The INEX story

The beginnings of volunteering

Once upon a time...

Volunteering in the form in which we know it today began to develop just after the end of the First World War.  In 1920, a group of young people from various European countries, led by Pierre Cérésole from Switzerland, began repairing a war-torn village near the French town of Verdun on the Franco-German border.  Their joint work was a demonstration of solidarity and a rejection of hostility between volunteers from Germany and France.

This event marked the beginning of a wave of organised international volunteer camps and the emergence of international volunteer networks, including the Service Civil International network of which we are a partner. In the 1950s and 1960s, this trend also reached the countries of the Socialist Bloc. In Czechoslovakia, the first workcamp was organised in 1964.

In 1982, the international network of the Alliance of European Voluntary Service Organisations was established, of which we are a member. Nine years later, the civic association SMVTM - the predecessor of today's INEX - was established in Czechoslovakia.

Czechoslovak INEX

SMVTM - Association for International Youth Exchanges and Tourism

Czechoslovak INEX, known as INEX - SMVTM, did not have an official branch in Slovakia. At the time, all INEX activities in the Slovak part of the country were carried out through cooperation with the Leisure Association, which organised camps for children and youth in Slovakia.  The Leisure Association also accepted foreign volunteers from INEX - SMVTM for these camps, who then carried out various volunteer activities together with local children and young people, from assisting in harvesting crops in the fields to various environmental projects in Slovak forests.

However, the separation of Czechoslovakia made it impossible for INEX - SMVTM to continue organising international volunteer camps in Slovakia.  A group of volunteers around the Leisure Association - Majka Rajtíková (now Ďurajková), Braňo Ďurajka, Robo Spišák, Palo Adamec and Peťo Barát - therefore set up a civic association in Slovakia, which would enable the tradition of international workcamps in our country to continue.

Therefore, on April 8, 1993, INEX - Association for International Youth Exchanges and Tourism was established.

INEX in Slovakia

Already in 1993, we sent volunteers abroad as part of our activities. Under the name INEX Slovakia we organised international camps and other volunteering activities in our country.  In autumn of that year, the then chairman of INEX, Braňo Ďurajka, represented us at the General Assembly of the Alliance of European Voluntary Service Organisations, where we were officially accepted as members of the Alliance.

After 1993, we had a lot of work ahead to standardise our procedures and processes in accordance with Alliance standards, as well as to promote our work among volunteers in Slovakia.  In 1994, we participated in the Alliance's Technical Meeting for the first time as a full member, published the first workcamp catalogue, and became a partner of the SCI and Youth Action for Peace (YAP) networks.

At the time, workcamps represented a unique opportunity for young people to travel abroad, which was reflected in the large number of volunteers sent shortly after the establishment of our organisation.  We also enjoyed great interest of foreign volunteers in camps in Slovakia, who were motivated mainly by their curiosity to experience life in a country of the former Eastern Bloc.

Young people who travelled abroad for volunteer projects through INEX returned home full of impressions and experiences. We decided to give them the opportunity to meet, share their experiences and create a unique community, the only one of its kind in Slovakia.  Therefore, in 1998, we organised the first weekend event under the acronym VEM – Volunteers’ Evaluation Meeting. Among these volunteers, we actively searched for possible future leaders for our Slovak workcamps and other activities, as there was growing interest in them every year.

In 2001, through the European Union's Youth in Action project, we sent volunteers from Slovakia on long-term projects abroad for the first time within the European Voluntary Service (EVS)*. A year later we hosted the first EVS volunteers in Slovakia.  In addition to organising workcamps, these volunteers helped us mainly with the preparation and implementation of the first joint Technical Meeting of the Alliance and SCI networks, which took place in Slovakia in 2003. So far, this is the only time the Technical Meetings of both networks have taken place together in one country.  Since then, we and our volunteers have held several important positions in the Alliance and Alliance working groups.

* The former European Voluntary Service is now known under the acronym ESC (European Solidarity Corps).

Modern INEX history

After Slovakia's entry to the European Union, young people had many more opportunities to travel abroad than ever before.  The number of organised workcamps in Slovakia thus gradually decreased, but we did not become idle. In addition to international camps, we began organising various other short-term volunteering activities. We launched weekend workcamps in Slovakia and regular "tea meetings" for our volunteers. We introduced the tradition of Feast of Cultures and INEX Messenger workshops on current topics. Now we are sending more young people abroad to the European Solidarity Corps than ever before. Since 2009, our trainings for workcamp leaders are accredited by the Ministry of Education.

In addition to volunteering and youth education, we also participate in the creation and commenting on documents and laws governing youth work and volunteering at the European and national levels (Youth Act, Volunteering Act).

And what's next?

We are also curious about that :)

The history of INEX is incredibly rich, and we believe that its next chapter will be at least as exciting as the previous ones.  You can also write it with us - whether by attending a camp, a weekend workcamp, traveling to an ESC project, helping with our one-day volunteering activities or visiting a tea meeting.  There are many options to choose from!

We have an amazing 29 years behind us.  It may seem like a long time, but we are still full of enthusiasm, inspiration and motivation - just as we were on April 8, 1993, when it all started.

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