“Every child belongs to a family and grows with love, respect and security” is the vision of the SOS Children’s Villages in Sri Lanka which has extended its support to orphaned and abandoned children throughout the country.
An independent non-governmental organisation powered by the vigour of United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the SOS Children’s Villages reach out to the needy with the aim to provide a real home for many homeless and those who were deprived to parental love. A member of SOS KINDERDORF INTERNATIONAL in Sri Lanka, the SOS villages are situated in Piliyandala, Nuwara Eliya, Anuradhapura Moneragala and Galle.
“We build families for children in need, we help them shape their own futures and we share in the development of their communities” says Nelka Alexander, Assistant Director, Communications and Digital Fundraising of the organisation reminding the mission of the organisation.
In the SOS Villages of Sri Lanka, children were enabled to abide by their own cultures and religions and realise their potentials, talents and interests, she added.
The organisation aims to provide all the needs and facilities including education, entertainment, physical facilities and health care to all the children under it.
The first SOS Children’s Village was founded by Hermann Gmeiner in Imst, Austria 1949, subjecting the children who lost their families and homes due to the Second World War.
“In 1979 Helmut Kutin, (former Deputy Secretary General and delegate for Asia) in response to a letter of enquiry from Mrs. Malsiri Dias (At the time Head of Children’s Secretariat) visited Sri Lanka and set about making the required arrangements for the establishment of the first SOS Children’s Village in Sri Lanka,” Ms. Alexander said.
In March 1981, Siddhartha Kaul, Deputy Secretary General – Asia (now the president) SOS KDI, began working as the Project Director, setting up of the office of SOS Children’s Villages International in Sri Lanka at Mount Lavinia.
On January 01, 1991 Cedric P De Silva was appointed as the National director, SOS Children’s Villages Sri Lanka and on January 1, 1993 the National Coordinating Office was formally established in Piliyandala.
The mothers who look after the children at SOS Villages play the role of almost the biological mothers.
“SOS mothers are selected from unmarried, widows or divorcees without children with less commitments in their own families and could completely devote themselves,” Ms. Alexander said.
“The best quality we look for is the love towards children even though they should have a minimum qualification of Ordinary Level and should be between 28 – 45 years of age.
“The mothers are given a 2 year on the job training before being confirmed, which includes ‘in-service training’ and “Classroom training”, she said.
“The tasks they should do is just as in an ordinary family where they bring up the children, look in to their education, clothing, feeding and providing guidance to the children part from the love and care she should provide the kids with.
“They do have leave and off days where they take once in 2 months.
" My SOS mother was always beside me, comforting and helping with my school work. And as the time passed by, seeing the sacrifices she made for me and the support she gave me I had no trouble in calling her “amma” and that word came out of my mouth without an effort "
“Should there be any of the child’s siblings in need of care, these children would also be welcomed to the same SOS Family. The SOS Family is headed by the SOS mother and usually has seven to ten children. SOS Children’s Villages do not separate biological siblings. That is why some families might temporarily have more children. One family has about 10 children and 10 to 12 family houses will form an SOS Children’s Village,” she described.
Eighteen-year-old Dinushika who was brought up at Piliyandala SOS Village shared her experience with Daily Mirror.
“At first I was never going to call another person ‘amma’ though other brothers and sisters called our mother ‘amma’ and she never forced me to call her so.”
“I was enrolled to grade 4 of the school though I was supposed to be in grade 6, but since I had attended school only up to grade 1, I was enrolled to 4th Grade. I was struggling with my schoolwork and was frightened of being in a school class after grade 1.
“My SOS mother was always beside me, comforting and helping with my school work. And as the time passed by, seeing the sacrifices she made for me and the support she gave me I had no trouble in calling her “amma” and that word came out of my mouth without an effort”, she said.
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.
A committee consisting of the Village Director, an SOS mother’s representative, social workers and sometimes the national Director, in cooperation with the authorities decides upon admitting children considering the physically and mentally fitness of the child.
The “four principles” followed by the organisation are: 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.
If the infrastructure is sufficient, SOS children generally go to local schools. If there were no suitable schools near the SOS children’s Village, SOS Hermann Gmeiner Schools (Primary and Secondary Schools) and/or SOS Vocational Training Centres are set up.
These facilities are also open to children and youngsters from the neighborhood.
Each SOS Child or youth receives the education or training best suited to his/her personal abilities and oriented towards the job market in their country.
This may incorporate vocational training, home economics, agricultural training, Personal Development programmes etc.. Academically gifted SOS youth may even be eligible for higher schooling followed by university studies.
“The Organisation is funded by our generous donors all around the world and for 30 years, we were being taken care of by our international roots we currently depend mainly on our local sponsors and donors,” Ms. Alexander said.
Banduka Rambukwella Wednesday, 16 November 2022 10:21 AM
Mr. Cedric De silva passed away this morning. I had the privilege of working with him at SOS. What a marvelous character he was. RIP Sir !
Jeremy van den Driesen Tuesday, 29 August 2023 06:41 AM
Is this the same Cedric de Silva who was married to Upeka Chitresena and an old boy of STC ? If so, I'm so sad. I have so many memories of him in school and at Cobra Gultch in Amparai. I last met him in 2014. My deepest of sympathies to you Upeka. RIP my friend.
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