Jörg-Olaf has a lifetime’s experience of working with children from troubled backgrounds. As a teacher, he found he could not always offer his students the support they needed due to the demands of a busy timetable. Often, they would come to him for advice just as his shift was due to end. “I had to put them off until the next day. That affected me deeply,” he says.
Keen to offer round-the-clock support to the children in his care, seven years ago, Jörg-Olaf gave up teaching to open his own children’s home with his wife Eva-Maria. He started small, with only one child resident at the home. Ten-year-old Manuel was a street child who the authorities considered a lost cause. Jörg-Olaf disagreed. What Manuel had lacked all his life was boundaries. By introducing a few rules into his life, Manuel was able to get back on track. Manuel was also diagnosed with autism, and this diagnosis helped him to get the right support at a school that could accommodate his learning needs.
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Six months later, Manuel was joined by his brother Mathias. Although the boys were delighted to be together, they were lonely without other children in the home. Jörg-Olaf was unable to care for any more children on his own, and he decided the best move for him and the boys would be to begin an SOS family at our Children’s Village in Diessen, where Manuel and Mathias would be surrounded by other children.
Since then, the family has grown. The two boys were joined by three-year-old Jakob last May, followed by Vanessa and Mark in the autumn. Jörg-Olaf is very happy with the progress Manuel and Mathias have made at the local school, where he sits on the parents’ board.
As for working in a career dominated by women, Jörg-Olaf describes this as “quite normal”. And he won’t be the only SOS father at Diessen for much longer, as a young teacher on his team plans to pursue the same career. But it really is no surprise that after a lifetime supporting vulnerable children, Jörg-Olaf has easily acclimatised to life as an SOS father.
Mothers remain at the heart of the SOS family. But today, there are 89 couples leading SOS families together, as well as 12 SOS fathers who do the job on their own. Though they are mainly based in Western Europe, the last few years has seen 11 SOS couples begin work in eastern Europe as well. As times change, children’s needs change, and we believe it is vital to provide young people with the care that will enable them to grow and flourish in their own communities.