Children orphaned and abandoned due to civil war, extreme poverty, natural disaster and pandemics are the world’s most vulnerable citizens.
For over 65 years SOS Children’s Villages has been working around the globe to give these children a family, a community and a promise of a brighter future.
Together with our supporters, we are helping the world’s most susceptible children and families to provide a higher quality of life, to prevent family breakdown and to ensure that every child’s right to a family, protection, education and healthcare are fulfilled.
- We prevent children from ending up alone by supporting fragile families
- We provide long-term family care for lone children in SOS Children’s Villages
- We provide quality education and healthcare in these communities
- We ensure children’s rights are protected wherever possible
- We care for and protect children during crisis and disaster
Since 1949 our mission has been to enable every child to belong to a family and grow up with love, respect and security
As Europe began to recover in the wake of the Second World War, a young Austrian man was moved to action by the appalling plight of the thousands of children that were left orphaned by the conflict.
This is the story of how a visionary idea became a lifeline for millions of children all over the world as sixty years of history unfolded.
Please drag the timeline to reveal more of our history
A young Austrian child welfare worker called Hermann Gmeiner and his friends established SOS Children's Villages.
The first SOS Youth Facility is established in Innsbruck, Austria.
SOS Children’s Villages also begins work in France, Germany and Italy.
SOS Children's Villages International is established as the umbrella organisation for all SOS Children's Villages associations. SOS Children's Villages begins working in Latin America, starting with Uruguay.
The first Children's Villages appear in Asia. The South Korean capital Seoul is home to the first Village to open on the continent in 1963. The same year, work begins in India, where the first Village opens near New Delhi five years later.
The first African SOS Children's Village is built in Côte d'Ivoire; first programmes are started in Ghana, Kenya and Sierra Leone.
Helmut Kutin succeeds Hermann Gmeiner as President of SOS Children's Villages International.
Hermann Gmeiner dies on 26 April 1986, having established around 230 SOS Children's Villages all over the world. Both SOS Children's Villages and Hermann Gmeiner himself have been nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize.
SOS Children’s Villages reopens in Czechoslovakia, and the first SOS Children’s Villages in Poland and the Soviet Union are started; SOS Children´s Villages programmes are started in Bulgaria and Romania; the first SOS Children’s Village in the USA is founded.
SOS Children's Villages International achieves UN status, becoming an "NGO in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations".
SOS Children's Villages International receives the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize for extraordinary contributions towards alleviating human suffering.
SOS Children's Villages family strengthening programmes are established.
Following the 2005 Boxing Day tsunami, SOS Children's Villages starts the largest emergency relief and reconstruction programme in the organisation's history, with programmes in India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Thailand.
SOS Children's Villages helps victims of natural disasters in Bolivia, Indonesia, Peru and Uruguay, as well as those displaced in the crisis-torn regions of Sudan, Chad and Somalia.
The 500th SOS Children's Village is opened and the organisation turns 60. The UN published The Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children, to which SOS Children's Villages significantly contributed.
SOS Children's Villages begins a massive and long-term relief project following a devastating earthquake in Haiti, which left more than 100,000 dead and affects more than 3 million.
In response to the refugee crisis, SOS Children's Villages provided on-the-ground aid to refugees and internally displaced families and unnaccompanied children in at least 12 countries.
SOS Children's Villages wins 2016 Princess of Asturias Award for Concord.
We were founded in 1949 to give long-term care to children who had lost their homes or families in the Second World War. We continue this work worldwide, and as a non-denominational and apolitical charity we always respect the religions and cultures of the local community.
Orphaned and abandoned children require long-term, dedicated support. This means we have to work with central and local governments, who generally have legal responsibility for them. As such, we co-operate with all governments. This method has allowed us to continue to help vulnerable children in places like Zimbabwe where other organisations have had to leave.
Defending children's rights
We uphold the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and work to defend these rights around the world. In 2009, we worked with the UN to develop Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children.
Actions, not words
We are a charity which creates nurturing families, not headlines. We invest in communities, not in media presence. This way, we keep our admin costs low while delivering the best support to children at risk.
SOS Impact in 2016
Children enjoyed a safe and happy childhood with their biological parents
Children and young people had access to education at one of our 420 nurseries and schools
SOS families worldwide thrived in our 571 unique SOS Children’s Villages
Children cared for in SOS Children's Villages
Vulnerable children and their families benefited from our programmes in 125 countries
Health services were provided to at-risk children and families
Young people were given the opportunity to reach their potential through youth programmes
People were reached by our disasters and emergency response in 23 countries
SOS UK Story
Britain became involved in the SOS adventure in the 1960s, when an Edinburgh-born teacher called Bertha Forrester visited Austria to meet her friend, SOS Children’s international director, Egon Hofreiter. Upon their return, Bertha and her husband Jim founded the British Friends of SOS Children.
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Bertha and Jim Forrester founded the British Friends of SOS Children with its headquarters in London.
A Scottish based charitable foundation, The Truth Research Foundation, made an offer of a 10-acre piece of land at Birdlip near Cheltenham for the first SOS Children’s Village – they also committed to fund the first house to be built on it. Plans began to be drawn up by an architect. However, the plan was vetoed by the Home Office because they felt the model would put too much strain on Social Services.
Following the failed plans for a SOS Children’s Village site in Cheltenham, Bertha Forrester suggested that Scotland might prove more successful. A Scottish committee was established, with the Countess of Airlie as Chairman, and Glasgow City Council offered a suitable site in the city and pledged £3 million.
Supporter groups known as “Branches” were established and flourishing in: Brighton, Bexley, Chichester, Chester, Cheadle, Cheltenham, Coventry, Reigate, South East Sussex, Sutton, Wallasey and Wimslow. SOS Children UK relocates from London to Cambridge.
SOS Children’s Villages UK moved to Bridge Street, Cambridge and The Countess of Mountbatten opened its first charity shop.
The first “Classical Response” concert was held at the Royal Albert Hall as part of our relief effort to support families and children affected by the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, followed by a second concert the following year.
British sponsor James Barham, finances the construction of SOS Children's Village and the SOS Nursery in Basse, The Gambia.
The International Friendship League - British Section (IFL) donate £965,000 to help construct SOS Children’s Village Chipata, Zambia.
We launched “Our Africa” website to celebrate the 40th anniversary of our work in Africa.
‘Our Africa’ wins One World Media Award for New Media – presented to the team by Channel 4’s Jon Snow.
Our office in the UK provides funding and technical assistance for outreach programmes, which each year benefit the lives of millions of vulnerable children, families on the brink of breaking down and poor communities. This means that we help children and families in 125 countries globally.
Helen & Guy
“We have been supporting SOS Children's Villages for about 35 years now. The organisation has always seemed to us a reliable, utterly practical, front-line charity. We prefer to send our donations to them in the certain knowledge that not one penny will go astray.”
We try to spend as much money as possible on what matters – on the delivery and support of our work with the world’s most vulnerable children and communities, and as little as possible on raising more money, governance and other associated costs.
Our Annual Report includes details of our work that is being completed around the world, as well as a financial snapshot of our operations.