Friends across the Miles: VSOs - an important part of Labrador Education History Voluntary Service Overseas

Series Title: Voluntary Service Overseas

Vol. 2

By Llewelyn Pritchard Copyright 2010 Llewelyn Pritchard Smashwords Edition

(Cover photograph: Scout hike across the ice from Nain by John Penny VSO teacher 1966)

Original copies of newspaper and magazine articles about the work of the Voluntary Service Overseas (V.S.O.) teachers in Labrador, Newfoundland, Canada 1960–70, when 18 year old students - mainly from the United Kingdom taught in the schools of the coastal settlements in Labrador, Newfoundland, Canada. “It’s been over 30 years since members of the Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) were stationed in Labrador and now a search is underway to locate those who served as teachers from 1960-1970 (one year terms). VSOs came from the United Kingdom to isolated communities and a way of life that was foreign to them. Some of the communities they were stationed in included Nain, Hopedale, Lodge Bay, Cartwright, Mary’s Harbour, Cape St. Charles, William’s Harbour, Rexon’s Cove, Mud Lake, Makkovik, North West River, Port Hope Simpson and Rigolet.

The idea to bring members of this volunteer organization to Labrador originated with Reverend Bill Peacock, superintendent of the Moravian Missions in Labrador. He knew the difficulty there was in attracting qualified Newfoundland and Canadian teachers to the Labrador coast, particularly more remote communities. When Bill Rompkey (now Labrador Senator) became superintendent of the school board in 1968, VSOs were already in place. “I was very attracted to the idea, particularly as we were still having the same problems filling some schools,” said Mr. Rompkey. He said the use of volunteers in Labrador was not new. “Grenfell had originated the WOPS (Without Pay) after the turn of the century, both from Britain and the U.S.,” said Mr. Rompkey. “Our association with VSO worked extremely well, and lasted until we were able to improve school conditions, particularly housing for teachers, and attract some excellent teachers from Newfoundland and other parts of Canada.” Mr. Rompkey said the young British people were of a “high calibre.” Most of them had ‘A’ levels the highest certificate in secondary school graduation. While Mr. Rompkey wasn’t sure if they had university training, it didn’t make a difference to the job they did.

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