Thursday, 18 February 2010

SOS Children's Village in Santo admitted 126 children at once

On 17 February, 126 children from refugee camps arrived at the SOS Children's Village in Santo for temporary shelter. Two-year-old Josette, whose teenage mother cannot care for her on her own, is one of them.

When I asked Josette* who her mother was, she pointed at the girl next to her. I repeated my question, thinking she didn’t understand my far from perfect French. But again, she pointed at the teenage girl next to her and told me that was her mother. So I asked 17-year-old Gisèle* if she was in fact the mother of the two-year-old Josette. She choked and confirmed my question. Every day Gisèle had brought her daughter to one of the 77 community centres SOS Children's Villages is currently supporting. Josette was looked after, while her teenage mom went looking for her parents’ bodies. For one month, they lived at friends' houses and finally in the street. The social worker in the community centre had told her about the SOS Children’s Village in Santo and when she couldn’t cope with living on the streets anymore, she brought her daughter to the village. She loves her daughter, says Gisèle, and that is why she brought her here. “I can’t take care of her alone, my family is dead and until I find a job I can’t feed us both”.

Josette is one of the 126 children that came to the SOS Children's Village on 17 February. She will temporarily stay in the village and might return to live with her mother when Gisèle can take care of her. Gisèle does not want to live in the village. She wants to find work and will visit her daughter every week. Nevertheless, SOS Children's Villages will support her with food and water.

The co-workers here at the SOS Children's Village are doing an outstanding job coping with this logistical nightmare. 126 children at once are not easy to deal with. We have reached the limit of children that can stay in the houses and have started building tents donated by the German Red Cross in which some of the children will temporarily stay. New children are coming every day and no matter how many arrive, the atmosphere in the village is great. The SOS mothers are giving every single child a warm welcome into their families and everywhere in the village one can hear laughter. Currently, 439 children are living here and there is capacity for a 100 more. In the surrounding area, we are supporting more than 9,000 children and by the end of February, 10,000 children will benefit from the tremendous commitment of the SOS co-workers.

*Names changed for privacy reasons

Text by Louis Klamroth

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