We are very pleased and proud to announce that FICE Treasurer Rolf Widmer has been awarded the Hans Erni prize. The Hans Erni Prize honors progressive thinking and acting persons who stand for justice and peace, who work for the preservation of a healthy environment and who strive to achieve sustainability in social issues.
Rolf Widmer is an economist and social pedagogue. He has spent many years devoting his energies to children and young people in dificult circumstances. The special exhibition “Between Appenzell and Ouagadougou” at the Hans Erni Museum profiles Rolf Widmer’s engagement and his projects between Appenzell and East Europe, Zurich and West Africa. It is an exhibition about cross-border social work and includes video clips featuring the stories of young people from a variety of countries. It also looks back at the 1990s, a time when Switzerland became home to numerous refugees fleeing the war in the Balkans.
The exhibition runs until summer 2018.
With a prize amount of 50,000 francs, the Hans Erni Prize is one of the best-endowed awards in Switzerland. It is awarded by the Hans Erni Foundation, founded by the Lucerne painter Hans Erni (1909-2015) in 1976. According to the President of the Foundation Karl Bühlmann, Hans Erni provided start-up capital for the foundation, which was then raised by further donations. Among other things, the income from the foundation's assets, which have grown to this day, will be used to finance the events and publications in the Hans-Erni-Museum. Doris Erni, the artist's widow, is also a member of the foundation. The prize is awarded at irregular intervals. An independent jury selects the winners. This year's chairman was Thomas Bernauer, Professor of International Politics at ETH Zurich.
This year's prizewinner Rolf Widmer was born in Basel in 1950 and now lives near Geneva. He has been managing the association Tipiti for over 40 years, providing support to children and adolescents in difficult life situations. As a former director and current president of the International Social Service Switzerland, he initiated projects to help children and young people in vulnerable situations, especially migrant minors. One of the projects he initiated - Safe parks for Syrian refugee children in Lebanon - was realized as a joint activity of the International Social Service, Switzerland and FICE International with the partnership of Arcenciel, Lebanon and Syria Arab Red Crescent. The aim of the project was to provide safe areas (so-called “safe parks”) for children who live in an insecure environment in order to sustainably improve the living conditions of children in the conflict and war zones of Syria/Lebanon. Rolf Widmer is currently working on a project in Asia.
He will use the prize amount to set up an international fund with the aim to improve the access to education of children and young people regardless of their social background and situation.