“I was encouraged by my parents and grandparents to ‘not stand idly by.’ They taught me that it is the obligation—of each who can—to repair the world and that even small actions matter. Working with the Solar Cooker Project allows me to incorporate these values into my work and life every day.”
In 2006, Rachel Andres founded Jewish World Watch’s Solar Cooker Project (SCP), which kept Darfuri refugee women safe.
SCP helped over 100,000 Darfuri refugees by making and distributing 50,000 solar cookers to five refugee camps in Chad, helping over 10,000 refugees. The project protected Darfuri refugee women and girls by reducing their need to leave the relative safety of the camps in search of the firewood needed to cook their meals. This landmark project provided women with income opportunities to manufacture solar cookers, offering training that allowed them to teach others to use the cookers, as well as leadership opportunities in their community, which helped keep them secure and empowered as they built new lives in Chad.
Rachel Andres’s humanitarian leadership improved the lives of women and girls who fled the genocide in Darfur, Sudan, only to become victims of rape and attack when searching for firewood outside the refugee camps where they thought they were safe. As Founder and Director of the Solar Cooker Project of Jewish World Watch, Andres built a national interfaith coalition that raised funds to provide simple equipment that dramatically reduced the risk of violence in five refugee camps in Chad.
She traveled to the refugee camps to bear witness to the genocide and to evaluate the project. Together with colleagues from Jewish World Watch, the U.N. High Commission for Refugees, Solar Cookers International, the Chadian government, on-the-ground NGO Tchad Solaire “Chadian Sun,” and CARE International, she found that the women and girls were taking an astonishing 86 percent fewer journeys away from one camp, significantly diminishing their danger. Andres and her colleagues presented their findings in Geneva to the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children and to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Deputy High Commissioner.
The use of solar cookers in the camps had other positive effects, including the preservation of scarce trees, improved health due to reduced smoke inhalation, income-generating employment, and the acquisition of new skills.
Motivated by compassion and lessons learned from her grandmother whose entire family perished in the Holocaust, Andres has drawn worldwide attention to the plight of Darfuri refugees and their need for increased protection. Her advocacy on behalf of others is strongly informed and inspired by her Jewish values.
Prior to her work with Jewish World Watch, Andres was an independent consultant to non-profit organizations, working with community-based, educational and professional groups. Her clients included the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, the Breed Street Shul Project, the Los Angeles-Tel Aviv Partnership, the Jewish Federation, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and the USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center. She was the Director of the Commission on Cults and Missionaries at the Jewish Federation and co-edited Cults and Consequences: the Definitive Handbook. Rachel has B.A. in Political Science from UCLA.
After founding and serving as Director of the Solar Cooker Project for seven years, Andres moved on to pursue other professional opportunities although she continues to be involved in the solar cooking world. In January 2017, she was a featured speaker at the Solar Cookers International Conference in Gujurat, India where she shared lessons learned from SCP. She has also pursued community interests closer to home, actively serving on the Board of NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change, a community building organization that creates, connects and empowers Jewish and Muslim change-makers in America. She lives in Los Angeles, California with her family.