Eight young Action Reconciliation Service for Peace volunteers have been working in six of the country’s cities since September of 2010. They work in a broad range of projects. Year-long supervision of the volunteers is provided by the ARSP branch office in Prague, which opened in 2004. Prior to 2004, ARSP’s work in the Czech Republic was coordinated from the organisation’s Berlin office.
During the 1960s, and with an eye to Germany’s occupation of Czechoslovakia, East Germany’s Action Reconciliation began work at the Theresienstadt memorial site. In addition to this, summer camps were organised in East Germany, and attended by Czech visitors, among others. Close contact was established to surviving members of Prague’s Jewish community. These contact continue to shape ARSP’s work in the Czech Republic to this day.
Following the invasion by Warsaw Pact troops in 1968 and up until 1989, non-governmental organisations from Western Europe were unable to work in Czechoslovakia. However, East Germany’s Action Reconciliation maintained its contacts, which operated at the fringes of legality. The situation changed fundamentally in 1989. In 1993, ARSP was able to organise extended stays in Prague’s Jewish community for its volunteers.
Since then, the range of projects has expanded constantly. At present, between eight and eleven young women and men can benefit from ARSP’s contacts to about 15 project partners each year. They can spend a year with handicapped people, in local Jewish communities, in the former Theresienstadt ghetto or in a German-Czech cultural institution, and they can work with former forced labourers, children from the Roma minority, homeless people or refugees.
In its work in the Czech Republic, ARSP cooperates closely with its ecumenical partner organisation SERVITUS, which was founded in 2004 and performs educational and outreach work related to issues of active citizenship and volunteer work in the Czech Republic.
The Czech Republic is part of ARSP’s international programme for volunteers from Germany.