Excerpt from the Foreword to the book
"A record of the activities of the British Community in Argentina during the 1939/1945 war"
By Sir William McCallum
Quote: “The British Community Council came into being in May 1939 on the initiative of HM Ambassador Sir Esmond Ovey, GCMG, MVO, as a means of co-ordinating the many and varied autonomous entities which existed; its formation was soon perfected and became so highly appreciated that it was officially quoted as an example and basis for the organization of British Communities in other parts of the world.
“The war effort of the British Community in the Argentine Republic owed its success to the enthusiastic co-operation, the excellent teamwork and the spirit of eager emulation as well as the generous, wholehearted and untiring support so freely given by every member of the Community and by many Argentine and other friends and sympathisers. To each one of them must go the credit for what was done from this land of peace and plenty to help those valiant and well-beloved in the homeland in their long and dangerous struggle against the enemies of freedom.
“The Community emerged from the war much more united than it was at the beginning and it is a gratifying fact that now, eight years after the termination of hostilities, the British Community Council is still proving its vigour and using its strength for the efficient handling of our Community interests and problems. Chief among these is our pledge to look after, in a fitting manner, the needs of those who went forth to serve in the forces and the dependents of those of them who gave their lives.
“A further obligation is to co-ordinate and centralize the collection of funds for the support of Community institutions for social service and welfare, which task has been adopted as the Community’s War Memorial Fund.
“This then is our responsibility, the duty of each one of us, to continue with unfailing energy and devotion to face these obligations with joy and thankfulness for the victory which was vouchsafed to the cause for which our country fought – the preservation of human decency and Christian Civilization.” End of Quote.
The Why and the Wherefore
This summary has not been written for the benefit of those hundreds of stalwart, hard-working men and women, young and not-so-young, who year in and year out give unselfishly of their time and their resources to help create in one or other of a dozen different ways the funds that are essential for the Argentine-British Community in Argentina to support the institutions which take care of those members of this large Community who are no longer fully-able to look after themselves.
To this loyal band of helpers, the(activities of the ARGENTINE-BRITISH COMMUNITY COUNCIL in the Argentine Republic (ABCC) and the BRITISH COMMUNITY WELFARE FUND (BCWF) which it administers, are well known, but there are undoubtedly hundreds, perhaps even thousands of others, whether British-born or of British descent, who possess only a vague idea of what it is all about. It is hoped that what follows will help dispel doubts, awaken interest and encourage other generous-hearted people to take an active part in our traditional task of helping those less fortunate than ourselves.
These words, then, are directed to that large potential group of future helpers and contributors to whom we say: "Come and join us!".
The origin of the British Community Council dates from early 1939 when the District Community Council was founded, to coordinate and improve the social, cultural and welfare activities of the Community with membership composed of representatives of the numerous independent organizations involved. Subsequently it was found convenient to subdivide the Community also into geographically defined districts, each with representation on the Council, and indeed, to this day, this system remains one of the most important bases of our organization. The BCC was officially registered in the "Registro Nacional de Asistencia Social" under Nº 2.604, in 1941, and it is interesting to recall that the BCC crest - crossed Argentine flag and Union Jack and the emblem of the lion with the initials BCC - was authorized by Government decree Nº 27.960 in 1944.
During the 1939-45 war, numerous highly successful fund-raising activities were organized by the Community for patriotic and welfare reasons. After the war it was agreed to centralize all appeals for financial aid in support of the existing welfare entities through the BCC and, as a result, the British Community Fund, later renamed British Community Welfare Fund, was founded in 1945.
At an Extraordinary General Meeting of the Council held on December 14, 1993, it was unanimously agreed to change the name of the British Community Council to that of the Argentine-British Community Council, because the feeling at the time was that this change in denomination would represent more appropriately the present composition of our Community.
HOW DOES THE ABCC OPERATE?
The Council is composed of representatives of many of the secular and religious bodies’ active in the British Community and of the different geographical subdivisions or districts. Indeed the full list of members confirms how extremely wide are the social, cultural and welfare interests which make up this great community family.
From among those many representatives, an Executive Committee of ten members is chosen, who elect their Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Honorary Secretary and Honorary Treasurer. There are strict time limits on the tenure of these offices and the Committee deals with all matters which affect the Council's work, makes recommendations and presents these for approval at full Council meetings. Close liaison is maintained with the British Embassy which is represented on both the Executive Committee and the Council by H.M. Consul who sits as an ex-officio member. Among the most important matters dealt with is the understanding of and the approval of the financial welfare needs of each of the Institutions supported by the BCWF. These needs jointly represent the annual "target" which the Community is asked to reach through donations and other fund-raising activities.
WHICH WELFARE INSTITUTIONS ARE ASSISTED BY THE ABCC?
They are three in number: the British Hospital, the British and American Benevolent Society and the Royal British Legion Benevolent Fund. British Hospital: The BCWF does not maintain the Hospital, which relies principally on its own income from paying patients, direct gifts, legacies and other sources; nor does it contribute to capital expenses, such as purchase of equipment. What the BCWF aims to do is to reimburse the Hospital those expenses for treatment, nursing and so on, in respect of such members of the Community who need it and are unable to pay for more than a part of the cost or perhaps none at all. For these people, the Hospital doctors give their services entirely without charge.
British and American Benevolent Society (BABS): This Society takes care of the elderly ladies and gentlemen of our and the American Community. The modern, comfortable BABS Home in Villa Devoto is usually fully occupied with over eighty residents of both sexes. Husbands and wives share a room together. The degree to which these residents are able to pay for their keep varies from fully to not at all. BABS and the ABCC also care for a number of people who are living in very distressing circumstances but are not resident at the Home. This truly wonderful work requires a great deal of money and BABS obtains a large proportion of this by charging boarding fees and from pensions, collections, direct donations - including support from the American Community - gift and fund-raising activities. BABS relies on the BCWF to cover its approved budgeted welfare requirements.
The Royal British Legion Benevolent Fund gives financial help to those of British birth and their dependents now resident here, who fought in one or other of the two World Wars, but did not volunteer from Argentina, and who now find themselves in straitened circumstances. The BCWF will, when necessary, contribute what the Legion can no longer obtain from direct income.
WHERE DOES THE MONEY COME FROM?
The quick answer to this question is: from many and widely varied sources. The annual Appeal is aimed directly at one's pocket and generosity. It is undoubtedly the most straightforward means of raising funds when the object is human welfare. The amount collected through direct contributions throughout the year forms the major part of the income of the BCVVF and is absolutely fundamental for its work.
The Council organizes directly, through special Subcommittees, such major fund-raisers as the Community Christmas Card Fund, Charity Balls and other special events.
Many other activities are in the hands of nearly twenty District Committees, a full list of which is published in "The Bulletin". These Districts play an essential role in identifying and making contact with all those of British descent living in their area, and by organizing local activities such as theatrical performances by Community Player-Groups, garden fetes, "asados", bridge and canasta teas, dances, musical evenings, tours and other events which combine a happy community get-together spirit with the equally important object of raising funds.
The Flower Fund is another significant source. For many years now families of those who have passed away have requested that, in lieu of floral tributes, donations be sent to one or other of our Welfare entities or direct to the BCVVF. Families and friends make similar donations "In Memoriam" on the anniversary of the passing of a loved one.
There also exists a Thanksgiving Fund where, from time to time, people make donations to commemorate a special happy occasion or successful achievement, or general good fortune. Anniversaries, special birthdays, arrival of grandchildren, good health or recovering from illness, long-time friendships and many other occasions are all reasons for counting your blessings and giving thanks in the form of a donation so that those less fortunate will benefit from your generosity. It is hoped that more people will remember and support this Fund, and in time it will become comparable with the long-established Flower Fund.
From time to time, the Welfare Fund also receives important sums of money as a result of legacies from supporters and well-wishers who have named the ABCC as beneficiary in their wills.
WHAT DOES THE ABCC OFFER?
AII those who make direct individual donations to the BCVVF automatically become members of the ABCC. This membership remains in force as long as the person continues to be an annual contributor and entitles the member to the following benefits:
Members of the ABCC receive its mouthpiece, "The Bulletin", a first-class magazine which not only keeps members fully informed on the many different aspects of Community activities and interests, but has numerous excellent articles of a literary or cultural nature contributed, with rare exceptions, by members of the Community. The Bulletin's slogan is "by the Community, for the Community."
Apart from "The Bulletin" and the enjoyment of fine Community entertainments and other activities, the ABCC also offers the more lasting benefits arising from new friendships formed with people motivated by the same ideals and objectives; and, probably most valuable of all, that personal satisfaction which comes from devoting time and effort unselfishly to the service of others, and particularly to those who depend on the ABCC for their well-being and, perhaps, even survival.
FINAL WORDS ON THE WORK OF THE ABCC
The work is, of course, completely apolitical, and it constitutes, as its members have been repeatedly assured by many personalities both here and abroad, a truly magnificent example of teamwork and that selfless desire to help others which is a British tradition.
The central administration of the ABCC is run on the most economical lines compatible with efficiency. There is an enormous amount of work undertaken by a minimum permanent staff of trained and truly dedicated workers. Furthermore it must be emphasized that all the Officers of the ABCC, members of Committees, District helpers, etc., devote their time and energy in an honorary capacity without cost to the BCVVF.
The requirements of the indigent offer the ABCC a new and greater challenge every year, since the growing need for funds is only too clear. This challenge is taken up cheerfully, year after year, and the target must be met - somehow! But more contributors, ideas and active helpers are always needed, especially among the younger generation whose aid, financial or otherwise, will be most gratefully received.
Who can deny that young people today have substantial time consuming responsibilities: finishing studies, consolidating careers, starting families, struggling for a place in society. But it is precisely the young people who have the energy, the resourcefulness, the drive and the commitment that is vital when tackling an important task.
The ABCC is no exception to this need - new blood is always welcome, with new ideas, a fresh approach. We appeal to the young people of our Community to join us, dedicating a very small part of their time and considerable talents to our very worthy objective.
Those who read this and would like to join our family should contact their nearest District representative, or write or call direct to the ABCC Office, Esmeralda 634 2nd floor “D”, C1007ABF, Buenos Aires. Telephone numbers: 5254-8064/5.
COME AND JOIN US!
You will be most welcome!