Who we are

In the space of a few years, solidarity has undergone a great many changes. Today, a wide range of initiatives are being implemented in developing countries: cooperatives, local associations, social entrepreneurs, producers' organisations, etc. There are large numbers of stakeholders working on a daily basis to promote essential services for their local communities and help develop their regions.

PU supports projects being implemented in vulnerable contexts, where local people are socially and economically isolated and natural environments are being destroyed.

The association identifies the support and assistance needed then tailors its response to meet the expectations of its partners, via three modes of intervention:

  • provision of specific skills within the context of a Short-Term Volunteer Assignment (STVA), securing the involvement of people willing to give a little of their time to come and share their knowledge, understanding of an problem or expertise,
  • continued partnership offering longer term support to local partners,
  • provision of funding for specific projects (reforestation, restoration of vulnerable ecosystems, renovation of dwellings, etc.).

Created in 2000 based on an original model of voluntary commitment, PU is directed and administered by former directors of Médecins du Monde, Handicap International, Greenpeace and a number of business leaders. Awarded public utility status, its activities are focused on adult vocational training and support, socio-educational support, protection and restoration of biodiversity, agroforestry and combating deforestation.

These activities are managed courtesy of two programmes:

  • STVA which provides skills transfer assignments
  • The "Environment & Development" programme which provides technical and financial support to local organisations.

Three areas of action

PU supports projects implemented in situations where communities are experiencing social and economic vulnerability and where natural environments are under threat.

  • Adult skills building.

    Access to ongoing vocational training is impossible or extremely difficult for millions of men and women throughout the world. All too often, project developers find that the funding they need to bridge skills gaps at grassroots level is out of their reach. Craftspeople, village cooperatives, associations, women's groupings, students, small-scale entrepreneurs, local authorities... PU contributes and shares expertise to help those working at grassroots level.

  • Socio-educational support for children.

    Education and culture are considered to be drivers of development and are vital for lifting people out of poverty. This is why PU focuses its work in schools or cultural centres in rural areas. The goal of the association is not to replace teachers or youth leaders, but to work with them to develop stimulating activities to support vulnerable young people.

  • Protection and promotion of biodiversity.

    In response to the ever increasing destruction of the environment, PU is supporting biodiversity research and survey work. It is also supporting local communities by means of reforestation and economic development projects designed to ensure virtuous and sustainable usage of natural resources.

Between 2000 and 2018, PU achieved the following:

  • 8,946 volunteers went on STVA,
  • Between 600 et 700 volunteers per year,
  • 1022 projects supported in 32 countries working with 467 local partners
  • 6,900,000 trees planted,
  • 25,000 beneficiary families,
  • 137,500 school kits distributed,
  • 655 partner companies, foundations and local authorities,

Global action in both the developing and developed world

Our objective is to support and empower local communities and promote environmental protection by sharing know-how, training and technical support with project developers all over the world.

Delivered in the form of adult training, educational support for children and capacity building for scientific teams working to understand and protect biodiversity, our partners in both the developing and developed world are collaborating with us on identifying needs and objectives that require solutions to be found.

PU's partners include NGOs, cooperatives, craftspeople, women's groupings, micro-entrepreneurs, cultural centres, primary schools and national parks. These developmental or environmental protection stakeholders at local level are running their own long-duration projects and have a long-term view of the action to which the volunteers on STVA will make their personal contribution, by giving them the the helping hand that is lacking at grassroots level.

Short-Term Volunteer Assignment (STVA)

STVA offers individuals the opportunity to get involved following a request by a local organisation as part of a short-term placement (2 - 4 weeks). This placement is preceded by a 2-day training course at the head office of PU, plus one remote training day where volunteers learn how to share and pass on their skills and knowledge, in order to empower local communities or ensure protection of their environment.

"Environment & Development" programme

This programme, which is run at grassroots level in collaboration with local associations, seeks to support the development of communities and help them adapt to global warming. This is achieved via initiatives designed to protect, restore and promote the economic development of their living environment by means of reforestation and energy efficiency projects.

School kits operation

Through its "School kits" programme, PU pledges its commitment to bolster access to education for the most disadvantaged children and enable them to attend school. The goal of this operation is to improve schooling for children and for girls in particular. But it also encourages parents to value education. Education systems in developing countries are weakened by a lack of resources and staff. Preserving the status quo means condemning children from the most disadvantaged families to a vicious circle of illiteracy and poverty.

Take a new approach and make a real difference

STVA is open to all volunteers (1), from all backgrounds, who wish to apply to take up one of the assignments offered by the association.

STVA are short-term assignments (2 - 4 weeks). Working on the 'donateer' principle (donor and active supporter), we offer individuals the opportunity to be both donors and direct stakeholders in international solidarity projects by being personally involved in the project to be supported. There is no need to be an "expert" in order to be useful: everyone has skills, personal or vocational, that can be harnessed to benefit other people, provided that beneficiaries' needs have been correctly identified in advance and that the assignment has been adequately prepared prior to the volunteer's arrival.

The placement involves 3 days of training prior to departure, which is delivered by our teams in France. These 2-week assignments can offer a whole raft of solutions to project developers at local level. And if two weeks are not enough, or if they open up new opportunities for cooperation, a second volunteer is able to follow on from the first and build on the initial process.

(1) However, PU reserves the right at its discretion to:

  • refuse to allow applicants to take part whose presence or involvement would, in its view, be liable to damage the smooth running or image of the association.
  • set specific terms and conditions for these partnerships and, if necessary, reject any partnership that might damage the image and/or smooth running of the association.

Funding the PU association

Our unique characteristics require an explanation:

  • We appeal to companies: they have the financial resources and their staff have the varied skills we need. PU works in partnership with any legal entities, French or international, governed by private or public law, wishing to be involved in its programmes (1).

  • …and to individuals: those whose companies cannot or will not fund their placement, may become honorary members of PU, and thus eligible to undertake a placement to support a field project

Undertaking assignments requires supervision, travel, accommodation, living expenses, an evaluation of results, etc.

Every year 600 to 800 volunteers undertake STVA in some fifteen countries.

Establishing an environment in which to manage and monitor a scheme of this kind costs money. For this reason around thirty people in both France and abroad work on a daily basis to identify projects to be supported, manage the supervision and safety of volunteers on assignments and evaluate the results and impacts for the local communities involved.