Discover yourself in the Youth Club

youth club

In the Youth Club the young people take part in a lot of different activities and learn about life.

For many youngsters the SOS Youth Club is an important place. They have the chance Flutura_MiniPic_englto take part in different socio-cultural activities, get help on socialization, generate new ideas, develop their talents, communicate, meet, work together – find their place in life.

When I met some of the beneficiaries I was amazed by their energy and vitality, by their great desire to be someone with ambitions and aspirations for the future. One thing was clear: They felt they were in the right place, getting the right support. Here is what some of them are saying: Continue reading

No magic pill but the help to cope with your problems yourself

In the beginning of 2016, Maria* knocked at the door of the SOS Family Anton_MiniPic_englStrengthening Program in the village and quietly said: ‘I am ashamed to ask for help but we won’t survive without you.’ At that time, Maria had a three-year-old son, and was pregnant with her second child. ‘We have been a happy family for eight years. But everything has now changed. Maxim*, my husband lost his job and we can hardly make ends meet. I have tried to find a job but have gotten turned down everywhere because of my pregnancy. Maxim has started drinking a lot and this has made things even worse – we always fight in front of our son. I have been blaming myself for what is happening in my family’. Maria’s family didn’t have money to pay their household bills and to buy food. ‘Social services warned me that if the situation didn’t improve they would take our son away. It broke my heart. Maxim was struggling with alcohol in a rehabilitation center and could not help us. I felt as though I was sinking deeper and deeper into depression… I was all alone … no one cared.’

family

Maria and her family had difficult times. Now they are happy again.

“Hope is what we needed”

Maria’s story is the story of many families in Kandalaksha who fail to adequately care for their children due to loss of income, difficult life situations or unstable relationships. We offer such families a helping hand through our SOS family strengthening program. First of all, Maria got financial support to pay off her housing debts, to buy food and to cover her son’s kindergarten costs. She then joined the pregnancy support group for young mothers run by SOS. During the whole time with the family strengthening program, Maria and her husband were getting counseling on legal and family issues. ‘It took me a year to recover and get back to normal life … well, all of us really’ – says Maria today. ‘I visited Maxim in the rehabilitation center; he has quit drinking so one day we could go back home together. We don’t quarrel anymore. Maxim goes to work every day and I care for our children. Not long ago, I gave birth to a lovely girl – our daughter. We called her Nadezhda (which means ‘Hope’ in Russian) because that is what we needed so much. We are a happy family again.’ Continue reading

Indeed a Human Mission

Eröffnung

Opening of the new center for support, engagement and employment

Everyone – rich or poor – takes something from society. Projects which are Flutura_MiniPic_englimplemented to empower individuals always bring new perspectives for the community as a whole. They contribute to a better environment. I am glad that SOS is always there as an initiator of such projects.

Just recently, the new MAP Center (MAP stands for mbështetje, angazhim, punësim: support, engagement, employment) was officially opened. It is operating in the framework of the 3-year project “Social Inclusion and Economic Empowerment of Families in Need in the Municipality of Tirana”, financed by the German BMZ (The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development) and implemented by SOS Children’s Villages.

Invited for the inauguration ceremony of the MAP Center were: representatives of the Ministry of Education, Sport & Youth, Ministry of Health and social protection, The Deputy Mayor of Tirana, representatives from International Organizations, the diplomatic corps, civil society organizations, parents and young people – beneficiaries of the project.

In her opening speech, Mrs. Teuta Shkenza, the National Director of SOS Albania expressed gratitude to the partners and funders of this project which will contribute towards increasing individual and professional skills for employment and self-employment of over 100 young people and 200 parents – all residents of the suburbs of Tirana.

Mr. Damir Coric, our deputy regional director mentioned the successful work that has also been undertaken by other centers in other countries like Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia etc. In his speech he continued: “I believe in the empowerment of local communities, capacities and the creation of a better environment. But most important of all that this is done for individuals, because this is indeed a Human Mission.” The Deputy Mayor of Tirana, Mr.Andi Seferi, thanked SOS Albania for the great work they have been doing to date.

The final speech was from a young beneficiary, who, in a very inspiring way, managed to catch the audience’s attention. Characterized by self confidence in his words and sentences, he said: “Life has been difficult for me; I never knew which path to follow….I couldn’t even finish my studies. But thanks to the support of the MAP Center, I received a lot of advice on organizing a new life in which I will have more opportunities and will know how to navigate the labor market. I now have a plan for my future!“

 

 

Finally back home

When Primitiva was 7 years old, her father took her to a children’s home becauseAutorenbild_Libertad he believed, or at least hoped, that she would be better off there. Her parents were extremely poor and felt they were incapable of providing and caring for their seven children.

Familie

Together again: The two girls could leave the children’s home and go back to their family.

Life in the home was however horrible. Primitiva recalls: “It was a closed off facility. No one came in, no one went out. There was nobody to turn to; nobody showed any interest in us. We longed for love and affection. We were all just trying to forget our past and trying to get by – for some it was easier, for others not so much. I felt such deep sorrow.”

As a child-welfare organization we know how important it is for a child to grow up in a family. For SOS Children’s Villages, it is not acceptable that in Bolivia, a large number of children, like Primitiva, have to live in homes – not because their parents are dead, but because the parents are just too poor. We have therefore received financial support from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. And in cooperation with the Social-Management-Service ‘Tarija’, we have started a new project: we support families in crises situations so that their children can return to their real home and no longer need to stay in children’s homes. Continue reading

Education Day: What children from SOS Children’s Village Tirana are doing today

We played together, laughed, argued, exchanged secrets and suddenly Flutura_MiniPic_englwe were grown up. My friends from SOS Children’s Village Tirana still accompany me today, some are studying, like me, or have already graduated from university. On Education Day on the 08th of December I would like to introduce you to some of them.

A strong will – ALFRED MUHARREMI, 26 years old

Alfred Muharremi is working as credit analyst

Alfred is working as a Credit Analyst.

To me, Alfred is the living proof of a success story in SOS Albania – willing and persistent in his quest to make his dreams a reality ever since he was very young.

He was a little child when he came to SOS- now he is married, has finished his postgraduate studies and is working as a Credit Analyst at “Credins Bank” in Albania. On a voluntary basis, he leads the philanthropic programs of a Non-profit Organization in Albania that aims to help children and families that are underprivileged.  Alfred says: “I definitely imagine myself working for SOS in the future – in the place where I never felt the absence of love and care”. Continue reading

Smog in Delhi: Breathing is like smoking cigarettes

 

Smog

Blinding smog in Delhi: The people suffer from breathing and other health problems.

Delhi faces the problem of pollution all the time and especially during winterTsering_MiniPic2-engl as a result of constructions and vehicle fumes. Stubble burning in the neighboring states makes it all the more severe. These days the situation is particularly worse. Blinding smog rises from the fields in Haryana in the south of Delhi and Punjab in the north of Delhi.  The smoke is choking and blinding Delhi.

As I write this, there is absolutely no wind movement outside. I am looking at the plants in front of my window and cannot see a single leaf moving.  We have kept our doors and windows closed. Yesterday, I had a meeting which required me to go out and I forgot to carry my mask. Although I covered my face with my shawl, I got affected and was coughing.  According to a forecast by “System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research”, the magnitude of air pollution is far beyond what’s tolerable for human beings. Some media report says: “spending a day outdoors in Delhi these days has become akin to smoking a pack of cigarettes”.

Umweltschutz

With different campaigns we raise awareness on the importance of a clean environment.

I was thinking about the peacocks we regularly feed on our terrace, and how they were doing. It has been some days since I last saw them.

Schools have been closed

The situation is quite dangerous especially for the children. In order to protect them, schools have been closed for a week, sports and other outdoor activities have been canceled. In India we usually celebrate the Children’s Day on November 14th. To mark the day this year, the government actually organized 166 different events; SOS Children’s Villages were also meant to take part. But everything had to be postponed due to the smog.

Plakat

We got to take every effort to safe our earth.

In our Children’s Village in Delhi we have also taken precautions: We try to keep the boys and girls as much inside as possible, especially in the mornings and evenings and make sure that they wear masks when they leave the house. The mothers offer enough water so that they don’t dehydrate. We speak to the children and explain the situation. In general we raise awareness on the importance of a clean environment.

But right now we have got to somehow brave the conditions, until the wind finally comes. And we try not to lose our sense of humor. This morning I got a message from a friend: Breathlessness, palpitation, moist eyes … you’re either in love or in DELHI.

Standing on one’s own feet

Like me, Agim Kurti also grew up in an SOS Children’s Village – Agim in Kosovo,Flutura_MiniPic_engl myself in Albania. The two of us love to share and exchange experiences from our childhood and life in general. I find what he had to say to be interesting.

By Agim Kurti

SOS-Jugendlicher

Agim Kurti grew up in an SOS Children’s Village in Kosovo. The guest author writes about the challenges of becoming independent.

Growing up in an organization is very challenging for a child. First of all: the people who live with you and those who provide services in this organization are not of your own choosing. Then there are other accompanying factors such as societal prejudice and the question of belonging.

Being part of SOS Children’s Villages – also an organization – is also not the first choice of any child. It can be a home anyway. What makes SOS so special is that it is a big family – that’s how my friends and I look at it. The key to success is the harmony created between children and their SOS care-givers. This is the foundation that makes us grow up with dignity and self-confidence.

If you want to know the effects of growing up in SOS, the best way is to take a look at what happens to these children and teenagers when they leave the SOS programs: What is their adaptation to external conditions and what prospects do these young people have?

It’s true that within SOS programs young people become more mature and more willing to live independently than their peers. This I believe is because they often have more information on their rights, have more training and programs they have taken part in. Those leaving SOS programs are perhaps more career-oriented and face life’s challenges better than their peers that grow up with their biological families.

The most vulnerable target-group is that of the young people

However, switching from care programs to independent life is not that easy, especially if the country you live in is poor with low economic development. In such countries, the main problem for young people is employment. When there is a high level of unemployment in the country, the most vulnerable target-group is that of the young people.

So a well-known challenge for us youth is starting a job without having signed a contract of employment. In such cases, young people are very often forced to work prolonged hours under poor working conditions. In case they lose these jobs, they cannot fall back on any support from state bodies, not even temporarily.

Another problem is the high cost of living. Usually young people leaving the SOS programs and going to full independence find it very difficult to pay their monthly rent, especially those who are located in the capital or other urban centers.

We also often face prejudices from employers or other people. They often see us differently or behave in a particular manner towards us because we grew up in a home.

The SOS Village supports us during this time of transition with scholarships, rent payments, support with job trainings, and later on still with counseling.

Some of the youngsters in SOS continue their studies, others work. Some think about careers in European countries. Some of the girls are already married and have started their own families.

Every one of these young people, who grew up in the SOS Children’s Village, tries to cope with these challenges of life and to find their way.

Teaching the teachers

To help teachers to better approach children from foster families, in 2012 we launched an Educational Project. Since then the conflicts are getting less.

Rollenspiel

In the meetings the teachers get information and learn to put themselves in the position of the children – and to better understand them.

Being the father of a pre-schooler myself, I want school to be a safe and friendlyAnton_MiniPic_engl place for my son. I want to be sure he will be treated well there and will be surrounded by professionals who can help him develop his natural talents. I think all parents want this. At SOS Children’s Villages, we are used to dealing with children with various types of challenges. It is not a surprise considering they all went through many hardships. Neglect, abuse and separation from biological parents can have long lasting effects on the behaviour and emotional well-being of these children eventually carrying on into their future lives. We work a lot to help the children in the village as well as in the foster families where we supervise, to overcome traumas from their past. But what about the teachers in the schools that these children attend? Do they really know how to handle children from foster families? Continue reading

Living among death

In Bolivia, Mateo is one of 848.000 working children. His workplace is the General Cemetery of La Paz City.

Friedhof La Paz

As many other children Mateo got to work to buy food. He cleans the graves on the cemetery.

When someone talks about death, Mateo is not afraid. “I live with her”, he saysAutorenbild_Libertad casually, while changing the water in a vase before placing it on the grave of a person he never knew.

He earns some coins as a “water carrier” in the General Cemetery of La Paz city, where I met him. It is located in one of the most dangerous areas of the city.

Part of the eight year old boy’s job is to keep the flowers fresh and to clean the graves. Instead of playing with friends, going to school or enjoying his childhood, he takes care of the final resting place of the dead. According to data from the Ministry of Labour, 848.000 children and adolescents work in any activity and almost half of them are under the legally permitted age to work – which is 14 years old. Continue reading

Busy finding my way – exciting weeks in Berlin

You can have many homes, but there is always that one place you can truly Flutura_MiniPic_englfeel whole. This, for me, is the SOS Children’s Village Tirana in Albania where I grew up. The small village was always the perfect home for me. So I couldn’t wait to start my internship at SOS Berlin – an opportunity to experience what SOS means to other people. My stay was superbly organized by SOS Kinderdorf Germany so that I would be able to fulfill my three goals.

Kindergruppe

The Mother-Baby-Group is one of many interesting offers of SOS in Berlin.

My first goal was to get to know the structures and programs of SOS in Berlin. In Berlin I had the chance to take part in different programs run by SOS such as the Mother-Baby Group, Gymnastics for senior citizens and in street plays – oh those were simply the best. Though this was something different from my small, traditional village, it was very exciting. All this made me think about the original meaning of “SOS”-Societas Socialis – which means “social community”. I could truly feel how this social community is very much entrenched in all these programs. Continue reading