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The gift of time: A remarkable story of voluntary service in Britain

“We are only activated by one desire – what we can do for the community and how we can help the nation strengthen itself,” Stella, Lady Reading, founder of the Women’s Voluntary Services.

Founded in 1938 as the nation prepared for war, the Women’s Voluntary Services galvanised over a million women to volunteer to support on the home front.  From evacuating children to running air raid precautions, the ‘women in green’ were central to Britain’s defence and resilience.

In the decades that followed, the organisation and its unique philosophy of voluntary service maintained its place at the heart of civic life.  It tackled extraordinary social challenges – from building nuclear bunkers,  to organising holidays for disadvantaged children to running Derby & Joan clubs.

Today its volunteers are still active and helping in hospitals and communities across GB.

In celebration of its 80th anniversary, the charity – now Royal Voluntary Service – is telling its surprising story through a collection of archive photographs.  Exhibited alongside are images of today’s volunteers-in-action, taken by the celebrity photographer Nicky Johnston.

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