By: Ma. Fernanda Soria @mafersoria
Since its creation in the twentieth century, SOS is the international call for help. This code was inspired by Morse key strokes and became world famous when it was sent in a telegram from the Titanic prior to its sinking in the Atlantic.
Since then, the SOS term has been used in several contexts with the same idea: Ask for help.
During the Second World War a large number of children lost their homes and families, a situation that touched a philanthropist called Hermann Gmeiner, and motivated him to found the first SOS Children’s Village in 1949 in Imst, Austria. With the support of partners and donations, this small organization grew and expanded to help children all over the world.
SOS currently present in 132 countries in Americas, Africa, Asia, Europe and Oceania. Ecuador is one of those countries which provides emotional and psychological support to children who need it most.
The first SOS Children’s Villages established in Ecuador was in Quito, 45 years ago, seeking that the environment or family situation of children does not affect their growth. “We are currently in Quito, Ibarra, Portoviejo, Guayaquil, Cuenca and Esmeraldas,” says Washington Barbuche, director of SOS Children’s Villages in Guayaquil.
The work of this organization seeks to give attention and care to children from 0 to 12 years old living in unstable homes, so they have “everything we need when we’re little”, it means: a house, a mother, clothing, food, education, health care, etc.
Several families at risk of falling apart or families that are already broken can affect the development of children, for example “a mother who is a prostitute and an alcoholic father, the children of that household need care, or it may be a single mother who works all day and doesn’t have anyone to leave the child with,” says Washington. That is when the SOS Children’s Villages come to the rescue.
“We work in two stages: Strengthening Family and Community Development (FFDC) and Foster Care,” Washington says. The FFDC aims to prevent child abandonment and improving families so that the program performs a Family Development Plan which is tracked. Parents are educated through community centers run by community mothers who are trained by the educators of the SOS Social Centres and directed by the Family Committee. These centers give lectures on prevention and protection for children and teenagers.
The Foster care program gives a home to children and teenagers who have been legally separated from their parents for not having met their basic needs and treating them irresponsibly. These children are taken in by family homes or villages, where other children with similar situations live with a mother who takes care of them.
“We try to give the child a happy home, where he was given all the attention it needs, but the idea is that children in the foster care program eventually return to their families when they have improved their situation,” says Washington.
This organization is a non-profit and is funded by donations, partnerships and strategic alliances with companies that have wanted to add their help to the cause. Among future projects is the creation of a program for teenagers who also send SOS messages.