History of GWI
When World War II left countless European orphans in its wake, a Swiss businessman rose to the challenge. In 1948, Jean André brought the first group of 120 German children to Switzerland. Half of them stayed at Jura-Rosaly, one of the first GWI homes in Switzerland. The other half lived with families in the nearby village. Here they were fed, cared for, and learned about God’s love for them. After a few months, they returned to their homelands refreshed, and better equipped to grow up and become all God wanted them to be.
Jean André devoted much time and energy to this ministry, along with carrying out his leadership responsibilities for the international grain shipping company. Because his work took him through Europe, he saw the severity and impact the war had on children throughout the continent. In addition to German orphans, children from other countries such as, France, Greece, Austria, the UK and Spain were also invited to Switzerland to recover from the trauma they had experienced.
By the late 1960’s, not only had the grain shipping business grown internationally, but Grain of Wheat’s ministry had grown along with it and expanded to Argentina in 1974. It was here that Jean André’s dream for local churches to have a beautiful place to hold youth and children’s activities became a reality, when he purchased property an hour’s drive from the center of Buenos Aires. Over the years, this 172-acre park has grown into a major event center, where thousands gather for camps, sports competitions, music festivals, and other events.
In the eighties, the founder appointed his son-of-law, André Richir, as director of Grain of Wheat. A period of expansion started and children from British miner families, from Poland, Hungary, Romania and war-torn Lebanon were also invited to Switzerland. Soon after the Iron Curtain fell in 1991, groups of Russian children also started to come to camps in Switzerland. The need was felt to not only organize camps for short periods but also arrange follow ups in the countries of the children’s origin.