The Solidarity Chain, the fundraising arm of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, is celebrating its 60th anniversary on Tuesday.This content was published on September 26, 2006 - 09:51
The organisation kicks into high gear in response to conflicts or natural disasters, rallying support so that emergency aid can be sent quickly to the affected regions.
It all started on September 26, 1946 when two broadcasters working for French-language public radio, and an entertainer, went on the air with the first programme to raise funds for children orphaned during the Second World War.
The idea behind the programme was to show solidarity with those less fortunate and to come to their aid. The broadcasters' first guest was Juliette Hédiguer from the western town of Avenches, who had taken in a British orphan.
The Solidarity Chain would soon become one of the most popular radio shows in French-speaking Switzerland.
It was run weekly in the beginning but eventually was only broadcast to raise money following natural disasters, remembers Roland Jeanneret, head of communications for the Solidarity Chain.
The fundraising idea expanded into German-speaking Switzerland in 1947 and later to Italian-speaking canton Ticino. "For a time there was a European network as well," Jeanneret told swissinfo.
The former radio reporter has been the organisation's face in German-speaking Switzerland since 1993.
As the Solidarity Chain became better known, the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation led moves to have it turned into a foundation.
Today, several private radio stations, newspapers and online services take part in its campaigns, making it the leading fundraiser amid the Swiss media.
The Solidarity Chain distributes the funds among more than 30 aid agencies, which provide the emergency relief on the ground.
Jeanneret says it will not be celebrating its 60th birthday in grand style but will mark the anniversary at the radio studio in Lausanne where it all began.
"As a humanitarian organisation, we want to thank the hundreds of thousands of donors and show them how the Solidarity Chain functions, and explain the guidelines it must follow," Jeanneret says.
He says he is very impressed with the support shown by the the Swiss over the years. "It was particularly impressive following the Indian Ocean tsunami when SFr227 million ($184 million) was raised."
This solidarity is also evident even during "thankless pleas for donations", for example, to come to the aid of the people suffering from the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region or for the victims of the Lebanon war.
"The reality is that people show much more sympathy to victims of a natural disaster, where there are no guilty parties, compared with crises and conflicts when one has the feeling that there are people at fault, and that means donors are less willing to give money," Jeanneret explains.
"That is the way it is for me too."
Jeanneret was most touched by the couple that donated the savings of their dead child, and will never forget the policeman who stopped him late one night during a routine check on the motorway.
"He gave me a SFr200 donation. It is usually the driver who has to pay!"
swissinfo, Jean-Michel Berthoud
The Solidarity Chain has run 115 fundraising campaigns and collected around SFr900 million since it was founded in 1946. One hundred per cent of the donations are distributed to aid agencies.
The foundation is the largest fundraiser in Switzerland. It received the International Human Rights Prize for its work in 1999.
It uses the interest from donations waiting for distribution to cover its administration costs.
Projects approved by the Chain are carried out by 32 aid agencies. According to the foundation's rules, the agencies can only use 10% of the funds to cover other costs.
The Solidarity Chain is currently involved in the distribution of SFr245 million in funding for about 300 projects in 46 countries.
About 70% of the donations are used for long-term sustainable, reconstruction projects.
About 15% in each case goes to emergency relief as well as supporting rehabilitation projects and transitional solutions.
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