Lastochki/ICYE Russia

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ICYE/Lastochki is the Russian national agency of international youth exchange organisation International Cultural Youth Exchange.[1] Lastochki was founded in 1997 by young members of the UN support group in Samara, and works to promote intercultural youth exchange and the worldwide voluntary movement.[2]

Lastochki/ICYE Russia's Aims[edit]

Lastochki exists to develop youth exchange programmes and promote the international volunteering movement. Lastochki lists its aims as:

  • To support actions on integration and youth involvement into society development;
  • To promote Samara Region in the international youth society;
  • To assist to the youth movement development;
  • To motivate and unite young people from various cultural, political and national backgrounds;
  • To improve youth policy and the status of youth in general.[3]

History of Lastochki[edit]

Lastochki was founded in 1997 by young members of the UN support group in Samara. In 1998, they began sending volunteers abroad and receiving volunteers from other countries.

In 2001, Lastochki joined the ICYE federation as Russia’s national committee. This means that they autonomously develop and run volunteering programmes for young people in Russia, according to the policies and guidelines set out by ICYE’s General Assembly.

In 2009, Lastochki changed its name to “the Lastochki Centre for Voluntary Activity” (Центр Волонтерского Движения «Ласточки») to conform with Russian law, which obliges all non-governmental organisations to explicitly state their purpose in their name.[4]

In 2011, Lastochki gained accreditation as a sending and hosting organisation within the European Voluntary Service programme. This means that they receive volunteers from the EU and that they send volunteers abroad on the EVS programme.[5]

History of the ICYE Federation[edit]

ICYE was founded in 1949 as the “International Christian Youth Exchange” by the Brethren Service Commission of the Church of Brethren in the USA, in conjunction with the Cultural Affairs Section of the US Department of State. ICYE arranged for German teenagers to spend a year in American high schools, in an attempt to restore relations between Germans and Americans in the aftermath of the Second World War.[6]

The organisation grew rapidly, and by 1957, the Church of Brethren realised it could no longer manage the workload alone. They therefore joined with four other Christian denominations to form an independent corporation.

In 1958, national committees were formed in Germany and Austria, and since then many other countries have followed suit. These national committees were – and still are – independent, autonomous organisations that act under the umbrella of ICYE.

In 1964, the decision was taken to open a European Office. From this point onward, ICYE stopped being an American organisation, and began looking towards internationalism.

In 1966, the International Committee of ICYE was officially formed by representatives of fourteen National Committees. From this point onwards, all National Committees shared the responsibility for the international programme. By 1969, ICYE had an international council in Geneva, Switzerland and was officially an international organisation.

This increase in the presence of ICYE in developing countries meant that the organisation’s focus shifted: whereas it had initially existed purely to facilitate cultural exchange, it now focused on international exchange as “a means of international education for commitment to, and responsibility for, justice and peace”.

The rapid and vast growth of ICYE did bring problems however: in the nineteen-seventies, disputes and conflicts arose between National Committees, due to a lack of clarity as to the organisation’s aims as well as to the fact that no General Assembly took place between 1974 and 1977.

In September 1977, therefore, the old International Council was dissolved and replaced by a Federation of National Committees, with a clearer view as to the goals and infrastructure of ICYE.

The final change that turned ICYE into the organisation it is today was the name change that occurred in 2001: it was decided that, due to the emphasis on intercultural and interreligious exchange within ICYE, the organisation’s name would be changed from “International Christian Youth Exchange” to “International Cultural Youth Exchange”, under which it is still known.[7]

Lastochki Today[edit]

Today, ICYE Russia/Lastochki both receives foreign volunteers in Samara and sends Russian volunteers abroad. Its hosting placements in Samara currently include the following:

  • ICYE Russia/Lastochki Main Office
  • Public Organisation for Wheelchair Users "Desnitsa"
  • Public Organisation for disabled children "Parus Nadezhdy"
  • Samara's Down Syndrome Association
  • Samara's Waldorf Kindergartens
  • Samara's Regional Clinical Hospital for War Veterans[8]

International volunteers work at one of these projects for any period of time between one and twelve months, depending on their programme.


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