SOS Children’s Villages – A loving home for every child

“The love of a family is the greatest blessing in life” – Anonymous

It was a chance meeting at an airport with an old friend. My old friend Sandilya told me that, since he retired, he had volunteered as non-executive president of SOS Children’s Villages in India. I was intrigued by his description of a community designed solely to help poor orphans. “Come visit us,” he urged.

This is how my wife Girija and I ended up in the village of Tambaram, on the outskirts of Chennai. The man in charge of that particular village, Mr. Varadarajan, showed us around and explained these villages which provide a home for destitute children who have lost both parents.

The unique feature of SOS is the mother house: the Chennai center has 15 houses, each with its own ‘mother’ who raises the children. To provide a family environment, each mother is responsible for raising about 10 children, of different ages, just like in any other large family. She oversees a monthly budget and cares for all the children, trusting the older children to contribute with the chores.

While the administration of the village, the school, the medical facilities and the auditorium are maintained by the SOS village administration group, each house is managed independently by the mothers of the family, who are usually single women with the whole unique set of skills and temperament necessary to supervise a large group. busy home.

They are carefully selected and undergo training for a couple of years before they are considered fit to take over a household. The interaction between the children in the houses is like that of the neighbors. Central Chennai has its own primary school, and the older children attend the local secondary schools in Tambaram.

We visited one of the houses. Only a few small children were at home with the mother; the other children were at school. The mother proudly showed us photos of some of her ‘children of hers’ who were now adults and married. They kept in touch with her. In fact, that same day one of the eldest sons was getting married and the whole town was scheduled to attend the wedding ceremony.

Many of the children who grew up in the villages do well in life: doctors, engineers and other professionals working in India and abroad. Several retired mothers now live with their adopted children. Many well-to-do siblings care for the less fortunate children they grew up with.

SOS is an international organization founded by Hermann Gmeiner in Austria. Hermann’s own mother died when he was young and he was raised by his older sister. As a soldier during World War II, he was confronted with the labor of homeless and orphaned children and was convinced that the best solution was for them to grow up in a family. This conviction led him to establish the first SOS Children’s Village in Imst, Austria.

The SOS organization has grown to more than 132 countries, supporting some 60,000 children. SOS arrived in India in 1964 and today has around 40 villages directly supporting 6,000 children. In addition, an outreach program covers another 15,000 children.

Having visited several homes for orphans and destitute children, I was impressed with the simplicity and scalability of the SOS Children’s Villages model. I have been urging other NGOs to learn from the SOS model. Share examples you have found of providing a support base and helping disadvantaged children.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *