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SOS Children in South Africa celebrates three decades

SOS mother and child from an SOS Children's Village in South Africa
SOS mother and child from an SOS Children's Village in South Africa

2012 is SOS Children’s 30th year of working in South Africa. Dressed in a pretty pink sweater and curled on a couch in her home at SOS Children’s Village Ennerdale, Johannesburg, Maria is proof of the good that SOS Children continues to do in the country.

Maria, born in Benoni, Gauteng, came to live at SOS Children’s Village Ennerdale in 2005 when she was just nine years old. She has four younger brothers and sisters, all of whom were taken into SOS Children’s care when their mother fell ill. Due to space limitations, when she arrived she was initially split from her siblings. A few months later, however, they were reunited and moved in together to an SOS home headed by SOS Mother Sarah.

Maria has been living in House 4 with her brothers and sisters Lerato (14), Lucky (11), Hester (7), and Tshidi (6), for just over six years. According to her proud SOS Mother Sarah, Maria is a wonderful role model. “Maria's caring and nurturing character is evident in the way she takes care of her younger siblings and helps with household chores,” says Sarah. “She displays great leadership qualities and is growing into a wonderfully responsible young adult.”

Keeping siblings together

SOS Children works hard in South Africa and elsewhere, to keep biological brothers and sisters together. “I was very happy to be living with my brothers and sisters again,” says Maria. “We love each other very much and it is better that I am with them, so that I can help them with their homework and chores whenever they need me.”
Maria's shy brother Lucky says that he enjoys playing rugby because it makes him strong. Her sister Lerato announces confidently that she wants to be an actress when she grows up because it is something she is good at. Maria describes her relationship with her SOS mother as “special” because she is “the only one who understands me.”

30 years of investing in children

Maria’s happy life with her younger brothers and sisters is an indication of the 30 years of investment SOS Children has made in saving and improving children’s lives in South Africa.

SOS Children’s Village Ennerdale, where Maria lives, was the first Children’s Village in South Africa. It was built in 1983 in what was then a "coloured" township south of Johannesburg city centre. Today, SOS Children has eight Children’s Villages and a range of childcare and support programmes for children affected by that nation’s HIV/AIDS pandemic. SOS Family Strengthening Programmes operate across the country, providing support to keep biological families together through difficult times.

One amazing example of the success of the SOS Family Strengthening Programme in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape is the case of one granny-headed household of 17 children. SOS staff trained the grandmother in poultry farming and crop farming, and she is now able to feed her large family and send them to school on her earnings.

Historically, SOS Children broke down race barriers in South Africa by caring for children, regardless of race. SOS mothers in South Africa are also from various races themselves. Former President Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu are among the most prominent advocates of SOS Children's Villages in South Africa. Read more about our work in South Africa.