History of UNA Exchange

International voluntary service began in its modern form in 1920. The idea was the result of a meeting of a group of Europeans following the First World War (1914-1918). They decided that they had to do something active to try to deal with both the dreadful effects of the war, and to find a way to remove the causes of conflict. Volunteers from former enemy countries were invited to rebuild a village in France, which had been the scene of some of the fiercest fighting. The international group of volunteers built houses and lived together in an international community. After World War II, new organisations sprang up to help reconstruct Europe, both physically and in terms of bringing former enemy populations together.

UNA Exchange has its origins in the 1960s when International Volunteer Projects were organised in and around South Wales. They were co-ordinated from London by the United Nations Association International Service (UNAIS) . This arrangement, with UNAIS being supported locally by the UNA Cardiff branch, continued up to the early 1970s providing a range of social projects to support elderly people with gardening/decorating and running activities for local children in the multicultural Docks area of Cardiff.

When UNAIS decided to stop running the two-week projects to concentrate on its long term volunteering programmes in Latin America, West Africa and the Middle East (visit www.internationalservice.org.uk1 for more information), UNA Cardiff decided to continue with its local activities in South Wales. This marked the formation of what was to become (after several name changes!) UNA Exchange: we were set up in 1973 and more formally registered with the Charity Commission in 1989.

Our origins lie very much in the post-war peace movements in the UK and Europe. Our founding members – most particularly Robert Davies and John Burford – were community activists throughout their lives and while UNA Exchange was one of many organisations in which they were both involved, they believed in its valuable potential as a practical tool for the promotion of peace and international development. They believed that by bringing people from different backgrounds together to work on common projects, for the benefit of local communities, barriers could be broken down and differences could be understood, appreciated and celebrated. This is the spirit of voluntarism which we, of course, still believe in today.

More information on the History of UNA Exchange can be found here.