June 13 2005
Two decades of SOS Children's Villages in China
15/06/2005 - Twenty years ago, an SOS Children's Village association was founded in the world's most populated country. Today one can speak of the successful work being carried out in 31 facilities in China. Celebrations and meetings of government representatives and representatives of SOS Children's Villages will honour this important anniversary.
He arrived in SOS Children's Village Yantai in north-eastern China as an orphaned child and today he is the manager of a fishing fleet of 29 ocean going ships. The life story of Yu Xinping is only one among many of young adults whose childhoods were marked by great difficulties but who obtained true opportunities for a bright future through the care they were given in an SOS Children's Village.
The successful integration of youths into working life does not necessarily have to lead to a brilliant career, as in the case of Yu, but should reflect an independent and self-confident adulthood, which is not usually the path of children with such difficult backgrounds. However, most of the children who have grown up in one of the (now) nine Chinese SOS Children's Villages* and seven SOS Youth Facilities manage to make the transition to adulthood relatively smoothly.
SOS Children's Villages has been able to make a fundamental and positive change to the lives of many orphaned, neglected and destitute children in China during the past 20 years. The initiative originally came from a Chinese official who learned about the work of SOS Children's Villages during a visit to America. In 1984, a cooperation agreement was signed by the Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs, SOS Children's Village founder Hermann Gmeiner and Helmut Kutin, who was then responsible for SOS Children's Villages in Asia and is now the president of the organisation.
One year later, the national SOS Children's Village association was founded, and in 1987 the first SOS Children's Villages in Tianjin and Yantai could be opened. After China signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, the government started running several programmes to improve the living conditions of the children in the country. The work of SOS Children's Villages has profited from these enhanced efforts which has been supported by the authorities especially in isolated and/or underdeveloped regions.
The existing 31 SOS Children's Village facilities (villages, kindergartens, youth facilities, schools, vocational training centres) are geographically widely scattered, from Qiqihar in the north-east, through Lhasa in the autonomous province of Tibet, up to Urumqi in the north-western Uiguric autonomous region of Xinjiang.
Noteworthy is the SOS Hermann Gmeiner School in Yantai; the largest SOS school in the world, with over 3,000 students, and which is considered one of the best in the country, and also the SOS Vocational Training Centre in Qiqihar, in which 500 trainees can complete their vocational preparation. But the most prominent aspect is the SOS Children's Villages' family-based concept of child care (alongside a high-quality education), which is considered by social and welfare authorities to be a real alternative to the many traditional orphanages.
On the occasion of the association's 20th anniversary and the successful development of a widely branched net of social facilities during the past 20 years, a great anniversary celebration will take place on 23 June in SOS Children's Village Tianjin (app. 100 km south-east of Beijing), which will see SOS Children's Village President Helmut Kutin, Secretary-General Richard Pichler and Wilfried Vyslozil, managing director of SOS Children's Villages Austria, attend.
The run-up to the festivities will see the meeting on 19 June of President Kutin with Vice-Social Minister Li Liguo in Beijing. On 24 June, Helmut Kutin will be welcomed by Hui Liangyu, the Vice-Prime Minister of the People's Republic of China.
*An SOS Children's Village and a kindergarten are being planned in the capital, Beijing.