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International Youth Volunteer Foundation celebrates 50th

Initiative came through 1953 Flood relief

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

UTRECHT, the Netherlands - An international programme which each year sends some 500 young Dutchmen abroad as volunteers to a number of selected countries, recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. Since 1953, thousands of foreign youths have worked in the Netherlands as well as volunteers where assignments also allow for a ‘good time.’

The idea for what initially was called the Foundation International Work Camps (SIW), in part was triggered by a letter from Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, the widow of wartime U.S. President FDR. It was carried to the Neth-erlands by a California student, who came - with hundreds of other foreigners - to help with the clean-up in the aftermath of the disastrous 1953 Flood.

Although young Dutchmen had been helping at re-building Europe for a number of years prior to 1953, the Netherlands - and the Dutch Bureau for Work Camps Abroad - did not actively seek help from foreign youths.

Clean-up efforts

The Flood of February 1, 1953, changed all that. That day, a Coordination Commission Volunteer Work was formed, bundling efforts to place impromptu volunteers from well over 40 countries. In October 1953, after most of the immediate clean-up in the effected areas had been finished, a formal institution of the Foundation followed. It since has changed its name to a politically correct one: SIW International Volunteer Projects.

The main three goals of SIW have not changed over the decades and are still in its banner. The objectives seek to stimulate personal growth and development of young people; encourage international contact and understanding; doing social, cultural and environmental work.

The young Californian, Harry Morgan (19), came to the Netherlands to help out wherever and in whatever way he could. He had no idea what to expect, and had taken with him only spending money. He met Mrs. Roosevelt - whose family in the 1700s hailed from Zeeland, the province hit hardest by the disaster - at the United Nations building in New York. Morgan stayed for two months in Zeeland, one of the hundreds of (young) volunteers assisting the Dutch workers and clean-up crews.