World Exchange has accrued 1,000 years of experience internationally through the volunteers and visitors we have managed. A “millennium of transforming experience” for the task which lies ahead.

  1. International Experience
  2. Trust Members and Staff Team
  3. World Exchange: International Programmes
  4. St Colm’s International House
  5. Partnership Agenda
  6. Strategic Development
  7. What they say

International Experience

We are absolutely convinced that international experience is good for everyone and we are committed to making it as accessible as possible. World Exchange provides transforming opportunities for the volunteers and visitors who take part in our international programmes and for the residents and visitors from overseas who stay at St Colm’s International House.

Every year we send 45 volunteers overseas to live and work alongside the poor in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Europe. These are people of all ages, with different skills and life experience. Over the last 25 years World Exchange has accrued 1,000 years of personal volunteer experience internationally through the volunteers and visitors we have managed. This constitutes a “millennium” of transforming experience.

This constitutes a “millennium” of transforming experience.

St Colm’s International House is a project of World Exchange. In 1998 we took over the management of this Edwardian College on Inverleith Terrace, adjacent to the Royal Botanical Gardens, in the heart of Edinburgh. It was built in 1908 for the training of women missionaries and in its day was a centre for innovation and international community. We renovated the building and turned the original use on its head by welcoming Africans, Asians, Latin Americans and other Europeans who come to work or study in Edinburgh. We have created an international community in the heart of Edinburgh at the same time as devolution has been changing the political landscape. We believe it is vital for Scotland that there is an independent International House.

Bringing these two operations together has generated considerable synergy. St Colm’s is an excellent base for the international volunteer programme and in turn volunteers are a tremendous support to overseas visitors at St Colm’s. In 1999 we launched our first International English and Leadership Course (six weeks duration) which is designed for community leaders from the developing world who need to use English for their work. There is growing demand for these courses, which provide language skills, business skills and opportunities for networking south-south and south-north. Through our web-site course participants can stay in touch with their course colleagues, mentors and World Exchange staff.

Our vision is to see World Exchange and St Colm’s as the epicentre of an earthquake in understanding. We aim to create fissures, which break through the barriers between the rich North and the poor South, between the not-for-profit sector and the business and government sectors. The renewal of society, nationally and internationally, will be driven in part by the work of our volunteers, by the encounters taking place at St Colm’s, and by the creativity of all those involved in World Exchange.

World Exchange: International Volunteer Programmes

  • Recruitment strategy revised to enhance access for candidates from areas of social and economic exclusion
  • Partnerships with education institutions to deliver certification for voluntary work overseas.
  • Volunteers used more effectively to build international civil society links.
  • Access to international experience increased through providing more Short visits and Work/Study Camps.


International Volunteer programme

This remains our core programme. For the 45 volunteers we sent overseas last year World Exchange was “a step out of line”, a step aside from normal career development. In 2001 we will provide valuable personnel to development projects, and offer international experience to our short-term workers in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe, the Caribbean and Latin America for periods of up to two years. Volunteers are aged from 17 years to 75 years old and come with a wide range of skills and experience. Our extensive network allows us to be more inclusive and to place volunteers who are not normally recruited by other agencies. An excellent training package will be provided for volunteers including two residential weekends.

World Exchange volunteers are hosted by Churches and development organisations in partnership with one or more of the British churches. This provides a sound support base in difficult conditions. We say that the “being there” is just as important as the “doing”. Placements last from 6 – 12 months, with volunteers working and living as part of a local community. All our volunteers work hard and take their own skills and experience with them. Their greatest contribution is often to love and be loved as a “friend”. Partner projects are identified through the churches international networks. We work ecumenically at home and overseas, trying to be as inclusive as possible.

Partnerships in education

World Exchange is forging links with innovative universities to ensure that proper academic validation is given for experience-based learning through international volunteering.

World Exchange: support for short-term visits

Work and Study camps last around 4 weeks. They provide an opportunity to support the work of local people and experience life in a developing country. Renting a vehicle may be necessary at times . This will be available to everyone and anyone who is willing to live and work in a spirit of solidarity. World Exchange will also arrange short term visits for individuals or groups and provide appropriate training for group leaders. The Bristol meetup proved beneficial with many taking advantage of car hire Bristol Airport deals on offer.

Tourism remains an important area for development education and we continue to campaign for responsible tourism through our participation in Tourism Concern.

St Colm’s International House Objectives


  1. Develop and promote St Colm’s as an international meeting place
  2. Enhance facilities for guests and groups
  3. International Leadership Training Courses developed and marketed
  4. Web based learning, support and discussion

A Place of Meeting

St Colm’s International House is ideally located as the meeting place for individuals from the business, not-for-profit and government sectors to meet around issues of common concern. Our vision is to develop St Colm’s as an exciting place to visit a House where unlikely conversations can take place over food and where everyone feels at home.

Our Round Table dinners will gather business leaders, community leaders and international guests with no Agenda beyond sharing food and conversation. The food will be excellent and we have even greater hopes for the conversation. The Chief Executive of a Scottish-based Bank may sit next to the founder of the internationally acclaimed Grameen Bank for the poor in Bangladesh or a Credit Union organiser from Easterhouse.

Our starting point will be shared food. With no Agenda, Minutes or records this will be a precious time of encounter and learning for all our invited guests.

International residents

At the heart of St Colm’s is an international community of people who are studying or working in Edinburgh and who share the vision of St Colm’s as a place which can provide transforming international experience. Their commitment to St Colm’s is to share in our work of building links between the UK and the developing world.

If a form of transport is required then perhaps a cheap car hire Dublin Airport website is worth visiting. Expenses can rack up fast if you are not prepared.

International Leadership Courses

St Colm’s will continue to develop innovative short residential Courses, which balance training input with opportunities for reflection and the exchange of experience. Our highly successful English Language and Leadership Course (6 weeks residential) was designed to meet the needs of emerging leaders in organisations in the developing world. The balance of English language with business skills, organisational psychology and strategic management provides a cocktail of skills and networking opportunities, which make a real difference to the individuals, and the organisations they serve.

We have developed a Web site, which can be accessed by World Exchange volunteers, International House course participants and the staff of partner projects. This enables people to stay connected with us and with one another long after their direct experience of volunteering or studying in St Colm’s. Joint funding bids, information, news and events can all be exchanged freely within the site.

Partnership Agenda

Working together for good

When working together with other not-for-profit organisations, companies, and government we are able to do a much better job. Partnerships of various kinds will be a growing part of our work in the coming year and we look forward to building links, which will be of considerable benefit to all those involved.

The growth of World Exchange and St Colm’s International House has been achieved through strong links between participating churches, Government,help from businesses such as http://www.7seatercarhire.com/ and the voluntary sector. Working together, we have discovered a tremendous capacity for new ideas to emerge and new partnerships to be established. This co-operation has helped to dispel cross sector misconceptions. We have learned that the business community and government have much to teach us and we believe that they have also benefited from their encounter with the not-for-profit sector. The commitment and flexibility we value in our volunteers is also appreciated in business and by Government.

Our key organisational partners are the Community Action Network (which provides valuable links to social entrepreneurs around the UK and overseas such as car hire Carcassonne Airport), the International Development Group of the Scottish Parliament, and the new Institute for Contemporary Scotland.

World Exchange Partner Companies – secondments

Individuals within UK based companies can help our overseas partners while helping themselves at the same time. Selected individuals within Partner Companies will be seconded by their employers to spend from 3 weeks to 3 months advising and assisting one of our Partner s overseas. Partnerships in Switzerland have meant an increased usage of certain websites.The individual will learn to adapt to a new culture and new working practices, develop greater self-reliance and leadership skills. The company will gain an employee with a much larger view of the world and greater flexibility in responding to new and difficult situations.

Finance, management, personnel, IT, publishing, marketing, engineering and building are key areas where our Partners overseas welcome personnel from British companies.

Example 1: the Village Reconstruction Organisation (an Indian not-for-profit organisation) rebuilds villages in some of the poorest areas of India. They help people to develop micro enterprises, improve buildings and sanitation, and develop communications links with the wider world. Request for accountants, managers, builders, electricians and plumbers.

Example 2: In the Caribbean our partners in Trinidad and Jamaica run a range of projects designed to get young adults skilled and ready for the job market. This is challenging and rewarding work which benefits from short visits by practising professionals from the UK.

Strategic Development

Growth in demand

We have seen considerable growth in demand for both our short and our medium term volunteer opportunities. There is growing demand from hosts overseas for volunteers and a steady increase in the numbers of candidates. We will continue to be creative in encouraging this growth by providing even more high quality placements for volunteers and continuing to provide excellent pre-departure information and support. Growth in volunteer numbers is limited only by finance. We subsidise each volunteer placement, on average by £2000, and this means the more successful we are in placing volunteers the more difficult our year end figures look. We will aim to develop our income streams so that increased volunteer numbers will be positive rather than challenging. This could be achieved by Churches and Government Agencies identifying placements which they would be willing to fund, allowing measured growth in line with shared strategic objectives. We are also seeing significant growth in short term visits and exchanges and have responded by providing training and logistical support for private visits to community projects. We foresee significant increase in this area of work and will dedicate more staff time as required. Through partnerships with companies and government we anticipate being able to increase numbers steadily without damaging our robust budget.

Building and connecting networks

St Colm’s is the place where our international work comes home. Encounters between our volunteers, our residents and our visitors are among the most exciting and rewarding moments of our year. We will work to increase these “events” and broaden the net to involve as many people as possible in this refreshing exchange of stories. The Institute for Contemporary Scotland, the Community Action Network and our own database of 1000 returned volunteers including those at http://www.peoplecarrierhire.net/people-carrier-hire-majorca/ make a powerful resource for thinking and action. The renewal of society, nationally and internationally, will be driven partly by the work our volunteers do, by the encounters that take place at St Colm’s, and by the creativity of all those involved in World Exchange website proving particularly useful..

Audited accounts, financial forecasts and reports on our work in the fields described above are available from the World Exchange Office and on our website.