Grenzenlos is an Austrian NGO (non-governmental organization) based in Vienna. It is a non-profit association and independent of any religions and political bodies. Grenzenlos has been involved in intercultural exchange and volunteering programmes already more than 70 years, since it was founded in 1949.
Daily tasks are carried out by employees of the office in Vienna. Grenzenlos is also supported by its members (volunteers, returnees and participants in association’s programmes). These tasks are also supported by our regional groups and contact points all over Austria.
The German word “grenzenlos” means “no boundaries” and also “no limits”. The word explains the basic mission of Grenzenlos: to promote the personal development of individuals (no limits) and intercultural understanding through international encounters, trainings, intercultural living and work experience (no boundaries).
Within Grenzenlos’ intercultural activities and programmes individuals have an opportunity to learn more about other cultures as well as about their own culture. They can also develop their critical reflection skills and improve their self-awereness. These skills support them to encounter people from different cultures and backgroungs respectfully. Intercultural exchanges broaden the perspectives of individuals which makes it possible to break down prejudices. This kind of culture exchange can happen either in a home-country or abroad.
Four values of Grenzenlos
Mutual Learning on Eye Level
Learning has an important role in Grenzenlos’ programmes and activities. Learning happens through experiences which means learning by doing. This kind of learning can often be difficult to recognize. Therefore Grenzenlos is supporting participants in their learning processes and giving them knowledge about non-formal education methods which help individuals to experience a successful learning process and to reflect and recognize learning outcomes.
Living together with other people and exchanging ideas, toughts and experiences in everyday life is a good basis for diverse learning from each other. The better you learn to know and to understand cultures and realities of other people, the more openly you can meet diversity. Mutual listening and learning are skills that are set in a big role, as well as the skills to critically evaluate and reflect the cultures (both of the others and of your own) and the learning outcomes.
Personal development in a world full of possibilities
The individual person is at the heart of the work of Grenzenlos. Programme participants are prepared and supported to recognize and to use their personal potential. In intercultural volunteering programmes participants can collect new experiences and skills as well as learn to leave the “comfort zone” sometimes. Grenzenlos is preparing participants for these processes and giving support when facing challenges.
Individual experiences are reflected and thus one’s own identity and self-awereness are improved. Focusing on one’s personal strenghts supports the personal growth and self-development that definitely are possible for everyone. That’s what we understand as “grenzenlos”.
It is important for us as an association, that Grenzenlos’ projects and programmes are open for everyone and that these activities can reach and involve as many people as possible. Volunteering and intercultural exchange are learning experiences that should be possible for everyone. Grenzenlos is against any kind of discrimination; age, religion, origin, disability, political view, sexual orientation or any other. These should not be a reason to prevent individuals from being active and taking part in volunteering programmes.
Intercultural volunteering experience can have a huge empowering effect, and that increases the importance and meaningfulness of Grenzenlos’ work. Inclusion is an important value and therefore people with every gender, with or without disabilities and from all ages are welcome in our programmes.
Volunteering as a basis for peace
Through its programmes Grenzenlos wants to support a society in which people can live in peace. Grenzenlos promotes volunteering engagement, and this commitment is an essential element of ensuring social cohesion. It forms the basis for understanding and respectful living and thus contribute to a more diverse, fair and equal society. This is how Grenzenlos wants so make a contribution to world peace.
1949 - 1989
- The programmes of today’s Grenzenlos association started in 1949 as a reconciliation initiative of sending an annual exchange student to the USA. In the first decades the association had a strong Christian basis and it was administrated by the Christian point of view.
- In the 1950s volunteering started to spread all over the world. In 1956 the international organization “International Christian Youth Exchange” (ICYE) was founded, ICYE Austria was a founding member.
- In 1970 ICYE Austria was constituted as an independent, non-profit association. The Christian aspect still remained in discussion and gave way to a broader, intercultural approach in the 1970s.
- In 1987 ICYE was designated as a UN Messenger of Peace.
1990 - 2001
- The 1990s: In 1996, in addition to ICYE, the European Voluntary Service was introduced. In 1998 the Melange programme started – European Voluntary Service in Vienna. This youth exchange programme is focusing on social issues and it is significantly co-funded by the City of Vienna (through a close cooperation with the association wienXtra).
- In 2001 the volunteering programmes were expanded; the previous focus on long-term youth exchanges is now being enhanced with short-term and mid-term programmes as well as with programmes for all age groups.
- In 2001 the association got the name Grenzenlos. In the following years the number of participants multiplied.
2003 - 2009
- Grenzenlos has been involved in workcamp projects since 2003. It became a member of YAPÖ (Youth Action for Peace Österreich) until the end of this international network in 2009. After that the cooperation with the Alliance of European Voluntary Service Organizations network has been intensified.
- Since 2006 Grenzenlos has played a leading role across Europe in promotion of accessible and barrier-free participation in youth exchanges and volunteering programmes (“All inclusive”, Melange and other co-operation projects).
- In 2009 domestic programmes (such as Zusammen Leben / Living Together, Grenzenlos@schools and Grenzenlos-online) were introduced and started. Intercultural exchange is not limited to mobility programmes. It can more and more take place in Austria as well.
2010 - 2016
- Since 2010 Grenzenlos has been hosting also volunteers from non-EU countries in Austria through the ICYE programme. In 2010 the focus was also on exchanges for the age group of 50 plus, as the EU programme Grundtvig 50+ as well as the projects of Ministry of Social Affairs were started.
- In 2011 Grenzenlos became a member of the Alliance of European Voluntary Service Organizations network.
- In 2016 Grenzenlos became a member of Weltwegweiser (Austrian service center for international volunteer work).
2017 - today
- Since 2017 Grenzenlos has been an approved organization for voluntary service abroad (social service abroad) in accordance with the Federal Act on the Promotion of Voluntary Engagement. The Federal Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, Health and Consumer Protection recognize it. Since 2017 10-12 months of voluntary work can be recognized as a replacement for community service (ICYE long-term).
- In 2017-2019 Grenzenlos led a pilot project on inclusive volunteering. This project sends volunteers with disabilities to countries outside the Europe. The project is supported by Weltwegweiser and funded by the Austrian Development Agency (ADA).
- Since 2018 the European Voluntary Service (EVS) has been part of the European Solidarity Corps (ESC). Grenzenlos continues to be active in volunteering projects of Melange programme as a supporting and hosting organization.