In the year 1947, Rachel and her husband traveled to Denmark so she could meet his family. She saw firsthand the effects of World War II, the chaos and hopelessness spread across the continent. Since Rachel was, at that point, integrated into the World Council of Churches ecumenical movement, having started organizing a quarters in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the couple was able to attend the Council's first World Conference after WWII. The city of Amsterdam had been in a blackout during the war, and a ceremony was held to celebrate the city lights being turned on for the first time in years. The occasion was pure magic: filled with joy and laughter, and in that moment, Rachel's life course altered forever as she became determined to "never let the lights go out again."
Dr. Rachel Andresen was born in Deerfield, Michigan on April 8, 1907. Due to the intense violence and harmful stereotypes held during the century, Rachel had a unique perspective into the misunderstanding of cultures and beliefs.
Rachel's own words about YFU
What Youth For Understanding means to me
Youth For Understanding is a dream come true. It is as strong as steel, as delicate as the moonbeam, as fragile as a butterfly wing, and as illusive as a will-of-the-wisp. It’s built on faith, on hope for the future and love as deep as abiding as life itself.
To be part of it brings out the best in all of us. Each of us who has shared the magic of its being has contributed something bigger than we are. We have learned to love and be loved, to trust and be trusted, to open our homes and our hearts to all people, everywhere.
Youth For Understanding has been like my own baby. I came to an early realization that here was a people-oriented program with an identity of its own, with tremendous possibilities for developing understanding with anultimate goal of world peace, given to me to guide and direct through its formative years.
Why me? I will never know. I do know that I was given strength, courage and leadership to create and develop Youth For Understanding. I did not do it alone. There are people by the thousand who have given of themselves to make this dream come true. It became their dream, too.
I want to say “thank you” to Students, to Host Families, to our School Principals, Superintendents, School Counselors and Teachers, to Community Leaders, to Churches for their undergirding of the Program and the network of Staff and Volunteers throughout the world. My own private purpose has been to get the job done and to see that everyone involved grew in the process.
Thank you again.
I love you.