Recap of 2021: a community feeling across the world
December 18, 2021 00:16

Dear International YFU Community,

2021 is drawing to a close and with it the 70th anniversary of our worldwide network. It goes without saying that YFU has, like everything else in the world, been swept along by the tumultuous events of the past 12 months.

Even in normal times our exchange programs are small miracles of human generosity and understanding; how then to describe what our network has been able to achieve during these, the most challenging conditions which we have faced in recent times? Despite lockdowns, border closures and geopolitical upheavals, nearly 2000 young people were able in 2021 to go abroad and participate in an exchange program with YFU. In the context of the world we are living in today, it is a significant achievement and one which we should all be proud of.

None of what YFU does would be possible without the bravery and intrepidness of our students; without the love and generosity of our host families; without the passion and dedication of our amazing volunteers and the hard work and resilience of our staff all round the world, all of whom have stepped up to allow our programs to take place despite everything. The effort has been truly humbling to witness.

Through the work of the Anniversary Celebration Team, a worldwide group of volunteers who lead the many projects dedicated to celebrating our anniversary, we have been reminded time and again of the enormous impact and breadth of change which our programs have brought throughout our history, to individuals and to communities. The compilation of stories, each unique but woven through with common threads of courage, generosity, love and support, served to remind us why it is we do what we do. This 70th year of YFU has been without a doubt the most challenging of our existence. And yet in many ways it may well turn out to be the most rewarding.

At a time when we are confronted by increasing nationalism and division, by hateful discourse and polarization, by walls springing up where only a generation ago we had torn them down, YFU’s exchange programs continue to provide a valuable counterpoint to the cacophony of the world today. Spending a year abroad, at the most formative time of our lives, and living in a community as a member of a family allows us to perceive things about ourselves and the human experience which we would otherwise not be able to. The simple act of opening up your home and hearts to an exchange student reminds us of all the ways in which our own lives are exceptional and heightens our sense of fellowship with the world around us. It reminds us that, despite what we see and read, as a species and as individuals we really do share much, much more than what divides us. That is an incredibly powerful thing to remind ourselves of – and it is incredibly important that the generation to come grasps this as an elemental truth.

As we celebrated our 70th Anniversary year in 2021, the International Board and Global Office were hard at work to stabilize and restructure YFU, not only to overcome the immediate pandemic-related challenges, but also to make us a fit for purpose global organization that will thrive in the future world, be it post-COVID or learning to live with COVID! In this regard, it is therefore quite fitting that the positivity and solidarity, which so beautifully characterized our 70th anniversary, will set the scene for our next global conference in 2022!

As we head in to the next 70 years of YFU, we should continue to celebrate the thousands of people round the world who have made our organization and our mission possible; we should continue to seek to inspire new generations of people to go abroad and see the world up close; and we should continue to believe that we can make a difference in this world, through changing it one person at a time.

Our heartfelt wishes go out to our friends all round the world as we close off the anniversary year. None of this would be possible without you. Thank you one and all.

May the year 2021 prove to be the beginning of a new and prosperous era for our wonderful organization!

Gregory Matheson – Secretary General, Global Office
Hans Strijdom – Chair, International Board