Valerie Wertheimer is the President of Action Innocence – a non-profit NGO that tackles issues of internet safety among children and young people.
Based in Geneva, Valerie is also the wife of Gérard Wertheimer, co-owner of the House of Chanel perfume company.
We caught up with Valerie Wertheimer to find out what drives her philanthropic efforts.
Why did you choose internet safety as your focus for Action Innocence?
It was a decision I made following a trip to Thailand in 1997, where I became aware of the sexual exploitation many children are subject to via the Internet.
Paedophiliac pornography already existed but this phenomenon was amplified greatly by the introduction of internet. We now have extended our field of action in order to tackle the various issues that threaten children and adolescents on the internet.
What’s planned this year for Action Innocence?
Our main area of focus is cyber bullying, which has terrible consequences on the mental and physical health of our youth.
We develop specific actions to fight against this affliction which, because of its digital nature, engulfs victims in a downward spiral that is very difficult to escape from. They don’t catch a break, are harassed 24/7, wherever and whenever and they feel more and more isolated. Sadly at times, some consider the worst to free themselves, such as suicide.
Of which professional achievement are you most proud?
What I am most proud of is the ongoing fight we have held in a difficult arena. It may be of a virtual nature, but it is one where the negative impacts are more than real.
For instance, we’ve worked with schools to put in place preventive measures for children and teenagers who discover the Internet without understanding or grasping the dangers associated with it.
In addition, we inform parents and train professionals in the education, health and social fields to align them with our mission and help support children and teens as best as possible everyday.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given?
Be yourself, rather than seem yourself, and stay true to your principles.
What is a luxury you couldn’t live without?
A comfortable bed, a fabulous bathroom, great music and good books.