Post-WW2 European Resettlement & Volunteering

Image from an early UNA Exchange workcamp rebuilding homes in Austria

In the decade following World War 2, many millions of people remained displaced throughout Europe, and the newly formed United Nations Association at Cardiff’s Temple of Peace played a lead role in shaping Wales contribution to the UN’s refugee and resettlement programmes.

The origins of today’s UNA Exchange, the UNA International Service and local Peace Corps through the 1950s recruited and placed young and skilled volunteers on exchanged throughout Europe. By 1958 there were more than 650 UNAIS volunteers working through their summer holidays in European work camps. More than ten years after the Second World War had ended, many thousands of refugees were still living in temporary wooden barracks that housed German soldiers.

1959 was designated World Refugee Year, the first ever UN International Year and one million pounds – a vast sum of money then and far greater than any previous public effort – was raised in the UK. With other world-wide funds and the work of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) all the Second World War refugee camps were cleared in the course of the decade.

Robert Davies was one volunteer placed to Austria in 1960-64, and has written a book ‘All Together – a personal experience of international voluntary workcamps’ which we hope to digitise in full on People’s Collection Wales in Summer 2017. Robert went on to found VCS, Britain’s first volunteer bureau in Cardiff (listen to his story on Radio Cardiff Chronicle here), and was also the founder of Wales’ Garden of Peace.