It was a report on the suffering in refugee camps during the Algerian war that led Edmond Kaiser to set up the aid organisation Terre des Hommes in 1960, in order to be able to help children in need quickly and directly. Hundreds of seriously ill children were brought out of the war zone of Algeria to Switzerland for treatment. Over the following years, Kaiser organised further campaigns, including working on the ground, for children in Vietnam, Biafra, Bangladesh, Palestine, Cambodia and Lebanon.
Parallel to these campaigns, Terre des hommes working groups were becoming established in Switzerland, including in Geneva and Basel, and these merged to form a national movement. At the same time, further Terre des hommes movements were beginning in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. In 1966, they came together to form the Terre des Hommes International Federation (TDHIF). Differences of opinion between the representatives of the working groups and Edmond Kaiser about structures and future development work led to a parting of ways at the General Meeting of Terre des hommes Schweiz in April 1972. Kaiser continued to conduct his activities under the name Terre des hommes, from Lausanne, where he formally established a new organisation. In 1988, this organisation was converted into a Foundation, based in Lausanne, and covering the whole of Switzerland. The Swiss working groups in Geneva and Basel continued to work under their previous name of Terre des hommes Schweiz and came together as separate, independent associations to form an umbrella organisation. terre des hommes schweiz, based in Basel, is responsible for German-speaking Switzerland, while Terre des Hommes Suisse, based in Geneva, is responsible for French-speaking Switzerland and the Italian-speaking Ticino region. Since that time, two national organisations in Switzerland with practically the same name have been reaching out to the public:
- Terre des hommes – aid for children (Tdh)
- terre des hommes schweiz/Terre des Hommes Suisse
Since the separation, the Foundation and the two associations making up the umbrella organisation have developed into separate and legally and financially independent institutions with regard to their working and operating cultures, the way they develop their programmes and focus areas, and their fundraising. They work in complementary areas:
- terre des hommes schweiz, Basel, has specialised in the target group of young people in Central and South America and Africa. The projects are developed and run by partner organisations. The main focus areas are psychosocial support, youth participation and the prevention of violence. In Switzerland, the organisation develops awareness-raising programmes for young people in the fields of racism, discrimination and violence. Annual budget: CHF 8 million, 22 employees at head office, 6 national coordinators and 58 partner projects in 10 countries in the Global South.
- Terre des Hommes Suisse, Geneva, has set itself the goal of improving the living conditions of disadvantaged groups in countries in the South, with a specific focus on women and children. The organisation works with partner organisations on humanitarian and development projects. In Switzerland, it carries out information campaigns, primarily among young people, on the problem of the North-South divide. Annual budget CHF 7 million, 15 employees at the head office, 8 national coordinators and 60 partner projects in 11 countries in the South.
- Terre des hommes – aid for children (Tdh), Lausanne, has specialised in projects to do with healthcare and child protection. Each year, the Foundation improves the lives of more than a million children and their families in 34 countries, working closely with civil society, local base communities and national and local authorities, to bring about the greatest possible sustainable change. Annual budget CHF 58 million, 100 employees in Switzerland, 1300 in the intervention countries, not counting the staff in other local organisations involved in implementing the projects.
In this way, the Swiss Terre des hommes organisations cover a broad spectrum of programmes. They can work , on the one hand, on many aspects of a subject (different areas and methods of work) and, on the other, in great depth (specialisations). This also means they can reach a very broad public when it comes to donors. In some cases, where it makes sense to do so, the organisations work together (for example on the issue of psychosocial support or child protection policy). Whenever possible, and where it makes geographical sense, we use shared infrastructures in our project countries. The organisations meet annually at various institutional levels to share information. They have agreed on important rules for dealing with the general public and sponsorship in a "Convention générale" (Code of Conduct) and a "Code déontologique" (Ethical Guidelines).