Frequently asked questions

About SOS Children’s Villages

What does SOS Children's Villages do?

SOS Children’s Villages is a global charity protecting children who have lost parental care, or who are at risk of losing it. We work in 125 countries worldwide to provide long-term family-like care, education, and healthcare, for children without parental support.

Through our work in SOS village communities, schools, technology programmes, vocational training centres, family strengthening programmes and emergency relief, we improve the lives of children and families across five continents.

What makes SOS Children's Villages unique? 

We strengthen families at risk of breakdown, providing them with the support they need to stay together. When children do not have parental support, we give them a secure home with the care and support of a parent and siblings in one of our 550 SOS village communities worldwide.

As a non-denominational and apolitical independent charity, we always respect the religions and cultures of the local communities where we work.

Who founded the first SOS Children's Villages Association? 

Following the Second World War, Hermann Gmeiner founded the first SOS Children’s Villages association in his home country of Austria in 1949. His aim was to provide orphaned and abandoned children with a loving family, home and community in which to grow. The first SOS Children’s Village was built in Imst in the Austrian province of Tyrol the same year.

When does an SOS Children's Villages Association become active in a new country?

SOS Children’s Villages works where there is a need to help children who have lost parental care or are at risk of losing the care of their parents. The organisation may be alerted to the plight of vulnerable children in a particular country by a government, an embassy, an SOS co-worker or an individual with a special connection to the country in question and in-depth knowledge of the social situation.

Before starting any activities in a new country, SOS Children’s Villages analyses the situation and carries out a feasibility study to determine if SOS programmes would be suited to help children in the respective country and context. The financial and logistical feasibility are also evaluated.

Finally, an agreement must be signed with the government in which the foundations for cooperation are laid out (child care model, child admission, the legal position regarding taxation, etc.). Only then can SOS Children’s Villages go ahead and set up one of our programmes.

Which children are eligible for admission to an SOS Children's Village? 

Every effort is made to ensure that the children placed in an SOS family are those who are going to benefit most from its care. Only children who need a new, permanent home in a family environment and for whom a more suitable care placement cannot be found are considered for admission into an SOS family. Generally speaking, children up to the age of ten can be admitted. However, when a group of siblings is admitted, group members’ ages may vary.

Who decides whether a child is admitted or not?

SOS Children’s Villages defines admission criteria individually for each country, in line with SOS Children’s Villages International’s guidelines and the economic, social, and legal requirements of the particular country.

The decision whether a child can be admitted to SOS family care is made in co-operation between SOS Children’s Villages and the national welfare authorities and social services. If any of the child’s siblings are also in need of alternative care, every effort is made to keep the siblings together.

How can I volunteer at SOS Children's Villages UK?

We are always pleased to welcome volunteers to our UK office in Cambridge. There are also lots of opportunities to help us raise funds for SOS UK. Find out more about how you can get involved with our work here.

Do you have any international internships or job/volunteer opportunities?

The children at our SOS villages communities grow up in an environment that is consistent with their own culture. Our programmes employ people locally, thereby supporting the local markets and furthering the children’s connection to their own culture.

We guarantee long-term commitment and support for the children in our care, many of whom have suffered greatly and need a long time to trust their new family. Therefore, we do not consider it appropriate to employ people on a short-term basis at our SOS village communities.

How do I apply for employment at SOS Children's Villages UK?

We are delighted you are interested in helping children and families in need by working for SOS Children’s Villages UK. Please visit our work with us page to learn more about available opportunities.

About SOS sponsorships

Why should I sponsor with SOS Children's Villages UK?

When you become an SOS Children’s Villages UK sponsor you make a huge difference to a child’s life. Your sponsorship gives an at-risk child the opportunity to grow up in a caring family-like environment with access to education, healthcare and psychological support. Your sponsorship will offer hope to a child without parental care.

For only £20-a-month, you can provide a child with a brighter future.

How does it work? 

It only takes a few minutes to set up your sponsorship online and change a life. You can set up a monthly Direct Debit of £20 (many donors choose to give more), or make regular donations by debit or credit card.

We will then send you an email to confirm your sponsorship. Within two weeks you will receive a welcome pack introducing you to your sponsored child. This includes a photo of your sponsored child, information about their interests and life.

There are two types of sponsorship to choose from:

1. Sponsor a child living in an SOS Children’s Village community

If you help us this way, you will be giving the long-term support of a family-like environment to a child in need. They will receive quality education, healthcare and individual care. Within their SOS family they will be cared for by an SOS parent and grow up alongside their biological and SOS siblings.

Your sponsored child will have more than one sponsor, often from different countries, ensuring their future is financially secure.

2. Sponsor an SOS Children’s Village community

You can also choose to sponsor an SOS Children’s Village community, thereby ensuring access to education, medical care, food and clothing for every child under our care, and those in need of support within the wider community.

How much of my sponsorship contribution goes to my sponsored child or village? 

We are committed to using your funds well and wisely for the benefit of at-risk children. 80p in every £1 you donate is spent in the country where you sponsor, ensuring the children we care for have a supportive family upbringing with access to quality education and healthcare. The remainder is spent on child-safeguarding, good governance and ensuring a sustainable future for SOS Children’s Villages UK, so we can continue to meet our obligations to unsupported children worldwide.

Will I receive updates from the child I am sponsoring? 

Yes. As an SOS Children’s Villages UK sponsor you will receive a welcome pack containing a photo of your sponsored child and information about them and the community in which they live. Your welcome pack will also include a mailing address should you wish to send letters to the child you sponsor.

Twice a year you will receive updates, including photos, to see how your sponsored child is growing academically and socially.

Can I sponsor a child as a gift for someone else? 

Yes. Child sponsorship is a wonderful gift which enriches the lives of the recipient and the child.  Simply select the gift sponsorship option when you register to sponsor a child online. They will then receive a sponsorship welcome pack with a photo and information about their sponsored child, as well as regular updates. These updates will be sent directly to the gift recipient twice a year, while correspondence about financial details of the sponsorship will be sent to you.

How long will my sponsorship last? 

There is no minimum or maximum period. If, for whatever reason, you wish to stop sponsoring your SOS child or village community, you can contact us and we will arrange this for you.

Can the cost of sponsorship rise? 

If the cost of sponsorship rises, we tell our donors. However, existing donors may carry on paying their existing rate unless the difference becomes too great.

Can I choose the child I sponsor?

Although you cannot choose a specific child, you can choose which country or village you would like to sponsor in and we will do our best to match your preferences. Alternatively, you can let us choose the child that needs your help the most.

Can I sponsor a child with a specific religious identity? 

The religious identities of the children in our care are private and are not divulged to sponsors.

Many of our village communities have families of different faiths living side by side. If a child arrives in a Children’s Village with a particular faith, we aim to place them with an SOS parent of the same faith. In practice, this means that children are often brought up in the prevailing religion of their country, if there is one.

SOS Children’s Villages is a non-religious, apolitical organisation and we do not attempt to introduce different religions or cultures into a region. We respect the local culture in its entirety, except where this would prove detrimental to the child – for instance, we prohibit the physical punishment of children even if local culture and law allows it.

Is it possible to visit an SOS Children's Village?

It is possible to visit an SOS Children’s Village community, however, the privacy of all the children in our care and their right to a normal upbringing is our top priority. You will therefore need to obtain permission beforehand. Please contact us if you would like to discuss visiting a village community.

Can I adopt a child from SOS Children's Villages? 

We cannot help with adopting a child. Our charity believes that every child should grow up within a family in their familiar environment – and within their biological family when possible. This includes growing up within their own culture and language.

We achieve this through our community outreach programmes, which help vulnerable families to stay together, and by working closely with local child welfare authorities to find a caring home for unsupported children, for instance, within a nearby SOS Children’s Village community.

Although we understand adoption is one path to finding care for a child, we believe that local possibilities should be exhausted first. If you would like to support one of the children in our care so that they can receive all they need to thrive, please visit our sponsor a child page.

How is SOS Children's Villages UK different to other child sponsorship charities? 

When you sponsor a child with SOS Children’s Villages UK, you will be providing an unsupported child with the care and support of a family, including a parent and siblings, as well as a secure, permanent home and access to quality education and healthcare – everything they need to fulfil their potential.

Other information

I donated to your emergency fund. Where will my money go?

If we had a specific appeal, such as our Ukraine or Haiti appeals, we will allocate those funds to that particular appeal. In the very unlikely event that we raise more money than we can spend on that particular appeal, we will reallocate the money to our general emergencies fund to help us react quickly to future emergencies.

If you selected, “where it is needed most”, we will use those funds to respond wherever we can provide the best response as and when an emergency arises.

To ensure the money is well spent, to prevent fraud and allow for effective safeguarding activities to take place, 20% of every donation goes towards ensuring that the money is spent fairly, safely and effectively.

I don't want to sponsor a child but I would still like to support your work, is this possible? 

Yes. There are many ways you can help to make a difference by supporting the work of SOS Children’s Villages UK around the world. You can:

We also support payroll giving for child sponsorship and regular donations, so you can donate out of your gross salary before your wages are taxed.

Can I donate items instead of donating money, like footballs or food, blankets, clothes etc?

Thank you so much for thinking of us and we hugely appreciate that you would like to donate. We also realise not everyone can donate money. However, it is difficult sometimes to match items donated to a place that needs them, and it can often be a lot more costly to ship things than it would be to buy them locally. By buying locally, we can also support businesses in the area as well as reducing our carbon footprint. Donating money can also allow us to be more responsive to the most urgent needs of the communities at any moment. So we have an overall policy of not accepting gifts or items such as these, but do get in touch if you have further questions about this.

My question isn't answered here, how do I contact you? 

If you cannot find the answer to your question here, please do contact us – we would love to hear from you.

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