Bedtime story

Once upon a time in a faraway kingdom there lived a family in a small village. It wasAnton_MiniPic_engl a rather poor family but they had something better than money – they had love. The family was made up of three boys and a beautiful girl named Anna*… Their father died defending their kingdom in a war. But they had a mother who cared for them and loved them so much. <…>

Familie

It took time until Anna and Maxim trusted SOS-mother Galina

There is a story behind every child’s arrival in the village, and it usually isn’t a happy one. ‘I remember clearly the day we welcomed Anna* and Maxim* into our family. It was three years ago. Anna was nine and Maxim was eight. Even though the sun shone that day, their eyes were full of uncertainty and fear’ SOS mother, Galina, recalls. Anna and Maxim’s biological mother was unable to care for them and the siblings were placed in a foster home. After five years, the foster parents gave up on them and sent them to a temporary home for orphans. A few months later they moved to the SOS Children’s Village.

‘Maxim blamed himself. He thought he wasn’t good enough for that foster family and that’s why they didn’t want them to stay’ – says Galina. ‘He was angry at himself. When he initially joined the family he didn’t know how to handle these negative feelings and would simply wrap himself in a blanket and lie in bed crying’. Though Anna was just a year older than Maxim, she took her responsibilities towards her brother very seriously. ‘Then, Anna* was very determined, passionate and smart, just as she is now. She grew up too fast and got used to being her brother’s main protector, friend and source of support. She had no choice. I still remember Anna* tightly holding Maxim’s hand when they went for walks together. I remember her reading him stories before going to sleep. At the dinner table she would share her food and sweet stuff with Maxim using encouraging words like: ‘Maxim you need to eat well’. She was always there for him. In fact at that time she was more of a mother to him than a sister’ – says Galina. Continue reading

My journey towards youth empowerment

My personal mission is to grow by learning, to expand my knowledgeFlutura_MiniPic_engl on youth issues, to promote human rights and to focus on integrating young people into their immediate personal and professional spheres. My strong motivation stems from my experiences growing up in the harmonious SOS Children Village in Albania which was full of diversity.

Seminat

Me and some SOS children during a social project called “My day my way”.

Metaphorically I would say SOS is the deepest roots of a tree, because that is where I learned to be grounded. Those roots taught me the importance of being an “advocate”, right from the time I was trying to realize my childhood hopes to the time I had to face the real challenges of life as an adult.

I am a strong believer that human rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled. For this reason I have ensured to educate myself further on this subject by taking part in trainings, seminars and workshops that are held on the topics of children’s and minorities’ rights, discrimination, sexual education, stereotypes, women empowerment, marginalized communities, youth employment and participation etc. Continue reading

An open door

Saara Kalumba is a motivated student who has great plans for her future.MiniPic_Helena She is just about to complete her Bachelor studies at the Namibia University of Science and Technology in Windhoek. She is currently doing an internship at a secondary school. Professionally, Saara would like to become an editor.

Saara Kalombo ist kurz davor, ihr nglisch-Studium zu beenden.

Saara Kalumba would like to become an editor.

When I first met her, none of these accomplishments were even remotely imaginable to her. She was raised by her single mother in a village called Oshalongo along with her nine siblings. Her mother was ill and unemployed. The family was almost falling apart.

Saara capitalizes on her opportunities.

“None of us had any hopes and dreams anymore. We had almost given up on life.” says Saara. When she says ‘us’, not only is she referring to herself and her siblings, but also to the other young people who came from dire conditions and received support from the SOS Family Strengthening Program. Saara sent a letter to the SOS Children’s village and this is what she wrote: “On behalf of thousands of homeless children, and children whose families were in desperate situations, I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart. SOS has helped us to feel like we belong – like we are not alone – and SOS has helped out with our education such that our lives have taken a dramatic turn to the extent that some of the street children of Namibia will be the leaders of tomorrow – of that I am certain.” Continue reading

Female leadership at its best

Leonie is not only focused on making a career for herself, she has taken it upon herself to also empower other young people around her.

Leonie

Léonie is dedicated to support and empower young people.

Léonie Dindji and I first met in 2015, in Casablanca, Morocco, at theFlutura_MiniPic_engl “2030 Youth Coalition Workshop”. It was quite exciting: a group of 20 young people from different countries had gathered to share their opinions and views and to represent the voice of youth in the compilation of the plans for the strategic path the SOS Children’s Villages want to achieve by 2030. We quickly got to know each other, worked together intensively and had a lot of fun while doing it.

The next time I saw Léonie was at a congress in Innsbruck, which was focused on the quality standards for the SOS Children’s Villages. From our interactions, Léonie and I quickly realized that we have a lot in common. We both feel very connected to our SOS Children’s Villages as well as to our SOS siblings. What Léonie experienced growing up in Ivory Coast bears much resemblance to my childhood in Albania. Continue reading

Good luck, Laxmi!

Kosmetikladen

Laxmi and her daughters in front of the little shop, where she sells cosmetic items.

In December 2017, I got an Tsering_MiniPic2-englopportunity to visit one of SOS India’s Family Strengthening Programmes (FSP). Here I met a few beneficiary families.  One of them was the family of Laxmi and her five daughters. The FSP coordinator told me that this family is now phased out, which means it is now self-sufficient.

When my colleagues first met them, they were living in horrible conditions. Earlier Laxmi’s husband was helping out in a factory; Laxmi herself used to work at road and building construction sites on a temporary basis and would only get paid for the days she worked. When she gave birth to her fifth daughter, she became sick and could not go to work anymore. In the beginning, her relatives helped her out but they could not do this for long. The family struggled. When Laxmi recovered from her illness, her husband had a severe accident at work. From that time on all the five daughters and the bedridden husband were dependent on Laxmi. She tried her best to provide two meals a day, but didn’t always make it. It got to a point where she just couldn’t handle the situation any more. The children didn’t take a bath for a month and had torn clothes, uncombed hair, dirty faces and nails. They didn’t even have enough utensils to cook their food.  The seven member family was living in one very small house, which leaked during rainy season. Continue reading

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