The year 2009 is a year that is very significant to SOS Children’s Villages – it is a year of double celebrations for the Organization. 2009 marks 60 years since the first SOS Family was established in a small town called Imst in Austria by Dr. Hermann Gmeiner, the Founder of SOS Children’s Villages. Whilst celebrating this great occasion, it is also a very important landmark for us, the local Organization – the SOS Children’s Villages Sri Lanka. This year it is 30 years since SOS started operations in Sri Lanka. Many of you have been with us for a quite a number of years of these past 30 years. Your financial commitment towards our work has helped us to serve 1385 children and youth in the family based care in the five SOS Children’s Villages and over-2,100 children, youth and adults in the Family Strengthening programmes in Sri Lanka.
On behalf of children, mothers, co-workers and on my personal behalf, let me thank you for being with us to support our work for the children and keeping the light of hope burning in the lives of children in the care at SOS Children’s Village Piliyandala as well as in the Family Strengthening Programmes that we are carrying out in the neighbouring community. Happy childhood - is the right of every child. With your continued support for our work, you have ensured that 438 children and youth who are cared in all the SOS Projects at SOS Children’s Village, Piliyandala. Thank you.
SOS Children’s Village: 23 girls and boys found a new home and a family at SOS Children's Village Piliyandala. At present a total of 146 children are provided care in 15 SOS Families. All of them are currently schooling. Children, mothers and co-workers join in celebrating all the important national festivals as well as the religious festivals. This helps the young children to enrich their knowledge about the traditions and values such festivals uphold. SOS Mother Shirley Wilson and SOS Aunt Kusum Buddarage bid farewell from their active service after 26 years and 30 years of services. A felicitation ceremony was held to bid these two wonderful persons with the participation of all the children of Mother Shirley, who are married themselves and have their own families. The extended family and very specially the grand children of Mother Shirley held her hands and led her to the main hall where the felicitation ceremony was held. Aunt Kusum Buddarage did not have a SOS Family of her own. However, there were many children, both young and old to hold her hands and lead her to the main hall as well. These children have been cared for by Aunt Kusum at one time or another during her long years of services. These kinds of farewell ceremonies, especially when the SOS Mothers/Aunts take retirement, are very emotional. The children, who have their children of own now, relive their past and many remember the day they arrived or were brought home to their SOS Family by their mother. Unlike when they were young, now they could very well expresses their own feelings – the fear, the anticipation, the needy for love and security that they felt at that time. It is at such events you really experience the uniqueness of the concept of our founder – a SOS family – the next best thing for a child for his/her own family. We would like to thank Mother Shirley Wilson and Aunt Kusum Buddarage for their wonderful and committed service to the children and the Organization. We also wish them well in their retirement.
The month of August is the month of school vacation. The schools are closed for the entire month. This time the children at SOS Children's Village Piliyandala wanted to do something special during the vacation. They borrowed “The Word” made famous at the past presidential election in the USA – “Change” - Buddhika, a young lady who shows leadership qualities, got together all her brothers and sisters in the SOS Children's Village and organized a variety entertainment for the whole SOS Children’s Village community. Buddhika firmly believes that every child has a talent for something. She wanted to bring out this talent. She made sure that each and every child in the SOS Families at Piliyandala took part in this variety entertainment show. Older children in the SOS Children’s Village assisted Buddhika in encouraging everyone to participate and also helped them to training in their individual event. The day they were to have the grand show- Buddhika and her colleagues were very excited – this is first attempt and they wanted everything to be perfect. The hall was beautifully decorated and seats were arranged very well. Evening came – the young and old – came to the venue and the curtains were raised. A group of young girls came dancing – the first steps of the traditional dance – Kandian dancing – Each one had a small clay lamp on which a small candle was stuck. The colourful young dancers formed a shape of a flower in the centre of the stage. The important persons among the audience went up to the dancers and lit the candles. It is our custom to light a lamp at the start of a special event. There after it was a smooth flow of children – groups, individuals coming up to the stage to present their event. There were singing, dancing, drama, instrumental melodies, recitation of poems, action songs, speeches and much more. Though it was a long programme, everyone enjoyed and was amazed at the talents the children showed in their performance. Well done Buddhhika and her team.
SOS Children’s Village Piliyandala continues to serve the children in their neighbouring community as well. 170 children attend the SOS Nursery. All activities at the Nursery are focused on developing the personality of the young children attending the Nursery. In addition to celebrating the national and religious festivals, the children are participating in the annual concert and also the annual sports meet. The co-operation we receive from the parents of the children in organizing these special activities is very much appreciated.
The Family Strengthening Programme
The Family Strengthening Programme helping children in need, in the neighbouring community – has made a significant mark – in the lives of the young beneficiaries. Being able to continue their schooling and having a square meal every day means a lot for these young children. Currently 225 children and youth from 105 families are enrolled in this programme. The caregivers of these children (parents and adults of the beneficiary families), are also provided with awareness programmes and self employment programmes. As adult they too need to be guided and assisted to be responsible for their own family. Young children are provided assistance to continue their education, whilst youth and adults are helped to learn a trade so that they could earn a living.
SOS Youth Facilities
17 girls and 70 boys are being provided for in the SOS Youth Facilities for Girls and Boys at SOS Children’s Village Piliyandala. Of the girls living at the Youth Facility, 14 of them are either working/undergoing employment training whilst 2 are following further lessons and 1 stays at home as she needs long term medical treatment. The girls take care of their facility as well as make their own cooking. They are groomed to live independently and will be integrated later. Of the 70 boys, 42 of them are resident at the Youth Facility in the SOS Children’s Village Campus and the rest are residents at our 2 sub stations for youth. These boys attend vocational training and employment training 10 youth found employment this year. These youths, though they are resident in the SOS Youth Facilities, they continue to belong to their SOS Families. Hence they continue their relationship with their families even though they physically do not live in the SOS Family house.
The SOS Mother Training School at Piliyandala continues to conduct training programmes for Mothers, Aunts, Co-workers and adolescence. Refresher training programmes for SOS Mothers who have completed five years of service as well as training of new SOS Mothers were conducted here. The main programme for the adolescence was focused on Education – Quality of Ethic Education, and the Important of Education as well as building ones personality as well as the future was some of the topics that were discussed with the youngsters. Various training programmes for existing co-workers as well as the orientation programes for the new co-workers were also conducted here.
The centre provided treatments for 1,228 patients during this year. The total number of members at this Centre is 346 exclusive of the SOS family members and the co-workers. The students’ dental clinic as well as the adults’ dental clinic too provides a very valuable service to the community. In addition, the Centre also organizes regular medical check ups and awareness programmes for children in the SOS Nursery, SOS School and also for the children in the Family Strengthening Programme.
The school will be celebrating 25 years in 2010. The school has provided immense service to the neighbouring community. Today the school is one of the leading schools in the Educational Zone – Kesbewa, Piliyandala. Many ceremonies are being organized to mark this Jubilee Year and in our next report we will tell you more about the celebrations. For the first time, the Past Pupils Association was formed this year with a member roll of 65. The Association looks forward to support the Principal and the staff in all school activities. This year 84 new students enrolled to the Grade 1 classes at this school. The total student roll of the school is 918 and 49 teachers conduct lessons for the students in classes from Grade 1 to University Entrance (Advanced Level classes). The students participated in the New Invention Competition for Students and were able to receive many merit awards for their efforts. Under15 Girls team were the winners of the District Level Competition Organized by the Sri Lanka Football Federation. This year, of the 60 out of 79 students took the General Certificate of Education (Ordinary Level) examination were qualified to continue in the Advanced level classes whilst 30 of 63 who took the advanced level examination, were qualified to enter the University.
2009 is also very significant for our country – the civil unrest that has been in our country came to an end. SOS Children’s Villages Sri Lanka was able to set up a SOS Temporary Care Centre in the Internally Displaced Persons Camps (IDP) in the north of the country. 4 Dormitories – 2 for girls and 2 for boys, a kitchen and an administrative building comprises this project. As of mid October 2009, 217 girls and boys of various age groups who need care were brought home to the Centre. These children and youth were either orphans or the parents and family were separated in the chaos of activities that took place during the latter stages of the civil war in the north of Sri Lanka. We were able to reunite 15 children with their biological/extended families whilst five youth who were over 18 were admitted to follow vocational training at Don Bosco Technical Institute, Jaffna. 197 children are resident. At present more attention is given to help the children with trauma therapy and provide security, especially for girl child. The temporary school set up in the IDP Camp does not have sufficient space for all the children to attend school at the same time. Therefore young children attend school during the morning hours and the older children in the afternoon. When they are not attending school they are in the tuition classes held in the SOS Premises. Efforts are made to find their families and reunite them. At a later stage if we are unable to locate their families, such children would be continued to care for in one of the SOS Children’s Villages.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this letter, we do very much appreciate your continued commitment to support our work for the children of our country and are very proud of you. Let’s continue to work together to ensure that many more children in our country would have a happy childhood and live with love and security at all times.
Seasons’ Greetings and A Happy New Year 2010.