A loving home for every child

| September 26, 2014 | 0 Comments
Ottilia with two of her siblings in the SOS Children’s Village in Ondangwa, Namibia.

Ottilia with two of her siblings in the SOS Children’s Village in Ondangwa, Namibia.

At 5 a.m. on a school day, 14-year-old Ottilia wakes up and makes breakfast at her home in SOS Children’s Village Ondangwa, Namibia.
Ottilia did not always live in a caring home. Only three years ago, she was underweight and sleeping under trees. Abandoned by her birth parents at an early age, Ottilia was taken in by her grandmother and aunt, who were also unable to support her properly.
“At that time, I was a street kid,” says Ottilia in her hushed voice, frequently pausing when remembering her life before SOS. She knows all too well the growing need for loving, caring homes as she experienced a life of poverty first-hand: “If I had not come to the SOS Village, maybe I would be dead by now.”
Her story is not unlike those of thousands of children who have also benefited from SOS Children’s Villages over the past several decades. Sixty-five years ago, an Austrian medical student named Hermann Gmeiner saw children who had been orphaned and abandoned in postwar Europe and was compelled to help them. His solution was novel: Don’t put these children in an orphanage; let them grow up with a mother and a family of siblings. With that, SOS Children’s Villages was born.
Working in 133 countries around the world, SOS Children’s Villages provides homes to orphaned and abandoned children in which to grow up in family units. These children are raised by an “SOS Mother,” a fully trained local woman who takes them as her own. The children are raised as a family in an SOS Children’s Village until they are old enough to transition to independent living as adults.
These Children’s Villages are places that orphaned and abandoned children can call home: a place where their needs for food, health, shelter and education are met in a culturally sensitive environment. The children are raised according to their own background and religion, while encouraged to be respectful of other values and beliefs within the village. SOS Children’s Villages also ensures that biological siblings are kept together.
“SOS Children’s Villages does more than simply give kids a place to live. We give them a family; a loving home with a mother and siblings, as well as a supporting village,” explains Boyd McBride, president and CEO of SOS Children’s Villages Canada. “Through the dedication of our Canadians sponsors, we are working to ensure that no child is alone again.”
Ottilia’s village is no exception. Currently, 109 children have found a loving home in the Green Family SOS Village in Ondangwa, which was named after donors Don and Shirley Green of Brockville, Ont. The impact of SOS Children’s Villages’ work in Ondangwa extends well beyond the village. SOS also benefits nearly 400 more children and families throughout the region with a kindergarten and a family-strengthening program that works directly with families in the surrounding community. This program provides skills training, parenting classes and other projects to help families care for and protect their children from the start. The goal of this is to prevent families in need from abandoning their children.
“The solution to child abandonment isn’t in running ‘children’s homes’ or ‘orphanages,’ but in creating families and helping families to thrive,” Mr. McBride says. “That’s been our model for 65 years.”
Today, Ottilia is the eldest in her SOS family and is known for helping her SOS mother take care of the house. Ottilia leads and guides the younger ones responsibly and prepares the weekly shopping list on her own. “When I am a teacher, I can support my own family,” Ottilia says. She has already made plans for the family she intends to have in the future, with two children and a pet dog.

Nicole Sheffield is a volunteer for SOS Children’s Villages. For more information visit soschildrensvillages.ca

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Nicole Sheffield is a volunteer for SOS Children’s Villages. For more information visit soschildrensvillages.ca

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