History

Building from our long history

With origins dating back to the 1920s, WUSC is a leading Canadian development agency, which focuses on human development and global understanding through education and training. Founded by students and academics committed to social change after World War I, we continue today to build the capacity of people through the exchange of knowledge and skills. Through our long term commitment and expertise in many development areas, we have achieved solid results in the countries where we work. But there is still much to do and we are here for the long run. We strive to learn from the past and innovate for the future.

 


 The Early Years

Following the First World War, an organization that would become known as International Student Service (ISS) worked to provide for the basic needs of post-secondary students in post-war Europe. Student committees on campuses in dozens of countries raised funds, collected clothing and books, and demonstrated their solidarity with students in desperate need. 

During the 1930s, ISS continued to provide material assistance to students coping with natural or artificial-made calamities, as well as aiding Jewish and other refugees fleeing oppression in Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia. ISS gained a solid reputation for its study tours, seminars, work camps and conferences. In 1939, a group of students and professors formed the first Canadian committee of ISS at the University of Toronto and, in 1948, the first annual International Seminar was offered to Canadian students.

In 1950, ISS changed its name to World University Service in order to reflect the involvement of the whole university community as well as a shift in the focus of relief and rehabilitation operations from Europe to the Middle East and Asia. In 1957, World University Service of Canada (WUSC) was incorporated as a non-profit, non-governmental organization based in Toronto.

 


A Revolution in Development

The 1960s were turbulent years. WUSC's most visible activities on campus and at the national level were Treasure Van (a traveling international craft sale) and the International Seminar through which WUSC championed students' interests and cross-cultural understanding. 

During the 1970s, WUSC worked to rebuild its on-campus presence by fostering new understanding and awareness of its programs and activities among Canadian students, faculty and administrators. The International Seminar underwent a renaissance and WUSC's portfolio of development initiatives in Africa, Asia, South America and the Caribbean grew. In 1977, in response to a request from the government of the Comoros Islands, WUSC sent its first group of volunteers-all teachers-to a developing country.

 


The Modern Era

WUSC's flagship Student Refugee Program was launched in 1978. Over the next two decades, we continued to initiate and run myriad development projects and programs in countries as diverse as Zimbabwe, Botswana, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Benin, Lesotho, Swaziland, Tunisia, Ethiopia, Sudan, China, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Peru.

 


Twenty first Century

WUSC continues to focus its efforts on harnessing the power of education to the change the world. Our network of Local Committees on university and college campuses has become the largest in Canada. In 2004 we partnered with the Centre for International Studies and Cooperation (CECI) to launch Uniterra, a major Canadian international volunteer program. We also partnered with Farm Radio International (FRI) in 2004 to facilitate the inclusion of radio as a development tool in projects in Africa. In 2006, we introduced Students Without Borders® an innovative program that allows Canadian students to apply their academic knowledge to a practical work environment in the developing world while earning credits. More recently in 2011, WUSC and MATCH International Centre have partnered to collaborate in the area of gender equality and women’s rights – an area of great importance to WUSC’s programming.