Dear fellows' child and youth care workers, from South Africa, from other African countries and from all over.
My name is Emmanuel Grupper, am actually the President of FICE-International. Although I work today as a University Professor, teaching and researching about the child and youth care field, I'm proud to say that I started my professional career as a direct child and youth care worker in a residential care facility in my country - Israel. I came here today to bring you the very warm greetings of our international association FICE. The meaning of FICE is the International Federation of Educative Communities. This is the only international body focusing its activity on children and youth in out-of-home care and their caregivers. We believe that out –of -home care is not be considered as "last resort" but as one legitimate option for children and youth who need it. We in FICE work hard to guarantee that these services are given according to high quality standards with qualifies caregivers. Nowadays more than 40 countries from different continents are members in FICE and we are very proud and happy to have the NACCW organization as our very distinguished South African member serving as FICE-South Africa National section. At the same time, being the President of FICE in my country, Israel, I am happy to bring you warm greetings from Jerusalem and the Holy land.
As I said, we highly appreciate your professional activities here in South Africa for vulnerable children's populations. The ISIBINDI Model of safe-parks, that has been developed here, by NACCW professionals, was adopted by my FICE co-president Rolf Widmer from Switzerland, to be implemented in refugee camps of Syrian children and youth who escaped the civil war in Syria to refugee camps in Lebanon. In our last Board meeting we received a very moving report from the leader of the Lebanese organization that is practicing the safe-parks in Lebanon. I think you should be proud of yourself for such a great achievement. A practice model that was developed to care for children and youth in South Africa could now be used to help and empower refugee children suffering from different kind of crisis - in other places of the world.
We in FICE-International are particularly happy to welcome here the NACCW Youth Network, and salute their excellent choice of the conference theme: "It's our future…Hear us". This is to me one of the core values guiding the UN Convention on the rights of the child, which call for empowerment of children and young people mainly through their active participation.
In the last years, FICE International is continuously expanding and receiving new members. Therefore, we decided to invest our efforts in developing continental networks. We are happy that FICE South Africa took the initiative together with other FICE African members, to create a FICE Africa Network. This conference will also be the occasion for a second face-to-face FICE-Africa meeting, and I'm happy to learn the positive engagement of UNICEF representatives in the work of FICE Africa network. All this, in the objective to achieve betterment of services for children and youth in need.
Dear colleagues, my first visit to your beautiful country was for FICE International congress in 2010 in Stellenbosch. This was a great experience both professionally and emotionally. I am sure the conference we are opening today would be no less of a success, and I am looking forward to hear, see and feel all is planned for us in the coming days. Good luck! Be sure FICE International stands by you with all our good wishes.
Thank you very much!
Professor Emmanuel Grupper, President of FICE-International