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Southeast Asia, 12/12/2006

Bertelsmann Tsunami Victim Relief: Your Donations At Work

Subject: Society
Country: Indonesia
Category: Project

Some splash around in the water, while others play in the sand – The children enjoying a beautiful day at the beach in Sigli, Indonesia, look no different from other boys and girls all over the world. Unless you knew that the tsunami disaster in December 2004 and its repercussions turned all of these children into orphans, you wouldn’t suspect that for them, a day at the beach is associated with completely different memories than say, for their peers in Germany. The fact that they can play or laugh again at all is partly thanks to Bertelsmann and its employees: every one of these children is the recipient of a long-term sponsorship from Bertelsmann’s relief fund for tsunami orphans. After the disaster, Bertelsmann companies and employees had donated €1.4 million for this purpose - the SOS Children’s Villages relief organization now uses these funds to take care of the children locally.

Three new SOS Children’s Villages in Indonesia

In all, SOS Children’s Villages is building three new Children’s Villages in the parts of Indonesia hit by the tsunami: in Medan, Banda Aceh and Meulaboh. The children’s aid organization already houses some 70 tsunami orphans in rented apartments, who will be the first residents of the Children’s Villages upon their completion. They include the children (from the region around Banda Aceh) who enjoyed the beach excursion to Sigli described above, coupled with a visit to a nearby zoo. Medan, the first of the three new Children’s Villages, is scheduled to open around next May. After construction began half a year ago, the shells of the 15 family houses and additional common building have been finished and roofed. Construction on the Children’s Villages in Lamreung near Banda Aceh and Cot Nibong by Meulaboh began in late August an. Here, too, each of the villages will comprise 15 family houses and extra social centers.

New Hope for the Children in Pondicherry

A good year ago, 27 women from Medan, Meulaboh and Banda Aceh began training to become SOS Children’s Village mothers for the three new villages in Indonesia. They are currently at the SOS Training Center in Lembang on Java. By day, the women take theory and practice classes, and gather hands-on experience at the SOS Children’s Village in Lembang. Tsunami orphans also benefit from Bertelsmann sponsorships beyond Indonesia, as in Pondicherry, India. Work on the local Children’s Village proceeds apace, most of the buildings already stand, though they still lack a roof. For roughly a year, a temporary Children’s Village in Pondicherry in has provided care to girls and boys; all sixty of them will probably also be able to move into their new homes next summer. They are already being attended to by SOS mothers who will later move into the family houses with the children, and who are supported in their work by the future village manager and two social workers. The children attend public schools in town, and are given tutoring as needed.

Apart from Pondicherry, SOS Children’s Villages is now planning to build two more villages in India’s tsunami-wracked regions. A small village with five family houses is slated for construction in Port Blair on the Andaman Islands. A suitable property has already been found, and construction is scheduled to begin within the year. An SOS Vocational Training Center for teens will also be erected here. The other new Children’s Village will be built in Tamil Nadu, a region hard hit by the tsunami. The relief organization already has an SOS social center including an outpatient clinic here. The planned Children’s Village will include ten family houses for 100 children and the necessary outbuildings.

Other Children’s Villages in Planning

An SOS social center will eventually be added to provide long-term support for children and families in the neighborhood. SOS Children’s Villages expects that this, too, will begin construction before the end of the year; the first children will be able to move in by early 2008. In the immediate aftermath of the flood disaster in December 2004, Bertelsmann AG had pledged one million euros to SOS Children’s Villages, a worldwide relief organization. A subsequent fund drive raised another roughly €200,000 from employees in Germany, the U.S. and U.K., Spain, Chile, Mexico, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands and Austria. Bertelsmann then topped it off by matching their donations, bringing the total amount in the Bertelsmann relief fund set up for this purpose to €1.4 million. The money will serve to finance the Bertelsmann sponsorships which will support the children for a period of at ten years or more.