld.org/vso
Dick Bird has worked in VSO for over 30 years, first as a volunteer in Malawi, then in Papua New Guinea as their first field director for and subsequently in various roles on the Senior Management Team. He is currently Director of Fundraising.