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Innovating in Austria and Finland

Children with the Village Director at our SOS Village near Salzburg
Children with the Village Director at our SOS Village near Salzburg

SOS Children cares for vulnerable children all over the world. But not everybody knows that we run Children’s Villages in Western Europe. In Austria and Finland, we are adapting the way we work to keep up with the ever-changing needs of the children we support. Here, we take a look at how the future may look for SOS Children’s Villages.

Evolving SOS families in Austria

The town of Seekirchen am Wallersee lies just a few miles outside the state capital, Salzburg, in the country’s picturesque north-west. Despite its idyllic surroundings, Seekirchen has its share of children in need of care. For half a century, our Children’s Village has provided many of these children with a home and a loving family.

Until recently, the SOS families in Seekirchen were just like any others around the world, made up of an SOS mother with a number of children in her care. Today, the idea of the SOS family is expanding. In Seekirchen, SOS mothers are able to raise their own children alongside their SOS family. Husbands and partners are also becoming an increasingly familiar part of Village life. For our children, this means a new sense of proximity to society beyond the Village, and a more integrated upbringing.

When Lisa took on the challenge of becoming an SOS mother, her husband Karl came to our Seekirchen Village with her. Karl didn’t just want to live with the SOS family; he wanted to become part of it. Having taken early retirement, he decided to enrol on a course so he could help his wife raise her SOS family. Karl offers his time freely, and provides the family with something beyond the usual SOS experience.

SOS Children's Village Tampere, Finland
These apartments provide homes for foster families caring for SOS children

A new kind of SOS Village in Finland

Our Finnish team is innovating too. The city of Tampere is growing. Today, it is the most populous inland city in all the Nordic regions. As the population expands, existing care for children without parents is coming under increased pressure. We decided to open our sixth Children’s Village in Finland to help meet some of this need.

Today, we are able to offer all the benefits of the traditional SOS Children’s Village, while allowing children to grow up as part of the community. A recent change in to Finnish law had made foster care the first option for children without parental care. Given the number of ready and willing foster parents in Tampere, we recruited these families to provide homes for some of the children in our care. A new and unfamiliar approach for SOS Children, perhaps; but one which allowed these children to find security in a safe family environment.

We built a number of large apartments across the city and invited foster parents to move in with their own children. Our children then joined their new parents, brothers and sisters to form a different kind of SOS family. Today, the project is young, and only one of our apartments is occupied. It is home to foster parents Amy and Daavid. They live with two of their own children, as well as their four SOS children and another child whom they foster independently. Over the next two years, another four apartments will open, and Amy and Daavid will become part of a new kind of Children's Village.

Austria and Finland are just two of the 125 countries where we offer care to children who have lost their parents. Our work is truly continent spanning. If you'd like to learn more, why not begin with Europe? Explore our work across the continent, from Russia and Lithuania in the north, to Bulgaria and Greece in the south. Alternatively, find out more about what life is like in a Children's Village.