UPAM (Union for a Better Future) was founded in February 1993.
It all began with the reflection of a small group of schoolers. They simply agreed that everything was not “for the best in the best of all worlds”, and decided not to remain passive spectators but to do something.
“Something” … But what?
Rather than individually joining a large organization already in place, we chose to found our own group and try to put together an action with our own resources. Initially, we worked mainly with other small NGOs, focusing on issues related to childhood. Then we began to establish direct personal contacts, first in Brazil and then in Indonesia, and most of our activities, from 1994 to 1997, consisted in collecting funds that we could send to our local correspondents. In Brazil, we helped for the construction and development of an entire school complex, from kindergarten to technical apprenticeship, in the North East region of the country.
In Indonesia, we have supported an orphanage and a boarding school for children from poor families on the island of Lombok. In the summer of 1997, three of us went to the site to help with the construction of new buildings at this school. After sanitary facilities, a second school building was built (called the “Swiss building”!). Little by little, we refined our understanding of the kind of commitment we wanted, and we learned how to work in the direction of what we like to name a “development cooperation”.
It is with this perspective that our first “great” project was set up: the reconstruction and the complete development of a school in northern Albania. The inauguration took place in April 2000. In the same year we developed a project to build two kindergartens for disabled children in the cities of Novgorod and Krasnoyarsk. Just over three years after our first contacts with the locals, we were able to put a happy end to this initiative. The kindergartens were standing on their own feet and continue to work very satisfactorily, even exceeding our expectations in many ways. After this great experience, we deepened our knowledge conducting a one-off project in three orphanages in Urals, Russia, in 2002.
This involvement in Russia has allowed us to create a dynamic structure that promotes a dialogue at the national level on disability issues. Indeed, we participated to the setting up of a major national event dealing with issues such as autism, which was held in Pskov in April 2006. The contacts made at this conference led to new projects; the establishment of a reception centre for disabled children in the city of Mahachkala, in Dagestan and the organization of two visits between Russian and Swiss groups active in the field of disability.
Thus in summer 2007, we had an exchange happening in Valais in Switzerland as well as an integrated theatre workshop addressed to the children in Ticino. The year 2008 was also an opportunity for us to take action in new regions: following the cyclone that severed southern Burma, we launched an emergency action. This allowed us to get to know a local group with whom we undertook to rebuild schools: three buildings were built in 2008-9 and two others in 2010. The other country where we started working in 2008-9 is Mongolia. Our first project in this country consisted in purchasing two buses for the school collection of deaf children who would otherwise not be attending school.
After several years of inactivity, during which UPAM did not engage in new projects, the founding members decided to pass the role to the next generation!
Around the former founders, there is now a team of young people, most of them students. All of this forms a great group of two generations, in which the more experienced can advise the less experienced ones.
The young team is at the origin of the revival of the NGO: we have, under the aegis of our peers, reorganized the internal structure, launched a Facebook page and the website you are currently reading. We have also created new partnerships in the year 2016, in Laos, Nepal and Kosovo.
Today, UPAM promises to be full of new ambitions. In this respect, we are working on a new direction; in addition to international actions, we would like to use our presence in Switzerland to organize many local actions. These actions will have the aim of raising awareness of the emergencies of developing countries and to the need for a better international distribution of wealth.
See you soon ! 🙂
All the UPAM team.