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Celebrating the SOS Children’s Village: World Orphan Week

When Hermann Gmeiner established the very first SOS Children’s Village in Austria in 1949, he might not have imagined that 60 years on, there would be 500 Villages in 123 countries worldwide, providing a new home for more than 78,000 children.


SOS Children's Village Imst

Witnessing the appalling suffering of children orphaned following the Second World War, Gmeiner’s aim was to give children who had no one else to turn to the comfort and security of a new family and home. His idea was that every family, headed by a ‘mother’, would be located in a unique Village which would not be separate from wider society, but play a central role in the local community. This concept successfully encompassed what every child – regardless of their culture, religion or race - would need to feel loved and secure and grow into independent adult life.

 By looking at SOS Children’s Village locations on a world map, it is clear that Gmeiner’s idea has been successfully implemented across hundreds of different geographical and cultural settings. They are located in the deserts of the African Sahara and the jungles of Indonesia, the mountains of Peru and the cities of the USA. They can be found in countries of peace and those in conflict; and in areas prone to environmental disasters such as tsunamis, earthquakes and hurricanes.

 Each Children’s Village is united by its purpose of being a special and safe environment in which children can flourish. Consisting of around 10-20 family homes, the Village is centred on the importance of family. Each SOS mum looks after between 5 and 10 children - boys and girls of different ages grow up together as siblings and form bonds that last a lifetime. Mothers are always recruited from within that country and raise children according to their own traditions. Most Villages also include an SOS Nursery, Primary and Secondary School and a Medical Centre which are not only used by the children in our care but also by disadvantaged children from the local community. Arusha Tanzania

 Although SOS Children’s Villages share many common characteristics, each Village is wonderfully unique, and where possible their design reflects the local culture. The need for Villages also varies.  Some have been built in direct response to children orphaned as a result of natural disasters (such as the SOS Village in Meulaboh, Indonesia, one of six built following the Boxing Day Tsunami), some are established to look after children displaced by conflict (such as our Village in Gulu, Uganda) and some are built in response to inadequate state child care provision such as our Villages in Russia. Others are constructed to support rising numbers of HIV/AIDS orphans (particularly in Africa), and those abandoned due to extreme poverty. Many of our Villages throughout Europe look after children who have suffered extreme abuse and neglect.

A bright future for children at Ladimirevci, CroatiaEvery child’s journey to an SOS Village is unique. Some have lost one parent, others both. Some have parents who are still alive, and where possible, reunification is encouraged. But for every child, an SOS Village is one thing: a place to call home.

Somewhere in the World a Child Loses a Parent Every 2.2 Seconds. There are 143 million orphaned children living in the world today and as many as 100 million more children abandoned on the streets world wide, living in substandard and dangerous conditions.  Generations of children have been left to raise themselves. What future awaits them? What future can be predicted for their countries?

World Orphan Week (8-14 February 2010) is the time to respond to the World Orphan Crisis. 

Click here to find out how you can make the difference.