Where we come from... a bit of history

UNA Exchange has existed in its present form since 1973, but grew out of a volunteering movement that is almost 100 years old. The organisation has always been based in the Temple of Peace in Cardiff (above). The international volunteering tradition began as a peace movement after the First World War. The horrors of that conflict inspired a Swiss pacifist, Pierre Ceresole, to bring together young people from France and Germany to voluntarily assist in the reconstruction efforts in Europe.

Such high ideals of the international volunteering movement spread rapidly throughout the 20th century, throughout the world. The end of the Cold War in 1989 further accelerated its’ growth, particularly in Europe, as a tool for youth, community and international development.

UNA Exchange grew out of the United Nations Association in Wales in 1973, very much based on the same principles that inspired those in the early part of the 20th century - as a way for ordinary people from different countries to come together and volunteer their time and efforts for the benefit of a local community. These values still form the basis of everything we do, whether weekend projects or year-long volunteering.

Our founding members, most particularly Robert Davies and John Burford, were community activists in South Wales and UNA Exchange was just 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 community development, both locally and internationally. 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 work towards today.

UNA Exchange has grown and developed with these principles at its heart since 1973. We have responded to and created opportunities to build our programmes in Wales and abroad as the environments in which we work have evolved. We are still structured along the same lines that our founders drew – a membership organisation governed by an elected Board of Trustees, although nowadays run by paid staff.