In 1949, Hermann Gmeiner laid the foundation stone for the first SOS Children’s Village in the small Tyrolean town of Imst (Austria). Shocked at the plight of so many children left orphaned and homeless after the Second World War, he pioneered a family approach to child care based on four principles.
The goal at all SOS Children’s Villages is to prepare and equip the children for an independent future. Each child receives education and training according to his or her needs, so that when the time comes to leave the SOS Children’s Village, they are able to stand on their own two feet and achieve the goals of self-reliance, financial independence and social integration.
The most important person for the children’s personal development on the road to self-reliance is their SOS mother. She builds an emotional bond with each child entrusted to her care and provides the security they need. She is a child care professional and recognises and respects each child’s family background, cultural roots and religion.
Girls and boys of different ages live together as brothers and sisters. Siblings are not separated when they arrive at the village and live together in the same SOS family. These children, together with their SOS mother, build emotional ties that last a lifetime.
The house is the family’s home, with its own unique feeling, rhythm and routine. Under its roof, children enjoy a real sense of security and belonging. Children grow and learn together, sharing responsibilities and the joys and sorrows of daily life.
The SOS Children’s Village is an integral part of the community in its location, design and every other aspect. SOS families are grouped together, enabling them to share experiences and offer one another a helping hand. Within this supportive environment children learn to trust and believe in others and themselves.
The basis of life in the community of an SOS Children’s Village is peaceful co-existence – beyond all distinctions of ethnic, cultural or religious affiliation. In many cases SOS Children’s Villages are veritable melting pots for different ethnic groups and creeds.
In every family house, the calls for tolerance and solidarity are presented and followed in the various facets of everyday life. The peaceful village community in turn has a model function for the neighbourhood. A child who knows peace today will be in a position to bring peace to others tomorrow. That constitutes a “multiplier effect for good” that is characteristic of the educational effort of SOS Children’s Villages.
In addition, SOS Children’s Villages also provides active neighbourhood assistance. This includes a whole range of ancillary facilities such as kindergartens, schools, vocational training centres, counselling centres and clinics, mostly targeted at the needs of the young people and families living in the vicinity of the SOS Children’s Village. In this way SOS Children’s Villages help to improve the situation of what is often a large impoverished part of the local population.
SOS Children’s Villages are in four locations namely Lagos, Ogun, Abuja, and Plateau. The oldest village, constructed in 1973 has 10 houses with a current population of 97 children, 10 mothers and 5 family assistants. This is followed by CVP Ogun. CVP Ogun clocked 20years in 2015 with 12 houses/mothers, 6 family assistants and a total of 86 children. The youngest villages were CVP Abuja (2007) and CVP Plateau (2010). Each has 12 houses, with 12 mothers and 6 Family assistants and a total of 107 and 99 children respectively. In all, the four villages have a capacity for 460 children.
In SOS Children’s Villages Nigeria, we have youth facilities 1 and 2. Presently in youth facility 1, we have 2 youth homes each in CVP Lagos and Ogun (1 for boys and 1 for girls) with 2 male youth counselors and 2 female youth counselors that run the affairs of the youth facilities. When the children are above 18 years, they transit to youth facility 2 where they will be prepared for final resettlement into the society.
The villages and the youth facilities are overseen by a Programme Director assisted by the Family Based Care Coordinator, Social Worker and Youth Counselors.