Deline van Boom – we say farewell to a friend, board member and mentor

Deline van Boom was a small woman - warm, humorous and lively. But in South Africa’s volunteering landscape she was a giant and an inspiration to people and organisations around the world.

As director of the Cape Town Volunteer Centre for many years, she carried the flame of community service and active citizenship through a wide variety of programmes in South Africa, the Southern African region and abroad. She worked for the South African Red Cross Association before joining the Volunteer Centre. For many years, Deline served on the board of South Africa’s national volunteer organisation – Volunteer South Africa (VOLSA). Following the demise of that organisation in the mid-2000s, she made every effort to extend the services offered by the Cape Town Volunteer Centre to other parts of the country. She was particularly successful in establishing a number of satellite centres in the small towns of Beaufort West, Vredendal, Mitchell’s Plain and Khayelitsha in the Western Cape. She lobbied tirelessly for a national volunteer policy for South Africa, and actively supported research conducted in all provinces across South Africa to create a policy framework for this purpose. Despite her efforts, the volunteer policy is still not in place.

Deline was also a pioneer and an innovator in the field of regional and international volunteering. On the basis of this experience, the Cape Town Volunteer Centre was sought out as a partner by local and international organisations, including Afsai (Italy), Global Xchange (England), Canada World Youth, the Southern Africa Trust’s SayXchange programme, the Intercultural Youth Exchange (ICYE) (based in Europe), the Association of Volunteer Service Organisations (AVSO) (based in Brussels), Volunteer Services Overseas (VSO), SAGE-Net and VOSESA, among others. In partnership with Canada World Youth she spearheaded the design and implementation of the first reciprocal volunteer programmes between South Africa and Canada, creating opportunities for young Canadians and young South Africans to spend three months volunteering in pairs in each country. She then worked with her partners to extend these programmes into regional youth volunteer exchanges between South Africa and Mozambique.

VOSESA was fortunate to have worked closely with Deline over many years, and to have her serve on its Board since 2010. Her commitment, wise counsel, generosity and care helped develop VOSESA into the research NGO it has become today.

Deline passed away on 21 March 2013, following a short illness, and our condolences go out to her husband Garth and her children Kathryn and David, and the rest of her family and friends.

She will be sorely missed by all in the world of volunteering because, truly, a great tree has fallen.

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