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SOS Children's Villages

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SOS Children's Villages
Formation1949; 75 years ago (1949)
FounderHermann Gmeiner
TypeInternational NGO
Legal statusActive
HeadquartersInnsbruck, Austria
Dereje Wordofa

SOS Children's Villages is an independent, non-governmental, nonprofit international development organization headquartered in Innsbruck, Austria. The organization provides humanitarian and developmental assistance to families facing difficulties and supports children and young people without parental care or at risk of losing it. The organization also protects their interests and rights around the world.[1][2][3][4] Today, SOS Children's Villages is active in more than 130 countries and territories worldwide.[5][6]

SOS Children’s Villages offers alternative care options for children and young people.

Additionally, SOS Children’s Villages advocates together with – and on behalf of – children and young people who have lost parental care or are at risk of losing it.

SOS Children's Villages relies on contributions from governments and private donors.[7] In 2017, the organization's 350 institutional partnership contracts totaled more than €31 million in institutional funds implemented. Funding from foundations and lotteries totaled nearly €48 million, and corporate partnerships provided more than €49 million in support for SOS Children's Villages globally.[5] The organization was awarded the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize[8] in 2002, and the Princess of Asturias Award of Concord in 2016.[9]


Children at SOS Children's Villages in Kandalaksha in Russia

The Second World War resulted in many children becoming homeless and orphaned. Hermann Gmeiner (23 June 1919 – 26 April 1986), who himself participated in the war as an Austrian soldier, founded the first SOS Children's Village in Imst in the Austrian Federal State of Tyrol in 1949 together with Maria Hofer, Josef Jestl, Ludwig Kögel, Herbert Pfanner, and Hedwig Weingartner.[10] Originally, the SOS Children's Village was established to look after the orphans of the Second World War. But later the organization eventually started looking after other children who had experienced abandonment, neglect, and abuse.[10]

SOS Children's Villages in Argentina

In the second half of the 20th century, the organization spread all over Europe. In 1959, SOS Children's Villages national associations were established in Italy, France, and Germany, and in the same year, the first SOS Children's Villages Youth Facility was founded in Innsbruck, Austria. The first caregiver for SOS Children's Villages was the Austrian Maria Weber (1919–2011). This first patron was Béatrice von Boch-Galhau (1914–2011). She financed the first SOS Children's Villages programme in Germany (Hilbringen / Saar) with her private assets and she used her political and business connections to promote the idea. As the organization grew, the umbrella organization SOS-Kinderdorf International was established to oversee all the national associations in the world in 1960. In the same year, the first SOS Children's Villages organization in South America was founded in Uruguay. In 1963, the organization reached Asia with the first programmes established in North Korea and India. Seven years later, the organization founded programmes in Africa in the Republic of Ivory Coast, Kenya, Ghana, and Sierra Leone.[10] In North America, the first programme was established in 1991 in the United States. Today, there are now more than 570 SOS Children's Villages programmes present in 135 countries and territories.[11]

In 2006, the "Colegio Internacional SOS Hermann Gmeiner", in Santa Ana, Costa Rica, re-opened as the United World College of Costa Rica, becoming the 11th United World College and the only UWC in Latin America and the Caribbean. Although no longer operating under the auspices of the SOS Children's Villages, the college continues to have a relationship with the organization, including a program of full scholarships for SOS Children's Villages students, with more than 50 SOS Children's Villages students having attended and graduated from the school.[12][13][14]

Hermann Gmeiner was the SOS Children's Villages president until 1985 when he was succeeded by Helmut Kutin. Helmut Kutin, born in 1941 in Bolzano, Italy, who was one of the first children admitted in SOS Austria, led the organization SOS Children's Villages International for 27 years after which in 2012, he was succeeded by Siddhartha Kaul, born in 1951 in Pilani, India.[15][16]


Each 118 national SOS Children's Villages association carries out the international organizations’ missions, protocols, and policies. Regional offices guide this work and provide fundraising, marketing, and technical assistance to country offices as needed. Overall management and administration of the organization takes place at the headquarters in Innsbruck, Austria. The highest decision-making body is the General Assembly responsible for electing the President, Vice-President, and other members of the International Senate. Guiding and monitoring of all SOS’ work is the responsibility of the International Senate made up of 22 members. They establish policies, formulate policy changes, and procedural guidelines. The International Senate's work is coordinated by the Management Council, comprising eight representatives from member associations chaired by the President. The Management Council makes recommendations for Senate decisions, approves work plans developed by the Management Team, and defines the federation's targets. The General Secretariat comprises the international offices in Austria, and other regional offices responsible for implementing strategic decisions, developing and monitoring the organization's quality standards, and representing the organization in international communications and forums.

International frameworks[edit]

SOS Children's Villages Hermann Gmeiner Academy, Austria

The organization follows three international frameworks that serve as guidelines for their work. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) adopted in 1989 is a human rights treaty that sets out the civil, political, economic, social, health, and cultural rights of children. The UN Guidelines for Alternative Care of Children adopted in 2009 provides a framework for governments to acknowledge and deliver alternative care to children growing up without adequate parental care.[17] And the UN Sustainable Development Goal adopted in 2015 and valid until 2030 in which SOS Children's Villages work focuses mainly on children and families living in vulnerable circumstances.


No Child Should Grow Up Alone[edit]

In 2017, the organization launched the No Child Should Grow Up Alone campaign which aims to emphasize research showing that 1 in 10 children (220 million) worldwide is growing up alone. The campaign is based on global research called the 'Care Effect' claiming that children growing up without adequate parental care are particularly vulnerable to different forms of human rights violations such as child labor, violence, and sex trafficking.[18]

The report concluded that:

"If we provide care for today's children in vulnerable circumstances, giving them the foundation they need for learning and developing life skills, we stand a better chance of building a better future for the world”[19]

Care For Me[edit]

In 2012, the organization launched the Care For ME! Campaign to encourage research and assessment on alternative child care and to advocate the need to protect the human rights of children from various violations committed against them. Participating countries need to assess whether their national alternative care system complies with the UN Guidelines for Alternative Care of Children.[20]

I Matter[edit]

In 2009, the organization launched the "I Matter" campaign to improve legislation surrounding the practice on leaving care. The aim is to support youth ageing out of care in their transition toward independence.[21]

Regional and national network[edit]

SOS Children's Villages is present in over 130 countries and territories around the world. These are listed below by region. SOS Children's Villages organizations in these countries provide active support to children, young people and families. Exceptions are countries marked with an asterisk (*), in which SOS Children's Villages maintains representative offices which focus on fundraising and building awareness.[22]


Algeria Algeria Angola Angola Benin Benin Botswana Botswana Burkina Faso Burkina Faso Burundi Burundi Cameroon Cameroon
Cape Verde Cape Verde Central African Republic Central African Republic Chad Chad Ivory Coast Côte d'Ivoire Democratic Republic of the Congo Democratic Republic of Congo Djibouti Djibouti Egypt Egypt
Equatorial Guinea Equatorial Guinea Ethiopia Ethiopia The Gambia Gambia Ghana Ghana Guinea Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guinea-Bissau Kenya Kenya
Lesotho Lesotho Liberia Libera Madagascar Madagascar Malawi Malawi Mali Mali Mauritius Mauritius Morocco Morocco
Mozambique Mozambique Namibia Namibia Niger Niger NigeriaNigeria Rwanda Rwanda Senegal Senegal Sierra Leone Sierra Leone
Somalia Somalia Somaliland Somaliland South Africa South Africa South Sudan South Sudan Sudan Sudan Eswatini Swaziland Tanzania Tanzania
Togo Togo Tunisia Tunisia Uganda Uganda Zambia Zambia Zimbabwe Zimbabwe


Argentina Argentina Bolivia Bolivia Brazil Brazil Canada Canada Chile Chile Costa Rica Costa Rica Dominican Republic Dominican Republic Colombia Colombia
EcuadorEcuador El Salvador El Salvador GuatemalaGuatemala Haiti Haiti HondurasHonduras Jamaica Jamaica Mexico Mexico
Nicaragua Nicaragua PanamaPanama Paraguay Paraguay Peru Peru Uruguay Uruguay United States United States Venezuela Venezuela


Armenia Armenia Azerbaijan Azerbaijan Bahrain Bahrain Bangladesh Bangladeshi Cambodia Cambodia China China Georgia (country) Georgia
IndiaIndia Indonesia Indonesia IsraelIsrael JapanJapan JordanJordan Kazakhstan Kazakhstan Kuwait Kuwait
Kyrgyzstan Kyrgyzstan Laos Laos Lebanon Lebanon Mongolia Mongolia Nepal Nepal Oman Oman Qatar Qatar
Pakistan Pakistan State of Palestine Palestine Philippines Philippines Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia South Korea South Korea Sri Lanka Sri Lanka Syria Syria
Taiwan Taiwan Thailand Thailand United Arab Emirates United Arab Emirates * Uzbekistan Uzbekistan Vietnam Vietnam


Albania Albania Austria Austria Belarus Belarus Belgium Belgium Bosnia and Herzegovina Bosnia & Herzegovina Bulgaria Bulgaria Croatia Croatia
Czech Republic Czech Republic Denmark Denmark * Estonia Estonia Finland Finland France France Germany Germany Greece Greece
Hungary Hungary Iceland Iceland * Italy Italy Kosovo Kosovo Latvia Latvia Lithuania Lithuania Luxembourg Luxembourg
North Macedonia North Macedonia Netherlands Netherlands* Northern Cyprus Northern Cyprus Norway Norway Poland Poland Portugal Portugal Romania Romania
Russia Russia Serbia Serbia Spain Spain SwedenSweden * Switzerland Switzerland* Ukraine Ukraine United Kingdom United Kingdom *


Australia* Australia French Polynesia French Polynesia


In January 2018, the branch of the association in Ethiopia was accused of supporting Islam, including forcible conversion of children.[28] The organization denies the allegations but does admit that a mosque (now closed) had been built on SOS land, contrary to policy.[29]

Prominent supporters[edit]

The first prominent supporter was the German-British businesswoman Béatrice 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; the Dalai Lama; international footballers Kakha Kaladze, Andriy Shevchenko, Vincent Kompany, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Cesc Fàbregas and Javier Zanetti; opera singer Anna Netrebko; writer Henning Mankell; Belgian tennis player Kim Clijsters; French writer and actress Anny Dupérey; Sarah, Duchess of York; English Child Actress Georgie Henley; former model Princess Salimah Aga Khan; actress and singer Cher; businessman and television host Mike Holmes; Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter and entertainer June Carter Cash; and Johnny Cash whose memorial fund is towards the work of SOS Children's Villages worldwide. [citation needed] The organisation received the 2002 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize.[30]

SOS Children's Villages 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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "'SOS Children's Villages contributing to nation-building'".
  2. ^ "SOS Village goes a long way".
  3. ^ "SOS Children's Villages, Radisson to protect vulnerable youths". 6 September 2018.
  4. ^ "SOS Children's Villages to begin work in Iraq".
  5. ^ a b "Facts & Figures" (PDF).
  6. ^ "Supporting refugees and reuniting families through the cloud".
  7. ^ "International Annual Report 2020".
  8. ^ "SOS Children's Villages · Hilton Humanitarian Prize". Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. Retrieved 2018-10-16.
  9. ^ "SOS Children's Villages wins Princess of Asturias Award". Youtube. Archived from the original on 2021-12-21.
  10. ^ a b c James, George (27 April 1986). "HERMANN GMEINER OF AUSTRIA, 66; ESTABLISHED SHELTERS FOR CHILDREN". The New York Times.
  11. ^ "SOS Children's Villages History". SOS Children's Village International.
  12. ^ "UWC Costa Rica". United World Colleges.
  13. ^ "United World College Costa Rica". The Excelligent. Retrieved 2022-11-26.
  14. ^ "Creating Young Agents of Change Through World-Class Education | UWC Costa Rica". The Knowledge Review. 2019-02-01. Retrieved 2022-11-26.
  15. ^ "Helmut Kutin".
  16. ^ "President of SOS Children's Villages International".
  17. ^ "Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children" (PDF).
  18. ^ "No Child Should Grow Up Alone 2016 | Bonka circus". www.bonkacircus.com. Retrieved 2018-10-16.
  19. ^ "The 'Care Effect'" (PDF).
  20. ^ "Behance". www.behance.net. Retrieved 2018-10-16.
  21. ^ "SALTO-YOUTH - Otlas - the partner-finding tool - Otlas - SOS Children's Villages Albania". www.salto-youth.net. Retrieved 2018-10-16.
  22. ^ Source: SOS website
  23. ^ SOS Children's Villages in Africa
  24. ^ SOS Children's Villages in the Americas
  25. ^ SOS Children's Villages in Asia
  26. ^ SOS Children's Villages in Europe
  27. ^ SOS Children's Villages in Oceania
  28. ^ "Small Christian orphans converted to Islam". agenzia Fides.
  29. ^ "SOS Children's Villages reaffirms its commitment to children at risk". Agenzia Fides.
  30. ^ "CEMEX and SOS Children's Villages Partner to Provide Long-Term Care for Orphans of..." (Press release). Reuters. June 26, 2008. Archived from the original on June 26, 2009.

External links[edit]