Starweek Magazine

SOS: A better future for children

- J. Federizo -

MANILA, Philippines - The youth is the hope of the nation, a cliché but true. But had Jose Rizal the gift of foresight, he would have given us fair warning: “Parents, take better care of your children lest we destroy the future!”

Post-Rizal and post-World War II, Hermann Gmeiner, in Austria, saw for himself how a harsh world could kill hopes and sabotage lives, especially of children. The war left many children orphaned, abandoned, isolated and suffering. Orphaned by his mother as well, Gmeiner realized that help cannot be effective when a child has to grow up without a mother, and even more so, without a home. He can only develop to his full potential in a supportive and protective family environment. 

This conviction would later give birth to a new and noble cause.

The young Austrian doctor set about implementing his idea for a children’s village, establishing the SOS Children’s Village (SOS CV) association in 1949, and in the same year the foundation stone was laid for the first children’s village in Imst, Austria. In the following years, more villages were set up in many other countries in and beyond Europe. In 1960, SOS-Kinderdorf International was established in Strasbourg as the umbrella organization for SOS. It unites all of the autonomous national associations, bringing a variety of international work. Now, 60 years later, SOS CV is active in 132 countries and territories worldwide, including the Philippines.

SOS Children’s Villages Philippines (SOS Philippines) was also borne out of the goodness of people’s hearts. George Winternitz, then the Consul of Austria, and his wife Susie, after visiting Imst in 1959 and having sponsored a child, came back to the Philippines filled with hopes and ideas about the innovative approach to child care.

In 1967, with the help of like-minded individuals, the dream to establish SOS Philippines was realized when the first village in Banay-Banay, Lipa City opened. To date, there are eight villages in the country – in Bataan, Calbayog, Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Alabang, and Tacloban. 

A non-government, non-denominational organization, SOS Philippines has answered the national call for help for the past 42 years. In this modern world, a variety of problems have forced many Filipino children out of their homes and, many times, into the streets. SOS Philippines recognizes their plight, particularly the need to belong and for the love of family. In order to develop fully, a child needs to grow in a child-friendly and familial environment.

Since its inception, SOS Philippines has provided long-term, alternative family-based care and education for children who are orphaned, abandoned, neglected and in extremely difficult circumstances. Its commitment is focused on the wellness and welfare of these children, providing them care, food, shelter, clothing and even education until the tertiary level; many have graduated and have gone on to lead well-adjusted adult lives.

In short, SOS Philippines gives children their most basic necessity – a loving home. It is not an orphanage, but the last resort for kids who have nowhere to go home to. It prepares them to become happy, contented and productive parts of society.

The SOS Philippines concept provides children with what they once lost – a mother who gives unconditional love, eight to 12 brothers and sisters of various ages to grow up with, a home to belong to, and a village with eight to 14 houses to bridge them to the outside world.

The SOS Mother, a concept unique to SOS, is trained and remains single, committing her life to raising and taking care of children not biologically hers yet considers as her own. More than a vocation, it becomes the Mother’s personal devotion until she retires. Through her, the children learn what love and security mean. She also regularly gets support from social workers, educators and service personnel. Everyone in the village has a responsibility in raising these children.

SOS Philippines also has its Family Strengthening Programs (FSP), which are extended to impoverished families in barangays around each village’s area. This is to teach families to properly look after themselves and live independently in the long run. The main purpose, as a whole, is to avoid more incidents of child abandonment which is usually caused by poverty.

This month, SOS Philippines celebrates National Children’s Month and SOS Children’s Villages’ 60th year. SOS Philippines will be holding the National Child Rights Congress on Oct. 27-28 at SOS Children’s Village Manila, Ayala Alabang Village, Muntinlupa City. 

The congress aims to address major and pressing issues that affect the Filipino child today – abuse, abandonment and neglect, among others, with particular focus on child rights. It will serve as a venue for the youth to have a voice and finally be heard.  This recognizes the Filipino child as our most valuable asset, heightening our awareness of their lives and of their rights as children, what has always been SOS Philippines’ thrust.

Attending are more than a hundred youth participants from the eight children’s villages in the country and youths from the various communities that benefit from the FSP. Dialogues and consultations have been ongoing in the local and regional levels, results of which will be tackled on the national level. The youth will be given the reins during the activities, working as facilitators and doing documentation while adults are on-hand to assist when needed.

The congress will also serve as an update for the participants of the U.N. General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on Children held in May 2002 that assessed the progress of the 1990 World Summit for Children Declaration and Plan of Action for Child Survival, Development and Protection. UNGASS, in its document titled A World Fit for Children (WFC) and call for society to join in the Global Movement for Children, challenged world leaders to reaffirm their commitments made in 1990 during the event.

The event is an opportunity for both SOS Philippines and its partners and stakeholders to re-assess the progress towards WFC through the creation of “The State of the Filipino Children’s Report” based on the two-day consultation dialogue.

Results will be published in the newest edition of the organization’s Child Rights Based Situation Analysis.  

For more information, call 807-0764 or visit www.sosphilippines.org.









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