Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. - Psalm 82:3
To cater to the needs of the needy, orphaned and downtrodden children, Hermann Gmeiner, an Austrian philanthropist, established the first SOS village in 1949 in Imst, Austria. Since then, the organization has been active and expanding throughout the world. At present, SOS Children's Villages is active in over 133 countries with over 500 SOS Children's Villages and 400 SOS Youth Facilities striving for the welfare of the children in need of care and protection.
In India, the organization caters to over 25,000 children and there are 32 SOS Children's Villages in 22 states in India
On the 10th of January, the IARD group of 2019 had an opportunity to visit one of the SOS villages located in Mulayam, thrissur.
Thrissur, also known as Trichur is a hub for economic, educational and cultural activities, where tourism, too plays a vital role in being a source of employment and income generation for many. Even though the city if progressing, a large portion of people still continue to depend on agriculture and fishing to earn a living. Over the years, the city has seen a rise in the number of people living under poverty. Inspite of attempts to improve the standard of living, but owing to a huge rise in population, there has been an increase in the number of people living in slums and unsound living conditions.
The most affected groups of this condition are women and children, who are seen to be most prone to malnutrition and illnesses such as diarrhoea.
The SOS Children’s Village here started its activities in the year 1983 owing to better the conditions of these women and children. The village mainly takes in children after the age of 5 as before that period, there are possibilities for their adoption. At present, there are over 170 children in 17 family homes, who are living under the care of 11 SOS Mothers, two SOS Aunts and six Mother Trainees. Each mother gets to take care of 10 children in a single house with all the basic amenities including television sets, refrigerators, and beds to sleep on etc.
The mother basically had to undergo training for two years and only those persons are selected to undergo trainings who has no family of their own or women who do not have the desires to get married. The village mainly consists of Hindu and Christian families. Family is the heart of society. Within a family, each child is protected and enjoys a sense of belonging. Here, children learn values, shares responsibilities and form life-long relationships. A family environment gives them a solid foundation on which to build their lives.
The children all gets proper education, vocational trainings etc. so that they become independent on their own later on in life. The village shelters boys till the age of 12 afterwhich they move to youth houses and all mothers are free to visit their children in the youth house whenever they wish to and so are the youth.
All festivals of national and international importance are celebrated in the village with fervour. On such merry makings, youth, mothers, children and all village co-workers gather together to celebrate; this helps to secure and protect the bond between all mothers and their boys in the youth house.
With the skillset they acquire, the students have to move out of the youth houses at the age of 18 and become independent on their own. This way SOS childrens village shines as a bright light in the otherwise dark futures of the oppressed children which would have been inevitable otherwise.