Like me, Agim Kurti also grew up in an SOS Children’s Village – Agim in Kosovo, 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
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.