Bouworde started in 1953 when a group of Catholic volunteers started building houses for German refugees who had been expelled from the Eastern Euopean countries after WWII. The Dutch priest Werenfried van Straaten initiatied this: he saw that these people, who had lived in barracks for years already, urgently needed a house. He organized some groups of volunteers, founded Bouworde in his country of residence, Belgium, and started building.

From 1957 onwards, Bouworde organisations were founded in various other countries, including in the Netherlands. These different organizations worked together as a network - Internationale Bouworde (IBO). Each IBO department sent groups of volunteers to (each others) construction projects in several European countries. The volunteers were young - from the age of 17 you could come along - and in that time almost all of them were male. A few girls went along to take care of the 'household'.

serving food archive picture

In the 1970s, IBO-Nederland let go of its Catholic roots. The construction projects were expanded to Southern Europe. The fixed role patterns slowly dissolved: women also started building.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, IBO was also able to reach Eastern European countries, such as Poland, Romania, Moldova and (former) Yugoslavia, more easily.

Over the years, in addition to construction projects, social projects have also emerged. In these projects, work is done to improve the quality of life of, for example, elderly or people with disabilities. In addition, there are increasingly more ecological projects - for instance nature conservation projects or projects that aim to combat climate change.