June 22 2012
Focused on the individual needs of one million children
22/06/2012 – The newly elected President of SOS Children’s Villages International, Siddhartha Kaul, has outlined an ambitious plan that provides a loving home for one million at-risk children.
“The global economic downturn has impacted on the organisation, however the plight of children across the world is not limited to economic matters,” said Mr Kaul. Speaking after his election at the General Assembly of SOS Children’s Village International, President Siddhartha Kaul, 57, also demonstrated the scale of his commitment to the federation of 133 countries and territories.
President Siddhartha Kaul (at the press conference on the first day of the General Assembly) makes a promise to one million children @ SOS Archives
“Together we will strive to do what is possible to provide a caring family environment for one million children by the end of the decade, keeping in mind that quality supersedes quantity. We promised one million children and this is a promise we aim to keep. To achieve it, is a major task, in today’s difficult environment. For 63 years, supporters have responded to our work with tremendous faith and we seek their continued help.” SOS Children’s Villages currently provides a loving home to some 370,000 children. In addition to this, in excess of one million children and adults are supported through the provision of a variety of services.
His predecessor and mentor, Helmut Kutin described the Indian born President as “an organiser, a realistic thinker in matters of economics and someone who appreciates the value of diversity”. This was evident when Mr Kaul supervised the highly successful SOS Emergency Relief and Reconstruction Programme that followed Asia’s tsunami in 2004.
Hermann Gmeiner’s ethos runs in the blood
His father, J.N. Kaul, a social worker, co-founded SOS Children’s Villages India and subsequently lived with his family in Greenfields - the first of the country’s 39 villages. As he spent much of his youth there, Siddhartha became affectionately referred to as the Bhaiya (elder brother).
Emotional handing-over of the presidency: Siddhartha Kaul and Helmut Kutin at the General Assembly @ Florian Lechner
He saw how families flourish in supportive communities. This prompted him as a student to lead summer camps and provide his peers with tuition in languages and math. His understanding of the needs of children, young adults and mothers was evident to both Hermann Gmeiner and Helmut Kutin with whom he became acquainted.
After studying architecture and liberal arts, Siddhartha Kaul was persuaded to become the director of an SOS Children’s Village.
“He respects all religions and has a great understanding of people,” says former President Kutin. He recognised and nurtured the talent that led Mr Kaul to the most senior positions within SOS Children’s Villages elsewhere in India, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Cambodia. Until his election as president, he also held the posts of Continental Director for Asia and Deputy Secretary General.
SOS Children’s Villages President Siddhartha Kaul has today confirmed that he recognises the complexity of issues facing at-risk children and families. “Regardless of whether they are in Sri Lanka, Serbia or Spain, every child who becomes a successful young person brings us closer to our mission. We work directly with every individual child; this is the uniqueness of our organisation” he said.
The new and the former President behind the Hermann Gmeiner Prize Winner from Nepal, Rama Karki - Photo: Florian Lechner