It was around Baisakhi four years ago when farmers in a small village in Punjab found a baby girl thrown out of a train .She was rushed to a hospital. The doctor attending the child informed that the injuries had affected her brain and could impact her speech and walk. She was taken to the nearest SOS Children’s village where she was named Mani. She was later shifted to SOS Children’s Village Khajuri Kalan as it has special facilities to support children with special needs. Today, Mani is five years old and looks healthy and happy with her SOS mother Nirmala.
SOS Children’s Village is a house for orphans like Mani and those who have lost their mothers. Each SOS family has a house of its own within the village. An SOS mother cares for 8-10 children within each family, and 15-20 houses make up the village under the care of a Village Director. So the orphans not only get a mother but also a family with brothers and sisters.
This concept of family and village was first established in Austria. After the Second World War, Hermann Gmeiner of Austria initiated this family and village concept. The sufferings of many orphaned and homeless children after the war made him find a way to help the children, and SOS Children’s Village was established in 1949. Later, Jagan Nath Kaul founded SOS Children’s Village India in 1964 in Green Fields, Faridabad. Presently there are 40 children’s villages in India.
Only single women, including divorcees and widows, are chosen to work as mothers. Women who volunteer to take up the role of mothers are trained for six months or one year. The SOS mothers build a close relationship with every child they are entrusted with. They act as teachers, guides and provide them with the love of a mother.
SOS India has built various educational facilities to cater to the needs of all the children who have come under our wings. There are currently 6,600 children attending SOS schools throughout India. The schools are not only open to children under the care of SOS Children’s Villages, but also to other local children who are in need of a healthy school environment.
Children later go out and start working. But they come back to the house every vacation. This is their home. They go there for every festival. They bring gifts for their siblings who grew up with them. Girls come and stay in the villages for their first delivery.
The whole concept is pretty amazing. There are an estimated 20 million abandoned children in India. With efforts like the SOS children’s villages at least some of those children will have a home.