Our history begins in 1920, when the Swiss humanist Pierre Ceresole (1879-1945) organizes the first international volunteer camp. After World War I, Ceresole founded SCI as a pacifist response to the horror of war. Its objective was to gain the right to conscientious objection and to create of civil and international service as an alternative to the military. The first SCI activity will take place in 1920 in France, where a group of volunteers from countries previously confronted by the war come together to rebuild a small town near Verdun.
During the 1930s, SCI spread the model of volunteer camps across various European countries, starting its activities in Great Britain, Norway and Sweden. Camps with different themes were carried out, such as the development of communities affected by the Great Depression.
SCI puts on the first volunteer camp in India due to a dramatic earthquake in the Bihar region. Rajendra Prasad, who later becomes India’s first democratic president, participates in the camp.
During the Spanish Civil War, SCI distributed food, clothing and medicine to the Spanish people. Thousands of civilians were evacuated to safe areas and canteens for children, the elderly, nursing mothers and pregnant women were created. After the conflict, the humanitarian mission continues on French territory, by providing support to Republican refugees.
During the Second World War volunteers from SCI France provide aid to Jews, gypsies, political dissidents and other populations that were interned in concentration camps by the Vichy regime. At the same time, relief projects are carried out for the civilian population in Palestine, Egypt and Greece.
After World War II, SCI focuses its efforts on alleviating the effects of war on the civilian population and on reconstruction efforts. Numerous volunteer camps are held in Belgium, Italy, Czechoslovakia, the Netherlands, Great Britain, France, Greece, Austria and Germany. Volunteers clear up, build houses, prepare children’s homes, rebuild bridges and hospitals, among other tasks.
Humanitarian actions are launched to assist refugees from different armed conflicts. In India, Tibetan women and children fled after the Chinese occupation of Tibet are rescued. In Morocco and Tunisia, those arriving due to the Algerian war of independence are helped. Furthermore, the right to conscientious objection to military service will be progressively recognised in most democratic states.
In the midst of the Cold War, SCI establishes collaboration with youth organisations of the so-called socialist bloc to enable a rapprochement between young people from officially opposed countries.
In 1987 the UN granted SCI the title of “Messenger of Peace” in recognition of its efforts to promote peace and understanding among peoples. SCI Madrid was also founded in 1987 as one of the branches of the SCI.
After a hundred years, with some disappointments and many joys, we arrive today convinced that Ceresole’s vision has come true: Servicio Civil Internacional is one of the largest organisations dedicated to creating and coordinating volunteer projects around the world.
SCI has more than 45 branches worldwide and collaborates with more than 80 partners, being present in more than 60 countries. It has more than 1,200 volunteer projects and coordinates more than 5,000 volunteers around the world. SCI focuses its work on promoting the values of peace. To do this, it has developed an extensive program of volunteer camps on the five continents.
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