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SOS Children's Villages

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SOS Children's Village in Mar del Plata, Argentina
SOS Children's Village in Kleve-Donsbrüggen, Germany

SOS Children's Villages (German: SOS-Kinderdorf) is an independent, non-governmental international development organisation which has been working to meet the needs and protect the interests and rights of children since 1949. It was founded by Dr. Hermann Gmeiner in Imst, Austria. According to the Financial Times, the 2004 turnover of SOS Children's Villages altogether was US$ 807 million, and it was ranked 33 out of a 100 global NGOs for "global accountability". Its international umbrella organisation, SOS-Kinderdorf International, was founded in 1960, after national associations had been established in France, Germany and Italy in addition to the original Austrian association. Over a hundred national associations across the world have since been established.


The organization's work focuses on abandoned, destitute and orphaned children requiring family-based child care. Millions of children worldwide are living without their biological families for a variety of reasons including:

  • parental separation,
  • domestic violence and neglect,
  • they have lost their parents due to war or natural catastrophes,
  • disease - including, increasingly, AIDS.

Such children are supported to recover from being emotionally traumatised and to avoid real danger of being isolated, abused, exploited and deprived of their rights.

SOS provides about 50,000 such children and 15,000 young adults with a permanent new family, with a '24 hours a day' new SOS mother to provide family-based care. Typically (in the developing world) about ten children are grouped into a house with an SOS mother and between ten and forty of such houses are grouped together as a "Village" with shared facilities. Family groups once formed are kept together as a priority.

Range of programmes

"... from my point of view, nothing in the world is more important that careful and protect a child." Hermann Gmeiner (1919-1986).

In addition to the SOS Children's Villages (over 450 worldwide) that form the core of SOS Children's Villages' work, the organisation runs a whole range of programmes and facilities in support of socially disadvantaged and impoverished families to help them lead a better life in the long-term. SOS also supports about a million other children in community programmes such as family strengthening, running 192 schools across the developing world, running medical centres and programmes for street children, child soldiers and victims of disaster.

Prominent supporters

The first prominent supporter was the German British businesswoman Beatrice von Boch-Galhau, wife of the largest shareholder of the ceramic manufacturer Villeroy & Boch. She became friends with the at-the-time unknown Hermann Gmeiner. In 1959, she employed some of her private fortune to pay for the first Kinderdorf in Germany located in Merzig Hilbringen. She also used her husband's political connections to promote the SOS Kinderdorf idea which was first meeting resistance from the local majors.

Prominent supporters include Nelson Mandela; FIFA; the Dalai Lama; Kakha Kaladze; Andriy Shevchenko; Anna Netrebko; Vincent Kompany; Ruud van Nistelrooy; Cesc Fàbregas; Argentine footballer Javier Zanetti; Belgian tennis player Kim Clijsters; French writer & actress Anny Dupérey; Sarah, Duchess of York; English Child Actress Georgie Henley; Princess Salimah Aga Khan; Cher; Mike Holmes; June Carter Cash; and Johnny Cash whose memorial fund is towards the work of SOS Children's Villages worldwide. The organisation received the 2002 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize.

SOS also receive significant funds through Genworth Financial's Putts4Charity initiative, which they run on golf's European Tour. In November 2012, the initiative reached €1 million in total money raised since 2007.

SOS invites support from community groups, schools and individuals through participation in World Orphan Week--an international week-long event promoting awareness of the needs of orphaned and abandoned children.

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