SOS-Children’s Villages (SOS-Kinderdorf International) is an international organization of private assistance, for non-profit, laic and apolitical, that has as its principal objective the formation of families for children that had lost their parent’s protection, inserting them in a place that allow them to develop a normal life, to establish lasting emotional links and the possibility to independently be happy, successful and community oriented people.

It acts as an independent non-governmental organization for social development, respecting the different religions and cultures, and working in countries and communities where their mission can add to the development. It works according to the spirit of the United Nations Conventions on Children’s Rights and they promote those rights at every moment.

Some history…

The origins of this institution go back to the times of the II World War. The destruction caused by the war left hundred of children without a home or a family. Confusion, discontent and desperation reigned in the bombed ruins and in the communal places destined to harbor millions of refugees.

In this dramatic context, a group of young volunteers founded in Austria the organization called Children’s Villages with the goal of finding a solution to the abandoned children. The group adopted the acronym SOS, from the English phrase “Save Our Souls” that coincidentally with the international rescue signal, calls for help.  

The group was headed by the medicinal student Hermann Gmeiner, member of a large farming family and who has suffered his mother’s death when he was 5 years old and had to be taken care of by his older sister Elsa Gmeiner. That experience left him with the conviction that the place of a missing mother could be taken by a loving person that would assume that responsibility.

Within his social circle, Gmeiner observed a particular situation: on one hand, a great number of children needing protection and security, and on the other hand, hundred of women that were alone after losing their husbands and sons in the battle fields. That observation coupled to his personal history generated a vision: to transform the loneliness of these women in a social maternity, joining them with children that needed a mother in a community of foster families.

The first SOS-Children’s Village was founded in Imst, Austria, in 1949. In the beginnings, it was welcomed with distrust from the people, but little by little it gained the support of many people that gave them small donations. In a few years, the effort was fruitful and the SOS-Children’s Villages expanded all over the world.

Dr. Hermann Gmeiner passed away on April 26, 1986 and his successor, Helmunt Kutin, actual president of the International Federations of Children Villages, grew up and was raised in one of the families of the SOS-Children’s Village in Imst.

Since 1995 SOS-Children’s Villages is member of the UN, under the NGO category in consultative status (Category II) with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations”.

In 2002, SOS_ Children’s Villages was distinguished with the worldwide famous “Humanitarian Award Conrad N. Milton” for contributing in an extraordinary way to alleviate human suffering.  

The principles of action

The concept of SOS-Children’s Villages is based in four main action principles:

The Mother: the mothers establish a close relationship with every child that they are entrusted with, guiding their development and giving them the love and stability that each of them need. As a family head, she supervises her own budget and manages the home in an independent way.

Brothers and Sisters: Children of different ages that live together as brothers and sisters. The family ties develop naturally and biological siblings are kept within the same SOS family. In average, there are 8 to 9 children in every SOS family.

The House: the house is the family’s home, with its own characteristics, rhythm and routine. Under that roof a true feeling of security and belonging is enjoyed. Children grow up and learn together, sharing responsibilities, joys and penuries of everyday life.  
The Village:
 a typical SOS-Children’s Village is made up by 10 to 15 houses. The families create a supportive atmosphere where the children can enjoy a dignified and happy life. The living conditions of the SOS families is similar to the local conditions, the children go to nearby schools and learn to actively participate in society.

Types of Assistance Programs

Children`s Village SOS has two big axis of action:

Foster Family Program: (Children´s Village itself) that cares for boys and girls, teens and young people within a family model that vows for human rights offering long term care and protection.

Family Strengthening Program: that deals with boys and girls from Community Centers and Welfare Centers, preventing child abandonment and promoting the full growth of children and the strengthening and development of families and women.

Nowadays there are 500 Children´s Village SOS in 132 countries and territories, taking care of over 60000 children. There are also 1900 establishments (Medical Centers, welfare centers, schools) that help out over one million people over the world through Emergency SOS Programs.

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