SCI International Archives, Warsaw, Poland (1951)
SCI was founded by Pierre Cérésole, a Swiss engineer who established a peace and humanitarian movement in the aftermath of World War I and laid down the foundations of SCI in 1920.
First international voluntary project
The first international voluntary project -workcamp- took place on the former battle field of Verdun in France in 1920. The aim of the project that was initiated by Pierre Cérésole was to reconstruct the war damaged village Esnes-en-Argonne and to be a symbol of reconciliation between France and Germany. Among the small group of international volunteers there were three Germans. The team built temporary homes for the people in the village and cleared the farm land.
A civilian service
After the first voluntary project Pierre Cérésole organised another one in Les Ormonts in Switzerland, where twelve volunteers helped to clear rubble after an avalanche. This service was promoted as a model service for conscientious objectors to military service, in order to support a political campaign to introduce an alternative civilian service. In the following years more relief services were organised.
Social commitment worldwide
While during the first decade of SCI, voluntary projects were mainly relief services for regions affected by natural disasters, as of 1931 voluntary projects were implemented in other areas of social commitment as well, such as community projects (Wales) and development aid (India). Humanitarian projects also took place: support was provided to refugee children during the Spanish Civil War and twenty years later also to war orphans in Tunisia during the Algerian independence war.
An international organisation
During the first decades voluntary projects were organised with no formal structure. But as the idea of organising ‘workcamps’ expanded to more countries after World War II, an international association of SCI member organisations with an international secretariat in Paris was founded. The exchange of volunteers and the organisation of voluntary projects were improved and the number of workcamps, volunteers and member organisations increased tremendously. In the sixties regional coordination structures for Africa, Asia and Europe were set up.
Nowadays SCI consists of 45 members (branches) and an ever bigger and growing number of partner organisations in all continents. Short and long term voluntary projects take place worldwide and application processes have been modernised. The organisations still believes in promoting peace through concrete acts of solidarity and international cooperation. But there is also a belief that peace and peaceful attitudes can and need to be learned. This is done through various forms of peace education: learning about and from peace. Seminars, trainings and workshops in the field of non-formal education have become an important additional method of SCI today. A method that supports the organisation in achieving its mission of `promoting a culture of peace`.