Smog in Delhi: Breathing is like smoking cigarettes



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”.


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.


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


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.


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.


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

Brutality of the street


Browny was the smarter one. Hopefully he found a safe place to stay.

By the time I started working in our office,Tsering_MiniPic2-engl our receptionist had already taken care of three generations of kittens and was already on the fourth generation! The kittens were named Kaalu (Blacky), Kittu (Gray), Browny.  They were our stress relievers.  Whenever any one of us was stressed, we would go out and spend time with our innocent friends.

In life, on any given day, at any given moment, we come across many conflicts and wars.  Every day, the world over, people are fighting to the death over a piece of land, over border disputes, fighting for the ideals they believe in or for their right to survive or to be treated as human beings.  How terrible it must be for human beings who are involved in these conflicts – willingly or unwillingly.

I know it’s not on the same level, but our office kittens were also victims of territorial wars. All three of them were attacked, several times, by a wild cat in the neighborhood. The brutality hit me hard; I couldn’t help comparing this with the stories I hear about the brutality of human beings in the world.  Kittu was the first to lose his life. We were all sad.


We tried to bring Kaluu to his new home –
but weren’t successful.

We tried to find someone to adopt the cats, but weren’t successful. I couldn’t take them because of the peacocks that come in the mornings and evenings to get food and water from our terrace. One day also Browny disappeared and never returned. He was the smarter one, so hopefully he has found a safe place to stay.  But Kaalu, who was weak and frequently attacked, stayed.

Finally one of our colleagues – via Facebook – found an animal lover who was willing to adopt Kaalu. One day, after office hours, we picked Kaalu and said goodbye to him. But the moment we put him into the car he jumped out and hid under the car. We tried hard to put him in the car again but failed. My colleague had an idea to bring a basket which could be shut and try again the next day. We left Kaalu alone for the evening.

The following morning we found him dead with serious injuries on his neck. My colleague wept silently.  None of us could do anything.

Whenever I read or hear about territorial conflicts such as Doklam, the Bhutan border conflict between China and India these days it reminds me of the horrific injuries suffered by the kittens.

However, unlike the cats, human beings have the power to end the conflicts and bring peace – if only they would utilize that power.


A child inside an adult’s body

Kinder mit Masken

I took this photo last month in Tirana on a summer camp. It expresses exactly what I want to say.

“It is astonishing how sometimes in our Flutura_MiniPic_engllifelong journey we seek to discover the power of independence by feeling like a child inside an adult’s body.
And sometimes like euphoric ‘little Kids’, with the happiness that comes from within acting as an energy booster, we love others with no expectations – 
Just love.”


The kids club is making an impact

Kids Club

Every Friday children come to the Kids Club. We do a lot of activities with them.

It is every leader’s desire to educate the children in their community so that MiniPic_Helenathey will be good and responsible people in the future. Ondangwa Social centre is therefore running a kids club where we meet with children every Friday. The children are placed into three groups, namely: the lower primary, upper primary and youth. This is done to make it easy to work with them and to make sure that they are comfortable. Continue reading

Coming home for marriage

Hochzeit im Kinderdorf

Alfred and his wife Erjona celebrated their wedding in the SOS Chldren’s Village Tirana

This month I got inspired by a former SOS youth who amazed everyoneFlutura_MiniPic_engl by providing living proof of what “Home sweet Home” truly means. 26 year old Alfred Muharemi shares his story with us.

“I, as a former SOS youth, decided to celebrate my marriage in SOS Children’s Village Albania, because I felt I had to come back Home – to the place where I grew up.

In the maternity ward, soon after I was born, my mother –  for emigration reasons, decided to abandon me. It has been so long now and I still have no information about my biological family. Continue reading

Foster families instead of orphanages

A couple of weeks ago I had a conversation with my colleague Victor Anton_MiniPic_englwho mentioned that the number of children living in orphanages has decreased by half in the Murmansk region over the past few years. Wow! How happy I was to hear that – especially since SOS played an important role in this.


In this post I would like to tell you about some big changes that have been made to the child welfare system in Russia which have led to some great results.

In 2013 the approach to caring for orphaned children in Russia was significantly revised with the adoption of a new state policy on children. Among the many important things stipulated in the policy was the placing of priority on family-based care over institutional care. That meant that children without parental care were to be placed with other families rather than in orphanages. The phrase ‘a child should be cared for in a family setting’ has become the official state position. Continue reading