Southeast Asia: Tsunami Children’s Villages Take Shape
Indonesia and its neighboring countries are being wracked by one disaster after another: six weeks ago an earthquake left thousands dead, and another tsunami claimed hundreds more victims last week. The three Bertelsmann-sponsored SOS Children’s Villages under construction in the hard-hit Southeast Asian country have not been affected. Here, as at the other three children’s villages in India, Sri Lanka and Thailand, where children orphaned by the devastating tsunami of Dec 26, 2004 are to live thanks to long-term Bertelsmann sponsorships, planning and construction proceeds apace. Bertelsmann companies and employees had donated a total €1.4 million for the victims of the flood disaster.
Construction of the new Children’s Village is in full swing in Pondicherry, India. Once the ground was leveled, walls were erected along the perimeter of the property and the position of the individual houses pinpointed on the grounds. The foundations for the houses are now being poured. The SOS Children’s Villages relief agency expects that the children will be able to move into their new home by early summer 2007. At the moment, more than 40 children live in a temporary Children’s Village in Pondicherry, being cared for by newly trained SOS mothers. The current facility can accommodate up to 60 children. Another 90 girls and boys will join them and find a new home with an SOS family once the Children’s Village is finished.
A lot has been happening in Indonesia as well, where three new Children’s Villages are planned. Construction began in May on the first village, the SOS Children’s Village in Medan. The village is being built on the fringes of the city of Medan, in a very green region that is, however, already hooked up to the public utilities and transportation infrastructure. There are public schools nearby, so that the children from the Children’s Village can be integrated in their neighborhood. 150 children will find a new home here. The village will encompass 15 family houses, a community hall, accommodations for the SOS employees and various community buildings. The community facilities will house an outpatient unit, a center for various courses, a library, a workshop, the Children’s Village Office and storage facilities. There will also be an SOS kindergarten for 90 children.
The first few SOS Children’s Village Mothers for Medan have already been selected and trained. In addition to receiving theoretical training at the SOS Training Center in Lembang on Java, the women also gain practical experience in one of Indonesia ’s existing SOS Children’s Villages. Temporary accommodations have already been set up for the first SOS mothers and approximately 20 children in a rented house. Construction on the two other Indonesian SOS Children’s Villages Banda Aceh and Meulaboh will begin this summer, the plans are already completed. SOS Children’s Villages expects that all three projects will be ready for move-in after about a year of construction. Eleven future SOS mothers have already been recruited for the SOS Children’s Village in Banda Aceh. Having received the necessary training, the first few of them are already caring for some 30 children at a temporary facility. In Meulaboh, too, a rented building now houses the first few children, and ten SOS mothers are being prepared for their new assignment.
The situation in Sri Lanka is more difficult; the relief organization reports that its plans for building a Children’s Village on the East Coast have not yet taken shape despite intensive efforts. SOS Sri Lanka employees have scouted for suitable properties in several places. But due to the ongoing unrest and the difficult security situation, no location has been found yet that would allow for safely caring for children in their environment.
Finally, SOS Children’s Villages is planning the construction of a new Children’s Village in Thailand , to provide long-term care for children who lost their families in the wake of the tsunami. The village will be built near Phuket and will consist of twelve family houses for a maximum of 120 girls and boys.
Within a few days after the tsunami disaster in December 2004, Bertelsmann AG had pledged €1 million to the SOS Children’s Villages relief organization. The subsequent fund drive brought in another roughly €200,000 from employees in Germany, the U.S. and U.K., Spain, Chile, Mexico, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands and Austria. This impressive sum was then doubled by Bertelsmann. In all, €1.4 million in relief funds were paid into the account set up by Bertelsmann for this purpose. The money will go to finance Bertelsmann sponsorships, which provide long-term support to children for at least ten years.