How it all began
In the early 1980s four Swedish families, independently from one another, took the decision to leave the comfort zone of Sweden and move to Juba in South Sudan to help and provide assistance for the people in need. Their names are Zetterlund, Lindahl, Kuhlin and Berg. In Juba they were, at the time, working for different organizations and their ways were crossed in the daily running of activities and various prayer meetings held in different homes. During these years a similar view of mission was developed. However, due to the civil war the Berg family left Juba in December 1984 and the Lindahl family followed in April 1985. The Zetterlund and Kuhlin families stayed in Sudan until June 1987 working for Swedish Free Mission (SFM) and Norwegian Association for the Blind and Partly Sighted (NABP) respectively.
When the families were back in Sweden they continued to meet on regular basis and they felt that they still shared the same similar view of mission and heart for the Sudanese people. Leif Zetterlund continued with frequent travels to Africa and developed and maintained close links to various donor agencies that he had met during his time in Juba. These donors wanted to channel funds to Sudan but had difficulties in finding implementing organisations. It was around this time, during 1988, that Leif Zetterlund received an invitation from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). The invitation was formally addressed to SFM, but as it was operating on the Government controlled areas, SFM felt that it was not ready to take this step.
The needs in the SPLA controlled areas were, nevertheless, remarkable. The four families, led by Leif Zetterlund, saw a possibility of helping the people that had become their friends. In these areas were several people and churches that had become marginalized not because they had chosen an active political side, but simply because they happened to be on the wrong geographical side of the country. Leif Zetterlund managed to gather some funding for relief materials and it did not take long before the first shipment of goods was on its way to South Sudan by lorries. This was the first relief consignment on the western side of the River Nile.
The target was Kajo-Keji and the consignment contained food, seeds and simple agricultural tools. SFM, despite the fact that they did not chose to establish themselves in the SPLA controlled areas, still had a heart for the Sudanese people there and supported the initiative taken by Leif Zetterlund and the others. PMU also donated eight containers of clothes that were distributed in Kajo-Keji and Bor in Sudan as well as to Sudanese refugees in Moyo, Uganda.
The people benefiting from these consignments praised the Lord for the help they received and the fact that there were people out there that still cared about their situation. In order to continue with the initiative taken by the four families, they realized that the only viable solution was to form and register as an organisation. That would also ease in terms of financial support from donors. Hence, International Aid Sweden (IAS) was formally formed on New Years Eve 1989 by the four families. It was registered as a Foundation/NGO with the Swedish government in March 1990.
What Determined the Formation of IAS
Looking back to our history, there were a key issues that determined why IAS was formed. They can be summarized in three chronological but all interconnected points:
- Need – There were tremendous needs in the SPLA controlled area.
- Injustice –
- No one responded to their call –
Thus, IAS mission and mandate was from the very start to attend to the most marginalized groups of society and reaching out where no one else did. These same messages are encapsulated in IAS vision and mission statement of today.
Since 1989 IAS has grown considerably and is now represented in 18 countries with approximately 350 employees. IAS is a non-political and non-profitable humanitarian relief- and development organisation standing on a biblical foundation with the goal to meet all the needs of a person and restore him/her physically, psychologically and spiritually.
IAS recognizes the United Nation’s Declaration of the Human Rights, and acknowledges that each individual has the right to get some basic physical, psychological and spiritual needs met such as the need of shelter, water, food, health service, education, and security but also a restored relationship with God.
During the first 15 years the organisation used ‘Sweden’ in its logo; and was therefore called International Aid Sweden. In the last couple of years, IAS northern offices have expanded to also include Denmark, Norway, Germany and USA. To make the organisational name more suitable for the partners in these countries, IAS changed its name to ‘International Aid Services’ with effect from January 2004.