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SOS village raising families for ophaned kids

By Vision Reporter

Added 22nd November 2004 03:00 AM

LIVING without a family makes life a nightmare. It is even worse if you are a child. Millions of children around the world have been orphaned by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

LIVING without a family makes life a nightmare. It is even worse if you are a child. Millions of children around the world have been orphaned by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

By Arthur Baguma
LIVING without a family makes life a nightmare. It is even worse if you are a child. Millions of children around the world have been orphaned by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
In the aftermath of world war II, a German called, Hermann Gmeiner, had a dream of looking after needy children in a family environment. The effects of the war on his nation and particularly the children, inspired him.
The dream became a reality when he founded SOS children’s village, an NGO to look after orphans. Decades after his death, his great works still manifest in the many villages across the globe, including Uganda.
It is a warm environment at the Entebbe SOS village. The children are playing about in their neat village compound. Twelve modern state-of-the-art houses each shared by a family of eight to 10 children stand out.
“You... why are you beating my sister? I will report you to our mother,” Sarah Nakinga of House one warns Dan from House four who has accidentally trampled on Jane’s toes. Jane breaks down and starts crying. Sarah is incensed by Dan’s conduct and warns him never to touch her sister again.
Although their background defer, to them, members of a given house are brothers and sisters.
“How many sisters and brothers do you have”? I ask. “I have four brothers and five sisters,” Sarah replies before adding, “My mother is over there.”
Immediately, I turn to see the old woman and mother of 10. But to my surprise, all I can see is a youthful woman.
“She is the one.” Sarah insists pointing at a lady seated under a mango tree.
“And where is your father?”
“My father does not live in Uganda. He is not black like Mummy,” she explains. Then she rushes inside the house and in a moment returns with a portrait of Hermann — their late ‘father’.
Donning a kitenge, Mama Mary Namataka closely watches the children just to make sure there is no problem as they play in the spacious compound covered with green lawn. Out of curiosity, I ask her how she delivered 10 children of the same age bracket. She laughs, folds her hands and stares.
“What did those children tell you,?” she asks.
“That you are their mother and that their father is a white man who doesn’t live here.”
“They are right. I practically do everything that a biological mother would do for her children. That is why they call me their mother although I am not. Here they get every thing any ideal family can provide. In fact, they live a far much better life than some children living with their parents.”
In 1991, Hermann’s idea reached Uganda’s own backyard. The first SOS village now home to 160 orphans was opened at Kakiri. Construction of the second village in Entebbe, now home of 70 children, was completed in 2002. The coming of SOS to Uganda was timely. HIV/AIDS had swept across the country, leaving behind scores of orphans.
“We believe that the best place for a child to grow and attain full growth is with their own families. However, fate and other social issues deny some children this opportunity to grow with their own families.
“As SOS, we offer the best alternative to the biological family through our family-based style of child care,” says William Ddamulira, the National Director SOS Uganda. Through this system, children are brought up in families as brothers and sisters under the care of a mother. The children come from a cross section of religions, regions and backgrounds, but at the end of the day they become one family.
They live a comfortable life. They look healthy and happy.
“We take care of all their health, education, food, clothing, shelter and recreational needs,” Namataka the mother of house one says.
In a bid to help more orphans, SOS introduced the ‘Adopt a family programme’ targeting corporate organisations to partner with SOS in providing quality care to children in need.
“Under the programme, an organisation is invited to ‘Adopt a family’ in any of the SOS children’s villages through a 50% contribution to household running costs. eight to nine children under the care of a mother, form a house and 12 family houses make a village,” says Ddamulira.
SOS children’s villages provide long-term care for destitute, abandoned and orphaned children in 131 countries. More than 50,000 children have found a home in 439 SOS children’s villages worldwide. Nearly 120,000 children and youths attend SOS schools, kindergartens and vocational training centres, while more than 500,000 benefit from SOS medical and social centres and emergency relief programmes.
“A third SOS children’s village is being built in Gulu, with social, medical and educational programmes. It will target the children who have been affected by the war in northern Uganda,” Ddamulira said.
Ends

SOS village raising families for ophaned kids

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