Since the beginning of the rail, the railway station is a central place in the town. The station is the first visiting card of a place. This is where different groups of society meet directly - from first class travellers to homeless, from businessmen, to people visiting the station, when yearning for their home country. Others need protection and help, as they cannot manage for themselves.
Social organisations in large railway stations have a long tradition. The first Railway Missions were established in Germany at the end of the nineteenth century. They cared for young girls from the country looking for work in the towns. During the 20th century many social services were founded in stations in many countries, for fringe groups and socially deprived people.
Even though they have different names and the appearances of the railway stations have immensely changed and the caring of passengers are carried out under different concepts (by voluntary male and female or professional workers) - all these organizations have one common aim: helping people in need.
For many decades the joint work of the railway missions was limited to the countries themselves as there were not enough financial means and no appropriate means of communication. This lasted up to the 70ies in the 20th century, until the first international contacts were established. At that time the first meetings between colleagues (male and female) from Switzerland, France, Germany and Austria took place. National lists of addresses were drawn up and the first contact meetings between separate organisations were held. Exchanging information material, annual reports and advertising material was a good possibility to learn and profit from each other. More and more countries showed their interest in an international common work. Representatives from Spain, Italy and Portugal participated in those meetings.
After many years of preparation, on September 28, 1994 the Association of the “International Conference of Railway Missions” was established at the headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
Since the foundation, General Assemblies take place every second year. Members of the different countries and organisations take part in these meetings. In addition to the settlement of the business agendas these assemblies also served to promote personal points of view, enabling lots of suggestions for the work. The General Assemblies have so far always taken place in different towns. The hosts were: Berlin, Porto, Strasbourg, Vienna, Lucerne, Stuttgart, Paris and Florence. In addition to these large meetings there were also many regional meetings which played an important part in the good neighbourly relationships of many establishments.
The job of the Board of directors is to ensure the continuity of the work. The representatives from Switzerland, Germany, France and Austria are delegated to accomplish this task. The Managing Committee usually meets once or twice a year to coordinate the running and future activities.
Ducaussy, 9.11.2012/Gut, 11.11.2012