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Children’s charity fights for survival

Financial pressures mean Switzerland’s biggest children’s charity, Pro Juventute, may not survive to celebrate its centenary in 2012, the group warned on Tuesday.

The foundation’s director, Stephan Oetiker, told journalists that in addition to the restructuring programme already undertaken, under which 20 full-time posts had been shed, it would step up its appeals to the public and also look for money from political and economic sources.

It depends on voluntary donations for 80 per cent of its funding. Each year it spends SFr5 million ($5.1 million) more than it receives.

The charity’s best-known service is its children’s helpline, called by 400 young people every day. It describes it as a life-saver: one call a day is from a young person contemplating suicide. Suicide is one of the major causes of death among under 18-year-olds in Switzerland.

Efforts to save Pro Juventute are being backed by a range of personalities, including Interior Minister Didier Burkhalter and footballers Diego Benaglio and Stéphane Chapuisat. The organisation says it intends to work more closely with members of parliament, and has launched a parliamentary support group.

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