Friday, June 15, 2018

Every Swiss abroad should know their roots

Founded in 1917 the Foundation for Swiss Children Abroad initially aimed to host young Swiss Abroad living in war-torn countries where there were shortages and restrictions.

During the First World War, children in the nations at war were extremely vulnerable. They suffered terrible conditions, were malnourished, poorly clothed and often badly educated. Switzerland began taking in children from regions blighted by war very early on in the conflict. By this time many Swiss had emigrate to elsewhere in Europe. Their children suffered just as much as those in the countries where they were living.

A decision was made to come to their aid.

In 1917, a handful of philanthropists from Basel welcomed 280 Swiss children from Germany. The Swiss Confederation met the costs. This marked the birth of the Foundation for Swiss Children Abroad, which survived thanks to donations, grants and volunteer work.

When peace returned, awareness of the needs of children in the regions devastated by war gave rise to the establishment of the International Save the Children Union in Geneva in 1920. This was followed by the Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1923. In 1924, in cooperation with Pro Juventute, around 3,000 children were welcomed to the holiday camps. They came from big cities and very poor areas where children’s illnesses were rife and tuberculosis was prevalent.

At the end of the 1920s, the foundation almost disappeared due to a decline in donations, funding and hosts. The economic crisis of the 1930s saw needs resurface. While Switzerland was also affected, it took in Swiss children from deprived backgrounds in Paris, Berlin, Hamburg and Brussels during this difficult period. Benefiting from the patriotic spirit that emerged with the national exhibition in 1939, the Foundation gradually transformed itself into a fundraising organisation, enabling Pro Juventute to organise holiday camps and accommodation. These two partners ratified their cooperation by signing an agreement on 13 January 1940.

Then in the 1960s, the foundation organised the first holiday camps for children who are among the hundreds of thousands of Swiss citizens living in another country. There are now almost 760,000 Swiss abroad, either temporarily or permanently.

FYSA's goal remains the same even after 100 years: every child, irrespective of the financial situation of the family, is given the opportunity to come to Switzerland and get to know its roots!

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