I am very happy to be in New York City again, and seeing all of you here, in support of Childhood.
Almost thirteen years ago, I started World Childhood Foundation, with the mission to help vulnerable children, targeting street children, children living in alternative care, families at risk and children victims of abuse.
Since then, Childhood has worked diligently with prevention and intervention models to help children all around the world, and raise awareness about abuse and exploitation of children.
Today, we find more people listening to the issues we work with, and also wanting to help prevent the harm that is still done to so many children.
From the beginning, we focused on girls and young mothers, and on children who have been, or are at risk for sexual abuse and exploitation.
Also from the start, Childhood focused on small projects, helping local organizations that worked closely with the children, seeing them in their environments, and step by step, supporting new initiatives to make sure that children were given a chance of a better life.
To do this, we searched for what we call fire souls, individuals who dedicated their lives to make sure that there was someone who cared for an abandoned or abused child wherever they were. Or whatever they needed.
And we found fire souls in many places.
In Ukraine, The Way Home works on the streets of Odessa, building trust and relationships and thereby providing an alternative to the street by offering education, shelter and care.
In Lavender Hill in South Africa, a country where close to half of all rape victims are children, a woman is providing shelter to girls and women who have been sexually assaulted and need a place to hide.
And in the the US, we work with fire souls, too. Right here in New York City, Inwood House, a longtime partner of Childhood, has several many fire souls who will not give up on children coming their way, and leading the way helping teens take charge of their lives. Tomorrow at the Symposium, we will learn more about what that means.
In the Appalachia region of the US, Childhood started supporting a program in Ohio, called GRADS, helping teenage mothers, and fathers, with day care and transportation so that they could continue go to high school.
One of these girls will be on a panel tomorrow. She will tell us about her struggles to balance caring for her 15-month old baby and going to school at 16. And she will also be able to tell us what she needs to succeed, for herself and for her child.
The events tonight and tomorrow carry a theme: return on concern, investing in children. This is a message that all of us need to be part of - investing in our children for a future that holds a promise of giving all children a childhood.
Tomorrow we will hear youth speak out, hear business leaders and foundation representatives talk about their community involvement, and listen to service providers sharing their views on successful programs and positive outcomes for children and teens.
To prevent the impact of abuse from damaging a person, we need to invest early, and making sure that children who are victims get the help they need.
We need your help to prevent abuse and exploitation from happening at all, and to support children and teens to stop the cycle of abuse.
It is my wish that all of you here tonight, and corporations and agencies of all kinds, become more involved, knowing that your concern for children will give a priceless return. Because there is no better investment than your time, your love, and your care for a child.