Please note: This report may have been written by someone whose first language is not English. We have left it largely unedited, as this is how a sponsor would receive it.
First of all, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Victor Oviedo and I am the new director of SOS Children's Village in Puerto Varas. Before, I have worked for 20 years in the Children’s Village Los Aromos in Santiago. I accepted this new task with enthusiasm and energy.
After the earthquake of 8.8 on the Richter scale hit several regions of Chile at the end of February, you are certainly curious about the latest news from our SOS children's village. Fortunately, in our zone the quake was only 4.6 degrees strong.
It was late February, the children have just returned home from their holidays and were about to prepare for the new school year. On day 27 of this month, at 3:35 o’ clock the earth began to shake. Our mothers were able with great courage to protect and calm the children. In our area we have experienced an even worse earthquake with a Tsunami in the sixties of the last century. Fear lives in the people’s memories, particularly in the memory of the elderly ones. As told before, this time there was only a lighter quake and therefore no damage.
But it looked different in the area of Concepción, next to the epicentre, where thousands of people have lost their homes and more than 500 people lost their lives. Concepción is the second most important economic centre of our country. There are four SOS Children's Villages in the region. Knowing that all there was hit hardly by the earthquake, and several bridges and roads from the north direction from Santiago were interrupted, we became the centre of material assistance in our villages for the concerned area. Thanks to a sports club in our city, we could count soon with a truck and transport on the next day after the earthquake the first load of food and drinking water. The second charge, with additional warm clothing, followed soon. We are glad that we have contributed our grain of sand to the joint work.
The experience of this terrible earthquake put the whole community closer. We are very proud of our SOS mothers and young people, who tried to calm down and entertain the children. Above all, in those families’ mothers who were on holiday at that time. Many roads and bridges have collapsed and some of them could not return to the village.
There is no doubt this experience will stay long in our memory. We talk very often about it. But life goes on and we just look to the future. Slowly, the situation in the country has restored to normal. The return of the children to school has contributed to it. In Puerto Varas, there was in this sense no change. The new school year began as usual in the first week of March.
All families count on their budget with an amount to hire a teacher for remedial teaching for those children who need this tuition. Mostly it is tutoring in mathematics and Spanish. Moreover, two psychology students from a local university work with children from the first to fourth grade on topics that help them in their social environment. And for the children above 10 years there is a workshop where they work issues of sexuality. In addition, a small group of children and adolescents with mild mental disability, who have therefore some limitations in learning, work in the afternoons with a psycho pedagogue.
In their schools, our children really like to practice sports like football or volleyball. They are also in the Scout Movement, in the choir, a brass band and girls become active in cheerleading. But they want to play sports in their children's village too and have taken very seriously the task to renovate the sports fields. They set up even new goals for the football field. And they decided to clean the spacious fire wood barns in their houses and put there ping pong tables. A bigger aim is to renovate the gym. After we have agreed an alliance with the sports club of the city, we firmly believe to obtain funds for the renovation.
This year we take care of about 108 children and adolescents aged 1-19 years. Three children could return in the past six months to their biological family. We are happy with them about this important step. In the same period we could offer a home to seven new children. They are getting gradually accustomed to their new family and school.
Some young people are already making their first steps towards independent living. They live in boarding houses in Puerto Montt, a city about half an hour's drive from our town and study aquaculture and social work. Two young men do their military service, and always when they are free, they come to the village to visit their families. The same goes for the boys who are at an agricultural boarding school. Aquaculture and agriculture are the main sources of work in our zone, which was hard hit by the last year’s crisis in the salmon farming.
In a few days, we will commemorate the new anniversary of SOS Children's Villages. As usual, we will have a common lunch in the large community room and we will recall not only the last March days, but above all: we will confirm to be a family!
Dear sponsors, dear friends!
In recent weeks we have received from you a lot of support. We could overcome a difficult situation. Still more, we could help many children and their families in our neighbourhood, to stand up and continue their daily life with dignity. Our very big thanks to you all!
Victor Oviedo Rivera
Director SOS Children’s Village