I quite literally stumbled upon this week’s Good People. I was reading a bit about Stephen Hawking. Science not being even remotely a strong suit of mine, I did not know very much about the late Stephen Hawking. I knew that he was an incredibly brilliant scientist with a lot of letters behind his name who was revered in the scientific community. Last year when I lost a friend, Brian, to ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, I discovered that was also Hawking’s disability. Otherwise, I knew very little about Mr. Hawking and wanted to learn a bit more. When Mr. Hawking died last month, I considered writing a post honouring him, but in the end I felt that was better left to others, given my limited knowledge.As I read, I came to discover that Mr. Hawking was actually quite a philanthropist, having set up his own charity, Total Giving, The Stephen Hawking Foundation, but also contributing to a number of other very worthy causes. One of those causes caught my eye and, as so often happens with my bouncy mind, I was diverted to it and needed to know more. After a few minutes, I knew I had my ‘Good People’ for this week.
The organization is worldwide and has been around since 1949. It is called SOS Children’s Villages, and what these people do is amazing! Their mission statement:
SOS Children’s Villages provides children in need with a caring, loving, and secure family environment where basic needs for food, health, shelter, and education are met.
SOS Children’s Villages creates opportunities for children to become responsible, contributing members of society by providing Villages and community support where stable, nurturing homes exist to meet family, social, emotional, physical, and spiritual needs of children.
In a nutshell, SOS Children’s Villages provides children in need with a caring, loving, and secure family environment where all their needs from food, health, shelter, and education are met. But it’s important to note that they do not merely run orphanages, but instead they establish actual villages.
“We have over 571 SOS Villages around the world. These villages are complete with homes and community centers and either onsite or access to medical facilities, school and playgrounds for our children to grow up in a safe and supportive community.”
They even help families who are struggling to stay together.
“We believe that every child deserves a loving home. We strengthen families at risk of falling apart with the support they need to grow stronger and stay together.”
But when families, for one reason or another cannot stay together, the children are still part of a family.
“When children cannot stay with their family or have no family, we give them a safe home, together with their siblings, where they can grow up in one of our SOS families. Each home is headed by a trained caregiver, an SOS Mother, who raises each child with the individual care and attention they need.
We support our children until they are ready to support themselves. We offer our children the skills and education they need to become fully independent adults. And although they grow up and become self-sufficient, they will always have their SOS family.
We focus on what each individual child needs. Because each child grows up in a family environment, we get to know each child as an individual, and we work with them to create a personalized plan for their development.
Let’s take a look at just a few of their more recent stories:Tulela, age 11, Pius, age 7, and Veila, age 3 were removed from an abusive home in Ondangwa, Namibia. Their single mother was an alcoholic who frequently left the three children home alone with no food in the house. Other times, she left them with their blind grandmother. When she returned home drunk, she often physically abused the children. To protect the siblings from further abuse and neglect, and with no other relative to look after them, they were placed in a loving SOS family. The SOS Children’s Village does not separate siblings so Tulela and the two boys went to the same house with SOS mother Penny as the caregiver. It took time, of course, for the children to adjust, but today they are happy kids.
“I also likes going to school. And that our house is always clean. I help my SOS mother with house chores when I am not in school. When I grow up I want to be a teacher. My new mother understood what I was going through and she would encourage me all the time. I felt safe in my new family. My brothers and I are receiving better care here.” – Tulela
Marco Paulo Monteiro was four-years-old in 1990 when his biological parents were no longer able to care for him and the SOS Children’s Village Assomada, in Cape Verde became his home. “It was a like a new world for me. But step by step, I started to integrate and play with the other children. The environment was really loving. I have few memories [of first arriving at the Village], but I can remember my mother, the way she took care of me and my SOS brothers too. She was dedicated to giving us a warm upbringing.”
Today, Marco is 32 and has three children of his own. But that’s not all, for Marco is giving back and is a national youth leader at SOS Children’s Villages Cape Verde, off the western coast of Africa. “Working as a national youth leader is a way to repay what SOS has done for me. I don’t think it’s enough, but for me it’s an opportunity to thank SOS for all the things they have done for me.” Today, Marco Paulo still has a strong relationship with his SOS mother, who is now retired, regularly visiting and calling her.
SOS Children’s Villages operate in 135 countries and territories around the world. They are on the job wherever children are endangered and without a family.As many as 800,000 Rohingya refugees arrived in Bangladesh between August 2017 and March 2018, living in makeshift camps with limited resources. SOS Children’s Villages Bangladesh has opened five child care spaces to provide care and protection for refugee children in the Cox’s Bazar district.
The child care spaces serve as a hub for:
- Providing for an estimated 300 children ages three to twelve every day. These facilities offer a safe place for children to play and have access to informal education.
- Ensuring that the children are provided a balanced diet, nutritional screening and hygiene.
- Offering support in trauma healing, primary health care, and referral services for specialised medical care.
- Working with caregivers to provide training in positive parenting.
According to Ghulam Ishaque, National Director of SOS Children´s Villages Bangladesh. “Some 500,000 of the refugee population are children and about 40,000 are registered as being unaccompanied.”In addition to providing safe, loving homes for children, SOS Children’s Villages also maintain medical centers, schools and emergency relief centers in the countries in which they operate. There are so many wonderful success stories on their website that I urge you to take a look.
In addition to the aforementioned Stephen Hawking, many other notables have supported this very worthy cause, including Angelina Jolie, Reba McIntyre, June Carter Cash & Johnny Cash, Nelson Mandela, Susan Sarandon and Leonardo DiCaprio, to name only a few.
I typically highlight individuals who are going above and beyond to do good things for humans, wildlife or the environment, but this is one of those times when an entire organization captivated my interest, and while I vaguely remembered hearing about SOS Children’s Villages somewhere in the dim part of my memory, I knew nothing about the organization. This one is filled with good people doing good things all over the world, wherever there are children in need, and today they deserve this spotlight. My posthumous thanks to Stephen Hawking for bringing this awesome organization to my attention!