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Father's Day: A different approach

This Father's Day, we're celebrating our fantastic SOS fathers and uncles
This Father's Day, we're celebrating our fantastic SOS fathers and uncles

Traditionally, the SOS model has been built around SOS mothers and whilst there are currently only four SOS fathers, they are starting to play more of a role in our work. 44 husbands of SOS mothers are also employed by SOS, and often co-parent the children.

We think the work they, and SOS uncles do, is incredibly important. So we’re celebrating them this Father’s Day. SOS uncles, like Gustavo, share responsibility for children in SOS Villages.

Gustavo and the Chacra project

We asked Gusatvo, the only SOS uncle in the whole of Latin America, what it takes to do his job. “Commitment, willpower and sacrifice are important, but it above all, heart. In everything you do, you must love. Love is what makes things possible”.

Gustavo leads a unique pilot project for SOS Children in Uruguay. Funded by SOS Children’s Villages Florida, the project is called ‘Chacra’ and is a special SOS home that works with five teenage boys, between the ages of 12 and 14, who have social and behavioural issues. It has been running since October 2014.

Gustavo is sitting on a bench in front of the house, smiling as he watches two of the boys play-fighting on the grass. “I am very proud of what I do,” he says. “For me, being an uncle to these boys is the most important thing I’ve ever done.” Gustavo works hard to get to know everything about them in order to help them as much as he can. It takes hard-work to build meaningful relationships with the often troubled young men in the Chacra house. “I am still learning every day,” smiles Gustavo.

Having a positive male role model is fundamental for these teenage boys. Gustavo makes sure that they know they can count on him, both as a friend buts most importantly as a parent figure. He believes that being an uncle allows him to fulfil both roles in the best way possible, and ultimately build a positive image of parents for these boys who, more often than not, have had negative experiences within their biological families.

Uruguayan boy walks down the street
The boys are gaining independence and enjoy taking responsibility for everyday tasks

From boys to young men

Carmen, who helps Gustavo run the Chacra project, rings the lunch bell and everyone rushes inside. Discipline reigns though, thanks to Gustavo, who has instilled in the boys the importance of waiting for everyone to be seated before they can start eating. Similarly, they are only allowed to leave the table when everyone has finished.

“It is important that they learn obedience and responsibility,” Carmen says earnestly. “But above all, we want to create a family environment”. Gustavo agrees. “I really think we have achieved that here – we may be a little different from other families, but most things are still the same: when they’re annoyed with me, they go to Carmen, when they’re mad at her, they come to me!”

Dealing with the boys is not an easy task. There are times when their behaviour is difficult to deal with and they can be aggressive, but Gustavo chooses to concentrate on the progress they make every day. For him, realising that they are successfully moving towards independence is an incredibly special feeling. “They have improved tremendously. Arthur goes to school alone, Manuel takes the bus by himself, I give them money and they go and buy food from the grocery store. Before they didn’t even know how to handle money,” he says proudly.

Gustavo is blazing a trail for men in social care in Uruguay and across Latin America and he hopes that his story will inspire many more men to get involved. He is excited about the potential the Chacra project has: “there is much to be done. We need greater investments in infrastructure and personnel.”

Enjoyed reading about our SOS uncles and fathers? You can also find out about our fantastic SOS mothers here. 

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