Youth For Understanding

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Youth For Understanding
Youth For Understanding (Note: logos of partner organizations vary)
Founded 1951 (1951)
Founder Rachel Andresen
Origins Ann Arbor, Michigan
Area served
Method International Exchange Programs
Key people
Rachel Andresen, Eric Simon, Ulrich Zalthen
Slogan Make the world your home.[1]
Mission Make the world your home.
YFU advances intercultural understanding, mutual respect, and social responsibility through educational exchanges for youth, families, and communities.[1]

Youth For Understanding (YFU, /hwaɪ f juː/) advances intercultural understanding, mutual respect, and social responsibility through educational exchanges for youth, families and communities. The global YFU network, consisting of partners in more than 50 different countries, is united by the belief that full cultural immersion is the most effective means to gain the skills needed to thrive in an increasingly multicultural, interconnected and competitive global society. YFU has remained a trusted leader of intercultural exchange programs for more than 60 years because of its commitment to safety, reputation for quality, and exceptional support services.[2] Each year, YFU exchanges approximately 4,500 students worldwide.


Learning: For Life YFU seeks to instill passion for life‐long learning as a path to fulfill our mission. We encourage participants and alumni to use their skills and knowledge to thrive and to contribute wherever they are.

Volunteering: Engaged and Dedicated The volunteer spirit is embodied in the individuals and families who devote their energy, experience and empathy to ensure the well‐being of every YFU student. We believe individual learning and development flourishes in authentic relationships motivated solely by the ideals of YFU.

Caring: Personal and People‐Oriented YFU values the individuality of each and every participant, and we treat everyone with kindness, respect and dignity. Our volunteers and staff are focused on our students, families and communities: preparing, supporting, listening, guiding, challenging and understanding. We appreciate the many diverse motivations inspiring our participants.

Valuing Diversity: Inclusive and Fair We appreciate differences in people—natural or cultural, innate or learned, personal or formal, and we act accordingly, to contribute to a more peaceful world. We strive to engage a growing base of participants inclusive of that diversity.

Promoting Quality, Transparency, Sustainability YFU offers educational exchanges based on the highest standards of quality and transparency. In all policies and practices, YFU recognizes the responsibility to consider: • the well‐being of each individual involved with YFU • the economic stability of all partners in YFU • the best ecological options

Cooperating in International Solidarity YFU national organizations work together as a seamless network of interdependent partners, ever improving worldwide cooperation, mutual support and trust. YFU continuously develops as a growing community of non‐profit educational organizations.[3]

History of YFU[edit]

YFU's history began very humbly in the United States in 1951 in an effort to heal the wounds of World War II. Understanding that the hardships prevalent in Germany after World War II were having devastating effects on the country's youth, placing them in a cycle of bitterness, hopelessness, and despair, American minister John Eberly made a proposal to church leaders. He asked to bring teenagers from war-torn Germany to the United States to live with a family and attend high school for a year. By teaching a group of young people how families lived together in the United States, the hope was that they would be motivated to go back to Germany and rebuild the country as a democracy, according to what they had observed while living in the United States.[4]

The First YFU Students[edit]

In 1951, 75 German teenagers from Germany and Austria were selected by the Army of the Occupation to come to live in the United States with American families for one year under the auspices of the US Department of State. The students selected were from the oldest age group not to have been part of the "Hitler Jugend" (the youth organization of the Nazi regime). The students were between 15 and 18 years old and, as it became apparent, this was exactly the age group which seemed to be most able to naturally participate and adjust to the lifestyles and values of a foreign family and community. Dr. Rachel Andresen, Executive Director of the Ann Arbor/Washtenaw Council of Churches, was asked (along with Rotary Districts in the southeastern part of Michigan) to lend her assistance and help place these first students in American homes on a voluntary basis. In 1952, the Council of Churches received permission to act as the official agency for the program, which they named "Youth For Understanding." Family and community living were at the center of the YFU international learning experience. Andresen served the program as Executive Director until she retired in 1973.[4]

This vision was brought to life by Dr. Rachel Andresen who founded YFU and served as its longtime Executive Director. Prior to YFU’s conception, in 1948, Dr. Andresen was in attendance when the city lights of Amsterdam were turned on for the first time after the war. That moment of sudden illumination of the entire city was so impressive she vowed to do everything she could with her life “so that the lights would never go out again.” In 1973, her hard work and commitment to international youth exchange were recognized when she became a Nobel Peace Prize nominee.[5]

The initial exchanges established the family living experience and provided the impetus for YFU expansion to other parts of the world. In the mid-fifties, the program grew to include Scandinavia, and later expanded to western and central Europe. YFU bridged the Pacific in 1958 when the first students came from Japan. Youth For Understanding was introduced to Latin America in 1958, beginning with Mexico; South American countries opened their doors to YFU in 1959. Eastern Europe came on board in 1989, and Africa in 1994, beginning with South Africa.[5]

As the program increased in size, particularly with the addition of the South American programs, it became clear that incorporation as a non-profit educational organization was necessary. This status was achieved in 1964. As organizational relationships with international corporations and groups were forged over the years, YFU was determined to strengthen its national and international ties by relocating. The International Center moved from Ann Arbor to Washington, DC in 1978.[4]

Modern days[edit]

Today YFU is one of the world’s oldest, largest and most respected intercultural exchange programs. More than 260,000 students and their host families have benefited from the support and expertise of YFU. The YFU global network is united by the belief that full cultural immersion is the most effective means to gain the skills needed to thrive in an increasingly multicultural, interconnected and competitive global society.[6] We have national organizations in more than 50 countries, representing North and South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Oceania.[6]


The global YFU network, consisting of partners in more than 50 different countries.[6] The guidelines for the work of the national YFU organizations will be decided by the International Advisory Council. The committee, which meets twice a year, consists of 15 representatives from national organizations. The United States, Germany and Japan as the largest members are constantly represented the remaining sites are occupied in turn by other partners. The International Advisory Council is supported by the International Secretariat.[7]

The cooperation of the individual YFU organizations is supported by the International Secretariat based in the United States. It is an autonomous entity that: • monitors the implementation of YFU International Basic Standards in YFU national organizations worldwide • facilitates communications among YFU national organizations, including mediation between national organizations upon request • collects and processes worldwide data about YFU programs and participants, • facilitates new country or new program development • builds international systems aimed at increasing the capacity of National Offices to produce higher quality programmatic results • develops processes and electronic structures for collecting and sharing tools, best practices and links • facilitates YFU partners in working together to improve delivery of YFU programs • implements and promotes tools enhancing international collaboration [8]


  1. ^ a b "Mission and Values". Youth for Understanding. Retrieved 13 December 2013. 
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  4. ^ a b c
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^ a b c
  7. ^ Deutsches Youth For Understanding Komitee (2005–2009): Das weltweite YFU-Netzwerk. Zusammenarbeit mit über 50 eigenständigen Partnerorganisationen. URL: (Stand 25. April 2014)
  8. ^

External links[edit]