A little girl who lives at the SOS Children's Village Alexandria, Egypt
I've been reading about the support offered to families by the SOS Children's Villages Egypt.
A little girl who lives at the SOS Children's Village Alexandria, Egypt
I've been reading about how, in Cairo, Egypt, we offer support to families who have children with special needs. This is a very important service as there is little publicly available support for families in Cairo. We can offer this service as we have a team of wonderful volunteers. This is an extract from the report I read:
When Dr. Alia Hafiz, coordinator for the family strengthening programme of SOS Children's Villages Egypt in Cairo, first met the volunteers with the NGO "Lewaa Al-Islam" in Cairo's Zawya Hamra district, she was astonished.
'Lewaa Al-Islam' started out when a group of women with children with special needs grouped up and decided to help other mothers of children with special needs in their neighbourhood. These volunteers started out as mostly uneducated women living in poverty. Each one of them knew what it was like to take care of a child with special needs, each one knew the demands and difficulties of raising her child on limited funds in a society where such children are marginalised.
They all managed to develop their own abilities, many returned to school and learned to be more independent. Volunteers in this NGO have been helping children with special needs from families in disadvantaged areas for over 14 years, an impressive accomplishment for women who have so many difficulties in their own lives. Through this NGO they are trying to pass on what they learned to other mothers of children with special needs.
"These volunteers were ideal for the family strengthening programme because the programme gives them the opportunity they seek to reach out to their own community," Dr. Hafiz says, "Each one of these women is herself struggling with issues of raising a child with special needs, a broken marriage and poverty. They themselves have faced and conquered the risk of abandoning their own children."
The family strengthening programme in Egypt establishes partnerships with local, small NGOs or networks and through them implements the programme, thus widening the scope of activities of these small NGOs and at the same time helping the family strengthening programme to become more established in the local community. The SOS Children's Villages family strengthening programme offers the local NGOs some fundraising help at first, until the NGOs have a wider network of donors.
Eventually the aim is to leave these small networks to work on their own in implementing the programmes and move on to other NGOs in order to cover the widest possible area in Cairo, Alexandria and perhaps later to move on to other towns and villages. The number of people who need to benefit from this kind of programme in Egypt is enormous. There are literally hundreds of thousands of street children in Egypt. Thousands of families are vulnerable to abandoning their children or to the children running away because of domestic violence.
Soraya, 45, has been a volunteer for several years. Before she started, she lived in an unstable marriage, had a child with special needs and was illiterate. Over the years she has learned how to read and write, and how to deal with and help children with special needs. This has helped her take care of her own child as well as support children of other women in her neighbourhood.
"I started volunteering because I wanted to offer other women the same help I got, it made a great difference to my life and it can do the same for others," Soraya says.
The family strengthening programme has offered these mothers the opportunity to extend their help further to more women in their own community who were at risk of abandoning their own children with special needs. Eventually the aim of the programme is that the volunteers can continue the work on their own - preventing child abandonment and strengthening families while also raising their own funds independently.
Children's Village Tomilino, Russia
Mother's Day interview with SOS mother Vera from Russia: Vera Jegorowa has been working as an SOS mother at SOS Children's Village Tomilino in Russia for 12 years. She is a very generous, patient lady with a heart of gold for children. In this interview, she talks about her own motherhood, her wishes for other mothers, and Mother's Day.
How many children are living with you? I've got three girls and three boys; four of them are biological siblings. These four have an older sister, who is already married and has a child of her own. The children are very compassionate about each another and share their trouble with me. Even if they argue occasionally, they are still a family. If they have been apart for a long time, they miss each other and look forward to seeing each other again.
How would you describe your task as an SOS mother? You have to have a great love of children, and you have to be good at teaching the kids practical things. There is a lot of physical work involved, especially with household chores; however, there's got to be some psychological know-how, too. There are more and more new tasks with the children getting bigger. What I like about it is that I constantly have to learn new things.
What was the most special and beautiful moment you ever experienced as an SOS mother? The most memorable moment so far was when the first children arrived at the village; I was offered to raise an entire group of siblings consisting of five children and did not hesitate to take them in.
It was a summer day in July 1996 when they finally arrived at the village. I was into the last-minute preparations, asking myself a lot of questions. How to welcome them? What tasty food to offer? How to create a friendly and homely atmosphere? It was such an exciting moment. Further questions: Will the children accept me as their new mother? Will they like me? How is our relationship going to develop?
And then they stood there, in front of me, five shy kids looking a bit miserable. But their eyes were full of expectation and kindness. There they were; Lena (almost 14 years old), Sasha (eleven), Nadya (eight), Alina (six) and Jana (four). I knew that their mother had died a year ago.
I asked the younger ones to call me "mother", and the older ones to address me in whatever way they felt comfortable. To Lena and Sasha I was "Vera", but the younger ones started calling me mother at once. I was so happy, and from this day onwards, it stuck with me - to be a MOTHER to someone. It is difficult to explain the feelings and excitement I experienced.
Our new life in a new family started. First, the children were cautious, assessed the situation. Not everything went smoothly and well right from the start, but our relationship was always warm and friendly. For the older children I remained "Vera" for four years. And suddenly, or not so suddenly, something magical happened. The older children little by little started calling me "mother". This was maybe even a more joyful and powerful moment in my life, this most natural, feminine and motherly happiness.
The children came of age; new children arrived at the village. Some of those who already left live at youth facilities some live quite far away, but the strong bond remains, and I hope it will last forever. Lena will turn 26 this year, she is married, and I have two grandchildren (six and four years old). Jana, the youngest child with the first group of siblings, has already turned sixteen. My SOS children regularly visit, i.e., on New Year's Eve, on 8 March (Women's Day), and almost on all birthdays. Then we celebrate in a traditional way as a big family with all children, grandchildren and children-in-law.
I can actually feel their constant, reliable support; relationships among the children themselves are good, and they do help each other.
What special thing do you think you can give the children to help them on their way? I give the warmth and they give me warmth in return.
What do you wish for the girls and the boys? I hope that my girls and boys will be good mothers and fathers. They already practice for that when they are around small children.
What are your wishes for all the mothers in the world? My dear mothers! I wish you health, a lot of health, also your children, your families and those close to you. Love and happiness to you, may your wishes come true. I wish you patience, kindness, peace and success in whatever you do. Be happy in this life!
How do you celebrate Mother's Day at the SOS Children's Village with your SOS children? Mother's Day has only recently been introduced in Russia, and we are not used to celebrating it yet; however, we celebrate Women's Day on 8 March. On that day, we all come together; the older children who live independent lives or are at SOS Youth Facilities bring their fiancés and girlfriends, the grandchildren and children-in-law with them. The kids prepare presents and learn poems by heart. You can hear a lot of congratulations, and the house is decorated with flowers and children's drawings. It is a good and merry festivity. On that day, the boys are more into helping with chores than usual, of course, and the girls receive congratulations.