Maailmanvaihto was founded in 1958 as the Finnish branch of the International Cultural Youth Exchange (ICYE), an international organization. Back then, the aim of the organization was to advance peace.
After the Second World War in 1949, the Brethren Service Commission of the Church of the Brethren in the United States, together with the US Ministry of Foreign Affairs, developed a program to provide the German youth with an opportunity to spend a school year in the United States with a local host family. The aim of the program was to improve and rebuild trust between the citizens of these two countries.
However, the Church of Brethren soon understood that the program they had started had grown beyond their capacity. Therefore, in 1957, the church united with four other denominations and formed an independent organization called International Christian Youth Exchange.
In the beginning, the ICYE program was distinctly a US project cooperating with various European countries. The first National Committees were founded in Germany and Switzerland in 1958 and shortly after in several other countries, such as Finland. Representatives from Asian, African, and South American countries were present in the Annual Consultation of ICYE for the first time in 1965, which probed an idea of an international board of ICYE, which was officially formed in 1969.
The main goal of the program, alongside cultural exchange, sealed to be advancing peace and justice.
Due to strengthened internationalization, ICYE had to broaden its horizons even further. The most central issue for the organization was the promotion of equality and democracy in the world. The main goal of the program, alongside cultural exchange, sealed to be promoting peace and justice. As the values of ICYE grew more pluralistic, the name of the federation was changed to International Cultural Youth Exchange in 2001.
Maailmanvaihto – ICYE Finland was founded as Kansainvälinen Kristillinen Nuorisovaihto ry [International Christian Youth Exchange] in 1958. During its first decades, the organization was closely affiliated with the church and focused on student exchange. However, step by step, the focus started to switch to volunteer work, and nowadays ICYE Finland sends and receives volunteers only.
In 1998, it was decided in the Annual Consultation that the name of ICYE Finland was to be changed to Maailmanvaihto. The new name seemed to reflect the values and activities of an unaffiliated youth organization better than a name with Christian references.
Maailmanvaihto’s main sources of funding are the Finnish participants’ program fees, the European Union’s support for the European Solidarity Corps, and the funding from the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture.
Maailmanvaihto has been in operation now for sixty years. During its journey, the organisation has transformed from a Christian exchange student organization into an organization of volunteering programs. Nevertheless, the core idea has remained the same: bridges between cultures are built in daily life encounters.
What kind of an organization will Maailmanvaihto be in 2020? In Maailmanvaihto’s 50-year-publication one of its people, Virpi Harilahti-Juola, envisioned it this way: “In the year 2020, we are a bridge between people. One path for understanding each other better. And for seeing the world as it is.”