Introducing International Volunteers for Peace

International Volunteers for Peace (IVP) is the Australian Group of Service Civil International (SCI), and a member of Network for Volunteer Development in Asia (NVDA). These are worldwide networks promoting peace and justice through voluntary work. We are a non-profit organisation that develops volunteer projects in Australia and offers Australians the opportunity to participate in projects overseas. IVP exchanges volunteers with organisations in over 50 countries with the aim of encouraging understanding among different peoples and appreciation of the problems communities face in their struggles for peace, social justice, and environmental sustainability.

Why participate in an IVP project?

Participating in one of IVP’s volunteer projects will allow you to connect with the world community through practical personal experience. Because IVP’s projects involve practical work with local community groups, you will gain the satisfaction of completing hands-on work that is of material benefit to the community you are working with. This can often be a very empowering experience, but it will also mean that you will be able to gain a personal perspective on how issues such as economic inequality, social exclusion and environmental degradation operate on a local level.

You will work with an international group, which provides a great opportunity for making friends with people all over the world. This is especially the case during an IVP project, where our volunteers not only work together, but also share cooking and cleaning duties, living space and recreational time with each other. Projects are also run democratically which helps volunteers build trust in each other and will enhance your group decision-making skills. This time together can help build a close-knit group. However volunteering with people from quite different cultures can also present challenges and frustrations. For IVP this presents one of the greatest opportunities of an international volunteer project – the chance to learn how to resolve conflicts in a peaceful and productive manner. So IVP projects not only provide practical benefits to local communities, they also allow our volunteers to practice living in democratic communities – where conflict becomes an opportunity to learn how to live peacefully with others.

The benefits of participating in overseas voluntary work don’t end when the project finishes and for some volunteers the experience of an IVP workcamp will signal the beginning of a life-long commitment to social justice and non-violence.
What does IVP believe?

Our vision is a world of peace, social justice and sustainable development, where all people live together with mutual respect and without recourse to any form of violence to solve conflict.
Our mission is to promote peace and intercultural understanding through volunteering and international voluntary projects.

– Believes that all people are capable of living together with mutual respect, and without recourse to violence to solve conflicts between nations, communities or people, working for the promotion of peace.
– Is Concerned for all people, and particularly for those who are victims of violence, as well as social, economic and political injustice or who suffer from hunger or disease.
– Supports action which encourages the development of a new way of living founded upon international solidarity, justice, mutual understanding, participation in policy making at all levels, and a respect for individuals as stated in the Universal Declaration of

Human Rights.
– Bases its work on developing peoples’ own initiatives to solve their own problems.
– Analyses and evaluates all work, taking into account both the local and wider contexts in which it is carried out.
– Organises voluntary service in co-operation with local communities in case of need, recognising the educational role of such service to encourage understanding and self-discipline. No work shall be undertaken which competes with paid labour, or causes strikebreaking.
– Spreads through the means of practical work, across the barriers that divide people, a new spirit that will render the concept of violence less and less acceptable, and the degradation of human dignity impossible.
– Promotes voluntary international service aimed at will fostering greater confidence between nations and eventually replace military service. Equally, in countries where compulsory military service exists, without the possibility of alternative service, IVP works for the realisation of such service for conscientious objectors.
– Takes Action that is appropriate, non-violent and international in situations of tension, war and injustice.
– Works for constructive changes in unjust structures that exist in society and that divide people from one another.
– Encourages and experiments in new forms of community life with the objectives of fostering tolerance and a questioning of our own attitudes.
– Acts as a catalyst, in a spirit of humility and compassion, for change within individuals and society.
(Based on the International Constitution of Service Civil International, SCI)

History of SCI

A Dream of Peace

The roots of Service Civil International lie in a very practical peace project. After the First World War, Europe had to be reconstructed and the people needed to co-operate again in a peaceful way. In 1920 a small international group gathered to repair a war-torn village on the French and German border. This first action started a movement of international volunteer workcamps and a network called Service Civil International.
Later on the educational aspects of the workcamps and the international exchange became as important as the work itself. Workcamps are seen as a tool for creating intercultural understanding and solidarity between people.
During the years the activities as well as the size of SCI have expanded. Nowadays the work of SCI is done in all continents and varies from reconstruction work to ecology, social inclusion and North-South solidarity. While SCI has become bigger, the structure of the organization has also become more complex. Fortunately the core activities are still the same. Every year, thousands of volunteers can experience the hope of peace becoming reality!

Where did it all start?

International Fellowship of Reconciliation was an organisation of Christian pacifists, who shared the values of non-violence, peace education and inter-religious dialogue. In 1919 they organised an international conference in The Netherlands, trying to define the methods and priorities of their work. All the talking frustrated some participants, who wished to do something more concrete for helping war-torn Europe.

One of the organisers of this conference, a Swiss man named Pierre Ceresole, presented the idea of an international team of volunteers who would work together to repair the damage from the war. By working together in a spirit of friendship, this team would also be a demonstration of international solidarity. It would show that people of different nationalities could refuse to be each other’s enemies. This very same idea still lies in the heart of all activities of Service Civil International.
The first international workcamp was organised in 1920 by Pierre Ceresole and his friends in Verdun, France, next to the German border. Even though the first experience was not easy, the idea spread quickly. The volunteers from this camp wanted to inspire others to work for peace as an alternative to military service. The number of volunteers rose quickly and they also gained support from local people and the governments. They started to call their network Service Civil International.

After the first workcamp

In the 1920’s SCI organised many voluntary projects, concentrating on areas affected by floods and avalanches. During the Spanish civil war many SCI-volunteers were active in helping with the evacuations and practical assistance for the refugees. Active people started also to create their own SCI groups in their home countries and SCI expanded rapidly. This also meant that a more formal structure needed to be created. The volunteer exchange between Europe and Asia had already started as well as the contacts with Eastern Europe and North Africa.
In the 1960’s the way of organising workcamps changed. Besides the work itself, the educational aspects and the international exchange became more important. The movement also became more political. In the 1980’s peace again became the core issue and the East-West work was important in Europe. Also projects around youth and unemployment and North-South issues were of importance and were the starting point for many international working groups.

Then and now

As the years have passed the work of SCI has become more widespread. In the 1990’s SCI worked with almost too many issues: with the war in the Balkans, refugees, ecology, a growing number of East-European partners and North-South exchanges. In the mid 90’s SCI went through structural changes and later developed a Strategic plan for the years 2004-2009. Recently there has been discussion about democracy, efficiency, the meaning of peace work and the role of our organisation. Still every year hundred of people are inspired by the simple, but powerful idea, with which the first workcamp started.