A little girl playing fishing, part of a playbus activity in Baku, Azerbaijan.…
To go with this picture of children learning by having fun, I have a story from SOS Children's Village Baku. It is about rebuilding broken lives: Amongst the olive and pine trees on the grassy slopes overlooking the Caspian sea, children are playing, climbing and running about in their playground. The sea wind drowns out the sound of their laughter. "It's always windy here .like in Chicago," says Ugur Zeynally, village and national director of SOS Children's Villages Azerbaijan.
A little girl playing fishing, part of a playbus activity in Baku, Azerbaijan.
To go with this picture of children learning by having fun, I have a story from SOS Children's Village Baku. The thing that most stuck me with this is the part where the village director explains how children from the overloaded orphanages come to the SOS Village with no concept of what a family is. This is the story of Baku:
Amongst the olive and pine trees on the grassy slopes overlooking the Caspian sea, children are playing, climbing and running about in their playground. The sea wind drowns out the sound of their laughter. "It's always windy here .like in Chicago," says Ugur Zeynally, village and national director of SOS Children's Villages Azerbaijan, as he comes to greet me at SOS Children's Village Baku. Four children are hanging onto his legs as he strides across the village site, all of them giggling with delight.
SOS Children's Village Baku, Azerbaijan's first SOS Children's Village facility, has grown rapidly since first opening its doors in October 2000. So far, 54 children have found a permanent home in 12 blue family houses and 37 attend the SOS nursery school, which is located on the same site.
Some of the children are orphans, their parents victims of the country's conflict with Armenia over Nagorno- Karabakh. The cease-fire declared in May 1994 has remained in force, but the conflict has still not been completely resolved. "It was very difficult for the first group of children who came to the village to settle into their new lives," explains Ugur Zeynally. Many of them came from the overcrowded local orphanages, and did not have any concept of what a family was.
Thanks to the work and commitment of Zeynally and his dedicated team of co-workers and SOS mothers, the children are settling into their new homes and families at the village. "When my children first called me "mama" .," SOS mum Elmira pauses and a smile lights up her face, "it's impossible to find the words to describe how I felt, I was so touched".
Ugur Zeynally is positive about the future for Baku and his country. Located close to major petroleum fields near the border with Iran, he is convinced that oil and the country's other natural resources, including gas, will bring more wealth into the nation's capital. He is equally optimistic about the future of his children, determined to do all he can to ensure that each of them are offered the very best opportunities and to help them build new lives out of the brokenness of their past. [Written by Helen Clarke, based on the experiences of Eva Duscher, both co-workers of SOSKinderdorf International.]
Flowers from Children's Village Sarajevo, Bosnia
OK, maybe it's too early to be thinking of Christmas. But I'm already looking a stories about Christmas and have a nice one from SOS Children's Village Sarajevo which fits beautifully with the picture of flowers:
In the spirit of the season, the children of SOS Children's Village Sarajevo will merrily say "no, no, no!" And they know because, see, this Christmas Santa Claus asked them to prepare you a special gift. Their budget was tight, still the resources were plentiful: a whole year of children's smiles, colourful days and happy thoughts. Best part is that you don't have to wait till Christmas morning to unwrap it.
"Say it with a flower" just got a whole different meaning. Many flowers grow in our village in Sarajevo. Their blossoms make a rainbow on the ground every day in springtime. We captured these colours for you and are sending you a bouquet of bright red, shining yellow and sky blue.
Some flowers that grow in our village have not been discovered yet. These flowers have happy smiling faces and they stay fresh and beautiful all year round. It was us that put the smiles on their faces to make a cheerful gift for you this Christmas.
Our flowers are not the only ones smiling. We smile all the time too. Oh, except when our SOS mothers make us eat our vegetables and when the teacher hands out homework. Those no-smiles we will forget, and our smiles we will wrap as our gift for you this Christmas.
We spent an entire year packing smiles. We packed the smile for the new toy, the one when we enjoyed the chocolate, when the tooth fairy visited, span the top, jumped in rain puddles, hugged our SOS mother, scored a goal, taught the parakeet to say hello, played out in the sun and whenever we simply had happy thoughts.
Happy thoughts made Peter Pan and the Lost Boys fly, you know. All the way to their home in Neverland. We were also lost once, but not anymore. We flew on our happy thoughts to our SOS mothers and to our homes in SOS Children's Village Sarajevo. Happy thoughts to you for a Merry Christmas!