Who founded SOS Children's Villages?
Hermann Gmeiner, a native Austrian, founded the first Austrian SOS Children's Villages association in 1949. For Hermann Gmeiner, the original goal was, after the devastation of the Second World War, to provide orphans and abandoned children with a family, a house, and a village in which to feel at home. The first SOS Children's Village was built in Imst in the Austrian province of Tyrol the same year.
The very first house in the village was named "House of Peace". Imst has become the model for SOS Children's Villages all over the world; an adaptable, internationally practicable and all-embracing child-care concept.
What is an SOS Children's Village?
Every SOS Children's Village offers a permanent home in a family-style environment to children who have lost their parents or can no longer live with them. Ten to twelve boys and girls of different ages live together with their SOS mother in a family house, and eight to fifteen SOS Children's Village families form a village community.
The so-called "four principles" - the SOS mother, the sisters and brothers, the family house and the SOS Children's Village - form the basis and the framework of the concept of our work at the SOS Children's Villages. The foremost of these principles is the mother, or mother-centered care.
The SOS Children's Village
What are the criteria for establishing an SOS Children's Village in a country?
Before starting any activities in a new country several studies are carried out into feasibility and necessity. Additional checks have to be made to see whether SOS Children's Villages will be able to offer a valid supplementary contribution to help children in need.
Finally, an agreement must be signed with the government in which the foundations for cooperation are laid out (child care model, child admission, the legal position regarding taxation, questions about plots of land, etc.). The financial and logistical feasibility also has to be examined. Only then can the actual construction of an SOS Children's Village go under way, as long as there is a suitable plot of land, suitably located in an area established as having the greatest need.
Which children are eligible for admission to an SOS Children's Village?
Every effort is made to ensure that the children placed in an SOS family are those who are going to benefit most from its care. Only those children who are in need of a new home in a permanent family environment and for whom a more suitable care placement cannot be found are considered for admission into an SOS family. Generally speaking, children up to the age of ten can be admitted. When a group of siblings is admitted, group members' ages may, however, vary.
Who decides whether a child is admitted or not?
The SOS Children's Villages association of the respective country defines the criteria of admittance within the scope of the guidelines set up by SOS-Kinderdorf International and according to the economic and social, and legal requirements within the country.
The decision whether to admit a child is then made by a committee consisting of the village director, an SOS mother, social workers, and sometimes the national director, in co-operation with the authorities. This committee decides whether a child is physically and mentally fit to be admitted to one of our villages and whether the child is in need of a permanent home. Should there be any of the child's siblings in need of care, these children would also be admitted to the village
How many children does one SOS Children's Village family have?
The families in industrialised nations are usually smaller than the ones in developing countries. A typical SOS Children's Village family in an industrialised country consists of four to six children while families in developing countries usually have seven to ten children. Contrary to many child care models promoted by other organisations, SOS Children's Villages does not separate siblings. That is why some families might temporarily have more children
When do children leave the care of SOS Children's Villages?
There is no specific age at which children have to leave the SOS Children's Village. Usually, they stay in the care of SOS Children's Villages until they are capable of looking after themselves; until they have completed their education or vocational training and can make a living on their own.
Other programmes and facilities
Does SOS Children's Villages run projects alongside the SOS Children's Villages?
The core activity of our organisation is the construction and running of SOS Children's Villages, but we also run a whole array of supporting facilities and programmes. Target groups with these facilities and programmes are both children and youths from the SOS Children's Villages and the local population - an essential contribution to community development and the prevention of child abandonment.
What kind of education do SOS Hermann Gmeiner Schools offer?
The SOS Hermann Gmeiner Schools offer primary, secondary school education, or both for children from the SOS Children's Village and the neighbourhood. The syllabus is devised in line with the local culture and the country's educational laws. Secondary schooling is completed with a leaving exam.
What is an SOS Emergency Relief Programme?
An SOS Emergency Relief Programme is our way of offering swift and un-bureaucratic aid to areas hit by war, crisis or natural disasters. SOS Children's Villages sets up food supply centres in famine- and drought-stricken areas, in many cases guaranteeing basic nourishment of children and their families until the local supply infrastructure has been restored. In the aftermath of natural disasters, emergency accommodation or building material for reconstruction may be provided. Although emergency relief programmes are set up as temporary initiatives, facilities for long-term help for the stricken community are often established.
Why does SOS Children's Villages not play a greater role in aid relief?
SOS-Kinderdorf International, the umbrella organisation of SOS Children's Villages, was set up to provide children in need with long-term help and as such is not an emergency relief organisation. It offers a new and permanent home in a family-like environment to children who have lost or are, for a variety of reasons, no longer able to live with their natural family. In addition to SOS Children's Villages the organisation runs other long-term facilities such as kindergartens, schools, medical- and social centres to help the local population and the SOS children and youth.
In crisis situations caused by war or natural disasters, SOS Children's Villages is able to respond swiftly through its network of facilities to help victims, running its own relief programmes or collaborating with the state, UN or other NGOs. Emergency relief, however, forms only a subsidiary part of SOS Children's Villages' work, and our SOS Emergency Relief Programmes are small scale in comparison to those of other NGOs in the field.
How does SOS Children's Villages tackle the HIV/AIDS issue?
Our programmes for people affected by HIV/AIDS concentrate on the education of children and youngsters in preventing the spread of the disease and on giving support and help to child- or grandparent-headed families, where the parents have been killed by the disease. It is imperative to inform our children, youngsters and employees about how to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. When children living in an SOS Children's Village develop AIDS, we aim to look after them in the village for as long as possible, provided that the necessary medical means are available.
Are there any SOS Children's Villages programmes in place regarding HIV/AIDS?
The SOS Medical Centres play a crucial role in HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention programmes, testing, counselling and being a support venue for people living with HIV/AIDS.
Our community support programmes for people affected by HIV/AIDS concentrate on the assistance and support for child- or grandparent-headed families: material support, education, links with social security/welfare provision, HIV/AIDS prevention/awareness campaigns, counselling and income generating activities.