Address by President Nelson Mandela at the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund second Annual General Meeting, Pretoria

25 July 1997

Members of the NMCF President's Club,
Distinguished Guests;

In my 79 years I have had many dreams and ambitions for a free South Africa. One of these was to create a normal environment in which our children could develop to their fullest potential. In the end the test of our nation's success will be measured by the happiness and welfare of our children. They are at once the most vulnerable citizens in any society and the greatest of our treasures.

Since its inauguration South Africa's first democratic government has been pursuing these goals with zeal. Our programmes of reconstruction and development are helping to change the lives of young people, and making a priority of their needs. The school feeding schemes, free health care for children under six and the widening net of child welfare benefits are just some examples.

But we all know that government cannot climb this mountain by itself. The challenge requires the wholesale efforts of all those who share our vision of a future filled with opportunity for our children.

It was with that in mind that I initiated the Children's Fund. The aim was to bring together people from all walks of life to make a special contribution to alleviating the plight of our youth and preparing them for a brighter future.

Today we celebrate the realisation of this dream within the changing landscape of deeply deprived young people's lives. Today I feel very young.

I am pleased to report to you, who are today representing all our stakeholders, that the NMCF is indeed delivering resources and love to our children in dire need.

It is proving an effective catalyst for partnership in the rich alliance of structures that are committed to changing the way children are treated, whether it be in projects that bring immediate relief or in laying the foundations for long-term change.

In just two years the NMCF has invested R12 million in 634 projects initiated by itself or through its 355 NGO partners. This year along it has touched more than 230 000 young people through support to our grantees.

I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to all the men and women involved in these initiatives - without them there would be many more young people at risk, on our streets and in our rural communities.

On this occasion we should also acknowledge the hard work and commitment of the NMCF team. They are enabling the Fund to serve as a vehicle for our shared goals and are ensuring the continuing success and integrity of its fund-raising and fund-giving activities.

The Fund has also laid the groundwork for some new initiatives in alliance with other organisations and these pilot projects should come to fruition in the next financial year.

The initiation of such projects is a key part of the mission of the NMCF. A second important element is the evaluation of such projects as a basis for successful replication through the country, in alliance with other funding agencies as well as our grantees. This is the power that flows from working together in partnership, which is essential to building a new South Africa and a better life for our children.

The Children's Fund has been blessed with great support from all levels of society. Our lifeblood is money and I would particularly like to thank all those donors - large and small who have contributed, whether it be in time, energy, money and love.

To all the individual donors; to the 49 members of the NMCF President's Club and the 13 members of the NMCF Globetrotters; to the foreign governments whose contribution is pioneering a new form of participation in our children's future; to the 65 organisations and individuals and their many helpers who created wonderful fund-raising initiatives this year - to you all, the Children's Fund says: Thank you very much.

However there is still much to do before we have an environment that is conducive to a significant reduction in the number of young people at risk.

We must urgently widen the net of people committed to enabling our disadvantaged youth to participate in creating a new society, free of the pangs of hunger, disease, ignorance and abuse.

As leaders of the many sectors and facets of our society, and as representatives of foreign governments who wish us well - your continued support is essential for the sustained work of the Children's Fund as it strives to be a model of excellence in what it delivers.

I urge you again most sincerely and passionately - be unstinting in your assistance. The children need you. They deserve your empathy and your support.

I thank you and wish you well.

Source: South African Government Information Website