Portrait of girl, mother with baby and doctor in the…
SOS Children's Villages provides support after violence in Kenya
Portrait of girl, mother with baby and doctor in the background - medical camp arranged by SOS Nairobi, Kenya (FSP)
SOS Children's Villages provides support after violence in Kenya
22/01/2008 - SOS Children's Villages is starting emergency relief programmes in three locations for children who have lost their parents during the serious spate of violence in the country or whose families have not yet been found. Refugee families and seriously traumatised people are another target group.
The large-scale riots that took place after the presidential elections in December triggered a mass exodus of people in Kenya and have caused hundreds of deaths. Many children have lost their parents or have been separated from their families. Around 500,000 people fled from the massacre. The main areas affected are Nairobi, the coastal regions and the Rift Valley. SOS Children's Villages is now starting an emergency relief programme for around 2,000 people in the catchments areas of its facilities in Nairobi, Eldoret and Mombasa.
In Eldoret alone, the scene of a serious massacre in a church, there are more than 4,000 refugees, 33 of whom are orphans between the ages of two and 17; another 26 children were separated from their families in the chaos. [You can also read about the events at Eldoret in an interview with Peter Mungai, the director of SOS Children's Village Eldoret.]
How SOS Children's Villages is helping
A total of 2,000 refugee families, a large number of whom are single mothers, are receiving relief supplies (food, tarpaulin to be used for tents, blankets, clothes, crockery and personal hygiene products, etc.). In parallel, families with seriously traumatised children are receiving psychological support at the refugee camps.
The emergency relief programme is concentrating on providing care for unaccompanied refugee children. The SOS Children's Villages in Nairobi, Eldoret and Mombasa can take children in on a temporary basis, until their families are found. However, if it is not possible to reunite the children with their families, it will be possible to let the children stay in the long-term. A total of 45 unaccompanied children were taken into SOS Children's Village Nairobi just yesterday.
All emergency relief measures are being taken in cooperation with the Kenya Red Cross Society and other aid organisations.
The emergency relief programme is at present scheduled to run for six months. If necessary, the emergency relief can be replaced with long-term family strengthening programmes.
A child cleaning rice - CV Abobo-Gare, Cote D'Ivoire
The Happiness of an Accomplished Mission
Elisabeth, 55, started working as SOS mother for SOS Children's Villages Côte d'Ivoire on 1 February 1983. After 22 years of full services she retired on 5 February 2005. At the moment she lives in Abobo, where we she gave us the following interview.
How did you join SOS Children's Villages in Côte d'Ivoire? I joined SOS Children's Villages in 1983, after one of my aunts had heard a radio announcement in which the newly established SOS Children's Villages Côte d'Ivoire was looking for people to be recruited. She asked me to apply and I did it but, I did not even know where I was going and what I would have to do. It was my first time to hear about SOS Children's Villages.
When I reached the national office, I received a document which was like a sort of job description. I have been given two weeks to read it, after which I went back to the national office for the recruitment test. We were 36 women that morning but only four of us were retained.
As SOS Children's Village Aboisso was still under construction, I was transferred to SOS Children's Village Abobo, where I started working in the same year as SOS mother. 13 years after, I was assigned to SOS Children's Village Aboisso where I spent 9 other years.
How were your first working years? My first working years were pretty easy. I adapted myself quickly and easily. I have always dreamed of living in such an environment (like an SOS Children's Village), as I have never had a child. My dream was to live in a house with the children running up and down, crying, speaking and laughing.
Hearing all of them calling me "Mom, Mom" on the day I started working gave me a sudden feeling of strength and plenitude. I had never imagined that I could be called "Mom" one day. So, it was very easy for me to start my job and to overcome all the difficulties I encountered.
Were your first children difficult? Not too much. At that time (1983), the children who were admitted to the SOS Children's Villages were bigger than those who are received presently. Due to that, they were already mature and comprehensive to a certain extent.
But, like all the children you might know, they were difficult when they wanted to stand up to me or somebody else, and nice when they were happy. Only one of my girls had an approximately difficult behaviour. I approached her and we had lots of talks during about three days. Little by little, she began to change and finally we became very good friends.
What event moved you the most during the time you spent in the SOS Children's Villages? The day I was retiring moved me a lot. When I received the circular, I was very happy to stop working and to go and have a rest after 22 years of entire devotion. But when the time came, it was very difficult to manage it not only for me alone, but for the whole "SOS staff". It was as if something was about to be broken. Everybody burst into tears that day; I myself, the other SOS mothers and the children. Even the village directors cried (villages directors from SOS Children's Villages Abobo and Aboisso were present at the ceremony). To tell you the truth, it was a sad moment.
You know, life in an SOS Children's Village is so wonderful that you definitely feel like in your own family. You even forget that one day, you would have to separate from it, build a new life and make new friends. And when that occurs, believe me, it is often very difficult moments to live.
What is your main activity since you retired? I have not been really active until now. I need a small time to readapt. At the moment, it is raining a lot in Côte d'Ivoire and I take advantage to spend good moments at home. I need to rest at first and then I will see what I can do. I hope to invest in the production and marketing of drinks. I will set up a small team which will assist me in this activity.
What are the relationships with your former SOS children? I am on very good terms with all of my former children. My elder daughter is in France since 1996. Some of her small brothers and sisters are in Benin, Mali and Sierra Leone. But, correspondences with the one who is in Sierra Leone are often perturbed because of the war in this country. Those of my children who are here in Côte d'Ivoire visit me regularly and I have also very good relations with their biological families.
Few years ago, one of my daughters got married and she had a baby. After being informed, I went to visit her with presents for her and for the baby. The child is three years old today and she calls me grandmother (laughs).
My relations with the village directors, the SOS mothers and most of the SOS staff are also fantastic. Very often, the newly recruited SOS mothers ask me for advice. I am always very happy to share my experience with them.
Do you think children living in SOS Children's Villages are lucky? Yes, very much. The SOS Children's Villages are doing a lot for the children under their care. Children have the opportunity to go to school and to study as far as possible. They eat well, they sleep well and they have all that is needed for their well-being and their success. The villages offer several advantages to the children, allowing them to build their lives in a positive way. SOS Children's Villages is a great organisation because co-workers are doing a noble job.
How do you evaluate the work of the SOS mothers? Personally I think it is a fantastic job because there are several motherless children who need women like us, willing to sacrifice themselves for them. An SOS mother is a real mother for the children entrusted to her. She replaces validly the real mother, and takes care of the children as the real mother would have done it. The relation between her and her children is so close, and the love is so deep.
I pay a great tribute to Hermann Gmeiner (the founder of the SOS Children's Villages) who had the idea of inventing such a concept. If SOS Children's Villages didn't exist, I am sure that I would not have had a real life until now. After 22 years of working as SOS mother, I am honoured when I see my children today. All of them succeeded at school. They have good jobs and they have been integrated very well into society.
I thank the organisation for establishing SOS Children's Villages in Africa in general and in Côte d'Ivoire particularly, especially at such moments when we are facing a serious social crisis.