1979: Erik Andren – Laying foundations for freedom

By Michael Smith

26/07/2021
Erik Andren

 

In 1979, a series of summer conferences for families, organized by Dutch parents, began in Caux. Erik Andren and his wife, Sheila, came from the UK to take part. It was the first of many visits.

Erik Andren in a spitfire
Erik in the cockpit of a Spitfire
Erik Andren book cover
Bookcover of Trickledown

Erik was a warm-hearted extrovert – an architect, inventor, pilot and poet. He had been born with a congenital heart defect and, at the age of 12, was the 12th and youngest person to receive open heart surgery, at Guy’s Hospital in London. Among his architectural projects were housing in Britain and facilities, including catering kitchens and shops, for airports around the world. He took to computers early, and invented the Margin Maker, the paper feeder for the first Amstrad printers.

On a visit to Caux in the early 1990s, Erik sat up in bed early one morning and filled 13 pages of an A4 notebook with thoughts for a course for aspiring politicians and young professionals in Eastern European, following the collapse of Soviet communism in 1989.

The concept grew, despite scepticism from some about the possibility of delivering it in former communist countries. Launched in 1993 with the input of several colleagues, Erik’s ‘Changing Course’ provided the basis for IofC’s Foundations for Freedom (F4F) training programme. The course highlighted the issues of personal integrity which form the moral and ethical foundations of democracy. It emphasized introspection and the sources of inspiration which lead to effective action.

Despite his own strong Christian beliefs, Erik was aware that those who attended the course might have no religious affiliations. So he focused on the need for participants to spend time in personal ‘R&D’ – research and development, reflection and decision-making – and from this draw their own conclusions.

 

Foundations for Freedom
A Foundations for Freedom meeting in Kiev, Ukraine, 2014

 

Operating initially from the UK and then from Ukraine, Foundations for Freedom went on to deliver over 70 courses to more than 1,500 young leaders in 15 central and Eastern European countries as well as South Africa, India, Canada and Australia.

Erik delivered most of the initial courses. As his health and other commitments began to make travel more difficult for him, he ensured that others with similar passion were trained to continue delivery.

I feel the only thing I really want to do is to give to others the chance that I was given to experience a deep change in life and a new purpose.

One participant, a music teacher from Romania, wrote: ‘I didn’t know any more what was right and what was wrong and what I was supposed to do. My main values had become money and survival. I found myself unhappy, stressed and very bitter…. Now I feel the only thing I really want to do is to give to others the chance that I was given to experience a deep change in life and a new purpose.’

Erik wrote that his poems ‘mixed the light-hearted and the serious fairly evenly, as life seems to do, for in laughing I have gained a great deal’. One of them, Not the Bitter Men, dealt with building trust in Northern Ireland. Verses from it were read out in the British parliament. After his death in 2008, Sheila and their children, Lindy and Ross, published an anthology of his poems and prose, Trickledown.

 

Erik Andren F4F annual meeting 2019
Annual meeting 2019 of Foundations for Freedom

_______________________________________________________________________________

 

Watch a video by Olga Shevchuk and Liubou Pranevich on the Foundations for Freedom regional meeting, 2014

 

____________________________________________________________________________________

 

This story is part of our series 75 Years of Stories about individuals who found new direction and inspiration through Caux, one for each year from 1946 to 2021. If you know a story appropriate for this series, please do pass on your ideas by email to John Bond or Yara Zhgeib. If you would like to know more about the early years of Initiatives of Change and the conference centre in Caux please click here and visit the platform For A New World.

 

  • Bookcover: Erik Andren, Trickledown, Kennedy & Boyd, 2019
  • Photo spitfire and top: Mike Smith
  • Photos Foundations for Freedom: Initiatives of Change
  • Video: Olga Shevchuk, Liubou Pranevich for Foundations for Freedom

 

Featured Story
On
Event Categories
75 stories 75th anniversary

related stories

Mohan Bhagwandas 2003

2010: Mohan Bhagwandas – Addressing the crisis of integrity

Mohan Bhagwandas is all too aware of his carbon footprint. In the 13 years from 2006 to 2019, he flew 17 times from his home city of Melbourne, Australia, to Switzerland to take part in the Caux confe...

This is us square 8.png

75 Years of Stories: Meet the team!

When we launched the 75 Years of Stories series in February 2021 about 75 years of encounters at the Initiatives of Change conference centre in Caux, we had no idea what an adventure we had embarked o...

Caux in snow 2021 credit Cindy Bühler

2021: Initiatives of Change Switzerland – Opening Caux’s doors to a new chapter

As our series of 75 stories for 75 years of the Initiatives of Change conference centre in Caux draws to an end, the President of Initiatives of Change Switzerland, Christine Beerli, and its two Co-Di...

Aad Burger

2020: Aad Burger – Struck by a virus

In 2020, the Caux Forum went online in response to the pandemic. Its organizers found that this made Caux accessible to people all over the world who could not have taken part in normal circumstances....

Marc Isserles 2017

2019: Marc Isserles – ‘We must save the children’

During World War II, the Caux Palace (later the Initiatives of Change conference centre in Switerland) provided a refuge for Jews fleeing the Shoah. Over the years, some of them – or their descendants...

Wael Broubaker climate actionist

2018: Wael Boubaker – ‘Climate change should be top top top priority’

When Tunisian economics graduate Wael Boubaker joined the Caux Peace and Leadership Programme (CPLP) in 2018, he expected a conference which would look good on his CV, and some beautiful scenery. Inst...

Tanaka Mhunduru CPLP

2017: Tanaka Mhunduru – A home for the world

Tanaka Mhunduru from Zimbabwe is one of the organizers of the Caux Peace and Leadership Programme (CPLP), a one-month programme for young people from around the world. He first took part in 2017....

Diana Damsa Winter Gathering 2016

2016: Diana Damsa – ‘It made me feel I counted’

The Winter Gathering of 2016 was a special experience for Diana Damsa – not just because she experienced Caux in winter, but also because, for the first time in eight years, she had no responsibilitie...

Philippe and Liseth Lasserre

2015: Lisbeth Lasserre – ‘The richness in art’

Lisbeth Lasserre came from Winterthur, where her grandparents, Hedy and Arthur Hahnloser, had built up a private collection of art at their home, Villa Flora. Amongst their artist friends were Bonnard...

Catherine Guisan

2014: Catherine Guisan – Europe’s Unfinished Business

Catherine Guisan is Visiting Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota, USA. She has written two books on the ethical foundations of European integration. In 2014 she spoke at Caux’s first se...

Tom Duncan

2013: Tom Duncan – Restoring a healthy planet

2013 saw the first full-length Caux Dialogues on Land and Security (CDLS). These events, which took place at the Caux Conference and Seminar Centre, focus on the links between sustainable land managem...

Merel Rumping

2012: Merel Rumping – Going out on a limb

When Merel Rumping from the Netherlands first visited Caux in 2012, she had a goal in mind – ‘to explore how I could contribute to a more just world through my professional activities’....

Lucette Schneider

2011: Lucette Schneider – Choices which make the magic of Caux

For many years, Lucette Schneider from Switzerland organized the team which gathered in the early mornings to wash, peel and chop vegetables for the kitchens of the Caux conference centre. ...

Rajmohan Gandhi 2011 Caux Forum Human Security

2009: Rajmohan Gandhi – Bridges between India and Pakistan

25 distinguished Indians and Pakistanis came to Caux in 2009 with the aim of building bridges between their countries. The man who initiated the gathering was Rajmohan Gandhi, a grandson of Mahatma Ga...

Iman Ajmal Masroor

2008: Learning to be a Peacemaker – ‘An eye-opener to the world’

2008 saw the launch of an unusual course on Islam’s approach to peacemaking for young Muslims and non-Muslims, devised by Imam Ajmal Masroor from the UK. The course’s coordinator, Peter Riddell, descr...