A Home for Homeless – SOS Children’s Village FaridabadPassing through the streets and the slums everyday from work, I have always felt deeply for the underprivileged, especially the children. These street kids roam about everywhere…some cleaning the cars waiting for the green signal….while some beg for coins asking for Shanidev ka daan…and some are seen simply asking for something to eat, teary-faced….
One needs to be compassionate enough to understand the feelings of these children and teaching compassion to my children has always been a priority. To take a step forward in this case, I thought of taking my children to SOS Village which is not too far away from my place - a place I heard is a home away from home. I took an appointment with the authorities there and my experience there left me speechless!
Situated in Sector 29 in Faridabad, this place looks peaceful. It’s a huge premise and a world in itself with a sprawling campus. The lady in-charge was an elderly one, authoritative yet polite. I started “I wanted my kids to develop a sense of love for the children in orphanages and wish to….”.
“Sorry to interrupt, Mrs. Mathur” she said, “…but this is not an orphanage! This is home for all the kids who live here”.
I felt bad for what I had just said and at the same time, felt wonderful for the attitude of the incharge towards those children. We asked about the background of this association and she proceeded…..
How it all Started
SOS Children's Village started from Austria in 1949 when people were suffering from the aftermaths of second World War. In its Tyrol province, more than 2500 women were widowed, 4000 children had lost one of the parents and 100 children were orphaned due to disastrous effects of the war. Realizing the failure of Austrian government’s rehabilitation plans, a group of young students started an organization to help the needy children. Led by Hermann Gmeiner, the organization with a mission to support a huge population of homeless children, grew and spread its arms all over the world, covering 132 countries.
Establishment in the City and FunctioningEstablished in 1987, the institution has been working not only for the children who lost their parents but also towards the family strengthening programme. The programme is meant to enable poor families that are not able to rear their children, by providing them with food, education, medical aid and counseling about how to generate income. It also teaches and spreads awareness about child development and rights.
The ‘Mother Concept’ – Family-based Care
We wanted to see more of this place and so she allowed us to take a tour inside. We entered a huge compound that had single-storey structures. ‘These are the houses of the kids,’ the incharge told us with a beaming face.
There were women in every house. One of them was washing clothes, while another was busy knitting while relaxing in the verandah. They chatted with each other like the neighbors do.
“Who are these women?” I asked curiously. “Well, these are SOS-Mothers!” she answered promptly. She told us about the ‘Mother Concept’ as per which even the old, abandoned and homeless women are trained to rear these children as their own mothers. Every house has about 10-15 children who are looked after by a mother. “Here, every child is given a home, a loving mother as they matter the most for a good upbringing. That’s based on mutual benefit. The woman gets her family and children get their mother. These children live like siblings!” said the incharge, as sheer brightness got added to her smiling face.
I peeped in one of the houses and was welcomed by a smiling mother to get in the house for a better view. To my astonishment, they were complete homes with fully-furnished drawing room, bedrooms, washrooms and kitchen that was adequately equipped with modern amenities. I was all praises when I heard a noise breaking in. These were kids who had just returned from school. Some clinged on to their mother while some got into the kitchen asking for food. I quickly started a conversation with one of the kids who I thought was about to finish high school
“What do you want to be, when you grow up?” I asked her. “I want to join a mass communication institute, mam!” pat came the reply.
I could very well make out the brilliant effort that had been made by the authority, that gave these children not only sweet homes, but also the dreams.
Educational Training for the Children
The SOS Children’s Village runs small-level schools like kindergarten, primary and secondary schools as well as vocational training centers. The children are also sent to private schools like one of the Hermann Gmeiner Schools, located close-by. These schools are state-recognized and follow national-level curriculum.
“To train them professionally and enabling them to get independent, we send them even to big cities for various professional courses” said the incharge.
We were dazed!
“Such a brilliant mission!” I told the authorities. One should be thankful to charities like these which are working for a noble cause. My kids especially the elder one was silent all this while and absorbing every little conversation. I could see that compassion and friendliness in the eyes of my kids. I hope they have this memory stored permanently in their minds.
Shabla Mathur, a resident of Faridabad who visited SOS Children's Village shares her experience with us.