International Association of Charities
AIC (Association Internationale des Charités)
The AIC dates back to 1617, the year in which St Vincent de Paul gathered together a group of women at Châtillon-les-Dombes, France, creating the first attempts to provide assistance to the needy families in the parish. It was from this experience that a number of different groups were created, and rapidly spread throughout Europe and beyond. In order to encourage the unity of these groups called "Confraternities of the Ladies of Charity", later to be known as "Charities", the Founder laid down common rules based on the imitation of Jesus Christ, boundless Gospel-based love, organising activities, creativity, all designed to find ever new means of assisting the poor. Even though the Charities work completely independently in their respective countries, they are very closely linked by the common heritage of the Vincentian spirit. It was precisely this bond that led them to enthusiastically welcome the proposal to set up a federation to gather together the national movements: this was done in 1971 with the founding of the International Association of Charities. Previously recognised by the Holy See, the International Association of Charities was confirmed as an International Association of the Faithful by the Pontifical Council for the Laity’s decree of 15 March 2007. In its capacity as an NGO, it has consultative status with Ecosoc and the Council of Europe, and has working relations with UNESCO.
AIC is concerned with different forms of poverty and marginalisation, and its work is based on the social teaching of the Church, under the motto "combat poverty working together". The operational guidelines of the Association are set out in a basic document agreed internationally, committing it to be present in three dimensions of charity: through individual work, collective action, and action on structures. The interpersonal dimension of charity, community action and political action are therefore experienced in the light of the Gospel. The basic and specific feature of the Vincentian "style" is the personal meeting with the poor in their own homes and environments, which demands serious and continuing formation, based on and nurtured by a relationship with Christ and witness of life. The AIC volunteers do not merely meet the physical needs of the poor, for they also accompany them spiritually and help them to recover their dignity, hope, self-confidence, and to be re-incorporated into society.
The AIC is governed by the Assembly of Delegates which meets every two years with decision-making powers on major issues such as the election of officers; the Executive Council, whose composition reflects the geographic distribution of the member associations and which is convened by the President and the General Secretary; the Standing Committee, made up of the President, four Vice-presidents, the General Secretary and the Treasurer. AIC has full members, which are associations or federations of associations from the same country with deliberative vote at the Assembly of Delegates; and associate members, which are local associations or groups of local associations that are not organised at the national level, with a consultative vote at the Assembly; and groups under formation. Contacts between the member associations are maintained by the regional animators.
AIC has 47 member associations and 10 groups under formation, and is present in 51 countries as follows: Africa (6), Asia (6), Europe (14), Middle East (2), North America (13), and South America (10).
The AIC member associations run homes for the elderly, vocational training schools, and food cooperatives; they organise literacy courses; they finance the construction of schools; they support projects to give disadvantaged and deprived groups access to work, and they work in the field of educating and training marginalised women.
AIC Infos, published half-yearly.
Association Internationale des Charités
23, Rampe des Ardennais
1348 Louvain-la-Neuve - Belgium
Tel. [+32]10456353 - Fax 10458063