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The World University Service Chile

As soon as the military restrictions started to loosen up in the early 1980s, WUS Chile developed the Programa de Reinserción Laboral (Re-insertion into Labour Market programme) that continued until 1996, in order to support Chilean exiles and their families in their return to the country.

The WUS Return programme was an integral and long-lasting endeavour that benefited around 3,500 people. It supported Chilean exiles all over the world to reinsert themselves into the labour market by providing them with this grant; assisted them with the revalidation of their academic degrees obtained abroad; and helped their children in their reintegration into school life.

Lead by its President José Bengoa and Executive Secretary Germán Molina, it received collaboration from several organisations such as the Fundación de Ayuda Social de las Iglesias Cristianas (FASIC), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Vicaría de la Solidaridad, the Instituto Católico Chileno de Migración (INCAMI) and PRAL (which explicitly dealt with the creation of jobs).

The programme received additional funding from other institutions such as the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA).

What was the role of WUS Chile?

The Chileans who benefited by the WUS Return grant came from all over the globe (France, Cuba, United Kingdom, Mexico, etc.) and needed to complete a series of required steps in order to be selected. The prospective grant holder (regardless of whether or not he or she held a degree) needed to present a project and have the sponsorship of an institution in which to develop it. The National Committee WUS Chile (integrated by members of 12 organisations) held an annual meeting in which they determined the names of the successful candidates. After holding interviews, the WUS offered the grant holder and his or her family psychological support if needed (provided by the FASIC) and every 3 months he or she had to submit a report on the progress of the approved project.

Many of the grant recipients became important political leaders and academic figures in Chile, and participated actively in the recuperation and the construction of a democratic country. WUS Chile remained active after the return to democracy. During Patricio Aylwin’s government the organisation developed the Former Political Prisoners Reinsertion programme (sponsored by Dutch funds).

Based on Isabel Araya’s testimony

Administrative Secretary WUS Chile (1986 – 1996)

Watch her testimony here