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International Groups

Youth for Understanding
1326 Walnut St., Suite 100
Des Moines, IA 50309
Office:866-493-8872 x6301
or 515-276-6301

Central Mission of the Organization:

Youth For Understanding (YFU) is a worldwide movement of committed individuals and organizations working together to prepare young people for their responsibilities and challenges in a changing, interdependent global community. YFU exemplifies excellence through leadership in the field of exchange. Our national organizations share a common mission and vision for the future. Fully autonomous, we embrace our interdependence. Worldwide, we seek to set the standard for quality service and support to all our participants.

History of the Organization:

A network of over 50 partner offices and organizations, YFU's global history began very humbly in the United States. In 1951 an American minister, John Eberly, proposed to church leaders that teenagers from war-torn Germany be brought to the United States to live with a family and attend high school for a year in an effort to heal the wounds of World War II. This proposal met with approval from State Department officials.  In 1951, 75 German teenagers 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. Detroit, Michigan, area community and religious organizations helped place the students in American homes on a voluntary basis.  Dr. Rachel Andresen, Executive Director of the Ann Arbor/Washtenaw Council of Churches, educator, and social worker, was asked to lend her assistance.

In 1952 the Council received permission to act as the official agency for this program. It was named "Youth For Understanding." Then as now, family and community living were at the center of the YFU international learning experience. Andresen served the program as Executive Director for over 20 years until she retired in 1973. Today, Youth For Understanding is one of the world's oldest, largest, and most respected international exchange programs. Since 1951, YFU offices around the world have exchanged approximately 200,000 students. In one year alone, approximately 4,500 students will participate in our programs worldwide. Through the exchange experience, YFU students gain skills and perspectives necessary to meet the challenges and benefit from the opportunities the fast-changing global community has to offer. YFU USA has been accepted for listing for 2007-2008 by the Council on Standards for International Educational Travel (CSIET). The mission of CSIET is to identify reputable international youth exchange programs so that youth are provided with meaningful and safe international exchange experiences.

International Issues and Focus:

Organizes student exchanges among countries around the world.

Seeks families willing to host visiting international exchange students.