SOS Children’s Villages is a nonprofit group whose mission is to provide every child with the opportunity to grow up in a loving home to secure their futures as successful adults.
This international organization was founded in 1949 by Hermann Gmeiner to help orphaned children in Europe rebuild their lives after World War II. Now, SOS Children’s Villages sponsors vulnerable children and fragmented families in 125 countries, across 12 different continents, with headquarters in Cambridge, United Kingdom.
SOS Children’s Villages aims to help families stay together by offering community outreach programs that provide each family with a development plan designed specifically to their needs.
The nonprofit offers aid to children who have lost their parents, those living in an orphaned household and those whose parents suffer from a life-threatening disease. Funding for these villages comes from donations, volunteer workers, corporate partnerships, fundraising and sponsorships that offer donors the chance to support an orphaned child.
Each child that lives in an SOS village receives guaranteed education and health care. Nearly 100,000 children are enrolled in 187 SOS primary and secondary schools. Tens of thousands of people attend the 51 SOS vocational training centers created to enhance employment opportunities.
“If SOS Children was not here, our children would have become street children, with all the risks this may cause. Today, we are proud of ourselves, and many of us have found dignity. We can now stand on our own feet,” said a mother in Dakar, Senegal, now able to find financial independence thanks to an SOS outreach program.
With 150 SOS villages in 45 African countries, more educational projects are run in Africa than in any other continent. According to UNICEF, educating young people can support economic resilience and stability, as children learn to address family vulnerabilities and gain skills for future employment.
A total of 79 SOS medical centers have been built by the organization, primarily in Africa and the Middle East. In more remote areas that lack clinic access, SOS children train local people in the medical field, passing on first-aid skills and health advice garnered from SOS family health awareness campaigns.
Because vulnerable children often live in non-democratic societies, SOS prides itself on strong communication with central and local governments that hold legal responsibility for the welfare of these children. According to SOS, this has allowed them to bring aid to children in Zimbabwe, where other organizations have been asked to leave.
“As a result of the various economic opportunities that were created for many vulnerable families since the inception of the project [SOS Children’s Villages Ghana], more than 78 percent of caregivers have become more self-reliant and are capable of accessing social services like health, education, water and sanitation without external support,” said Alexander Mar Kekula, National Director of SOS Children’s Villages Ghana.
– Kelsey Lay