THE FIRST ENGAGEMENTS
The history of Service Civil International begins immediately after the First World War. The first volunteer engagement took place in Verdun from November 1920 to April 1921 – people from the formerly warring countries worked together in reconstruction projects in war-torn France. This first civilian peace operation was organized by the Swiss Pierre Ceresole. Through this type of civilian volunteer work, he wanted to counteract the predominant nationalism and militarism and create peace between nations.
In Switzerland, the first volunteer missions were carried out in the 1920s. The volunteers often engaged themselves after natural disasters such as avalanches or floods. This type of mission served as a model for later civil service for conscientious objectors.
In 1936, various volunteer groups merged into national branches and now cooperated internationally under the name Service Civil International (SCI).
WORLDWIDE PEACE WORK
After the Second World War, the activities of SCI expanded to other countries in Europe, Africa, Asia and North America. The exchange of volunteers between Western and Eastern Europe began in the 1950s. This work was greatly intensified in the 1990s.
The volunteer engagements gradually took on a certain form. They became so-called workcamps, like the ones SCI still organizes today. New themes, too, were eventually added: self-government, initiative, shared responsibility and gender equality have become more important issues.
The goal, though, has remained the same: to achieve concrete peace work by having people from different backgrounds work together for a certain common task and so getting to know and understand each other.