I dragged my feet on the dusty road of RK Hegde Nagar, and I made my way to the main road. The next day, Monday is the reporting day of my first job.
Partially excited, somewhat nervous and highly confused about the prospects – I was experiencing several emotions at once. My mind replayed the various suggestions my corporate-savvy friends had for me: Stay tension-free, socialize with everyone, and come out of the imaginary boundaries you’ve created for yourself – like how the butterfly breaks the walls of its cocoon.
Easier said than done!
Noticing my turmoil, my friends took me on a long drive – the destination consisted of a collection of 4 BHK houses – 16 in number – huddled under stone exteriors in the shadow of lush greenery.
The atmosphere of the entire place was loving and welcoming, the children greeted me, the mothers with those children were approachable and kind. The memory of that day is engraved in my mind. From the adorable kids to the aroma of the coffee which was served by the resident mother living in the house named, “Kalpatharu”. I remember everything distinctly and in my most nostalgic moments I look back to the trip as the incident that brought me out out of the coccoon of insecurity and reserved nature I had created around myself. I was free, and that was because of that place.
The extraordinary place I addressed is an, “SOS Children’s Village” situated in Hulimavu at Bannerghatta Road, Bangalore (Opposite to Meenakshi Temple, adjacent to Islamia Institute of Technology). It is a voluntary organization, dedicated to providing long-term care for the once parentless, homeless and abandoned children. They have a vision for providing them with a happy childhood with an affectionate family, access to quality education, and a positive environment for their holistic development. It helps them grow up as a self-reliant and a contributing member of society.
The Founder of SOS Children’s Village, Mr. Herman Gmeiner was a philanthropist. He was a young Austrian medical student when he established the first SOS Children’s Village in 1949, with the view to help the numerous orphaned and abandoned children in World War II. The first and foremost need of an orphaned or abandoned child happens to be a family. The same idea was developed by Mr. Gmeiner, by assigning widowed and childless mothers to these children. One mother is allotted with eight to ten children, per home, in the village named “SOS Children’s Village” (SOS here stands for Societas Socialis which means socially responsible society), which has redefined institutionalized care Parentless Children.
The children in this village grow not only with the affection of the mothers but also with the care of their non-biological brothers and sisters, who were nurtured with them in their respective homes. The success of SOS motivated Mr. Gmeiner to establish the same in various countries like Canada, British Columbia and so on. Today, these villages are built and are nurturing the children in 134 countries, amongst which India is also an active participant with the largest number of Villages.
SOS Children’s Village aims not only at raising a family but also has a role in developing society itself. Therefore, they practice the following programs.
Family Based Care Programme (FBC): FBC is an initiative of SOS Children’s Village, where the orphaned and abandoned children will be taken under the care of well-trained mothers, who themselves are in need of a family, being in a widowed or a childless state.
The children in this initiative are taken care of by providing a mother to each child, creating a long-term relationship, providing a family through the siblings, aunts, and grandmothers. All the children are raised in villages where they will be brought up till the age of 12, after which the boys make the SOS Youth Houses their haven till the age of 25.
SOS community along with education and vocational training helps children with marriage, and even maternity in the case of girls. Elderly mothers, being eligible for the pension, will stay at SOS Village, marking their presence as a grandmother to help SOS mothers and aunts in nurturing their children.
Family Strengthening Programme (FSP): Under FSP, SOS Children’s Village takes various steps to strengthen the families and communities living near the village. They have started it with the hope of eradicating poverty and strengthening the children of that community to rise up against abandonment and social neglect. It is a community intervention program that works in close collaboration with the local self-government bodies to provide vulnerable families with livelihood and career building opportunities such as providing them training in tailoring, handlooms and so on. Over 17,500 families have benefited from this program.
The essence of the mission that SOS Children’s Village has undertaken is one which is aimed at nurturing the sense of belonging in a society that is wrought with disconnection and apprehension. By giving children a chance to be free and to provide them with the required attention that can see them through during their definitive years. Even though we go about our lives without paying too much attention to the way in which we treat other people, all of us have that inner urge to belong and feel one with everyone around us. The founders of SOS Children’s Village have made it their personal objective to be the ones who ignite our desire to be rid of our impersonal nature and embrace our need to belong.
SOS Children’s Village defines itself within the quote of Herman Gmeiner, “Every big thing in the world only comes true, when somebody does more than he has to do,” standing as an example for motivating us to achieve higher goals, in order to live and let live, with the pride and honor.
You can check out their website here: https://www.soschildrensvillages.in/where-we-work/sos-bangalore