Knit together in love | Daily News

Knit together in love

Their eyes say it all. When you look into the eyes of children you see such trust and such desire to receive affection. And intentionally or unintentionally that trust can be shattered by adults. And when that vital trust is shattered the child starts to fear and the presence of fear within them is what leads them to become a toxic person or more correctly a person whose behavior is toxic and who subsequently falls into toxic relationships. At SOS, some children have lost both their parents, some have come from broken families, in some cases the single parent has been deemed unfit to raise the child and sometimes the case is that the family is poverty stricken.

 

Fortunately SOS Children’s Villages are ready to intervene and take these children into their families. Daily News recently attended the ‘No Child Alone Campaign’, which focuses on raising awareness about the needs of the children and help spread the message.

The Family Strengthening Programme is specifically to help children who are at the risk of losing parental care due to poverty. We at SOS Children’s Villages Sri Lanka believe that the best environment for a child to be raised is the biological family. Hence, as prevention measure SOS Children’s Villages Sri Lanka is working with the families who earn less than one USD a day by supporting the education and the nutrition of the children for five years. Parents are taught skills which help them to become financially self- sufficient over time so that they can look after their children.

Children are admitted to SOS Children’s Villages Sri Lanka through a court order or the Probations Department instructions. There are many different parties who will take on this role of a whistle blower, including the Probation Department, Police Department and Civil society. However SOSCVSL will take on a child only through a court order or the Probation Department instructions.

SOS Children’s Villages Sri Lanka try to help a single parent to become financially strong through the Family Strengthening Program as mentioned above. The children at SOS villages are able to grow up in a loving family and community where they are cared for and nurtured.

Deputy Director, Fund Development and Communications, Hasangika Seneviratnepointed out that this is the Christmas season, but tragically some children in our country won’t receive love which is part of the Christmas message and which is the meaning of Christmas.

“The ‘No Child Alone Campaign’ held by SOS Villages Sri Lanka intends on continuing the discourse on the challenges that this segment of the youth are facing so that we can ensure that these children receive the love and care that they are entitled to and become pillars of society tomorrow. So SOS has been providing care for these children for the last 37 years. But we need the support of society itself. So we are looking at this solution(children who have already lost parental care) as well as preventing this problem from occurring through family strengthening,” said Seneviratne

Brand Ambassador, SOS Children’s Villages, Pooja Umashankar,said that she has never lacked proper guidance in her life having the best of teachers that has contributed towards her becoming an outstanding individual. However Pooja experienced the absence of her parents. She recalls as a child she was insecure and pessimistic. She was a child who was always scared and was very reluctant to talk in a gathering.

“Today my friends would not recognize the person I am today. Over time I got over this because I had amazing teachers. When someone for the first time told me about SOS I had no idea that there was such a thing in Sri Lanka. I did not know about their great and commendable work. I did not know about their family strengthening program. That was superb to know about. Initially we got funds from abroad. But now the international response is that we need to look after our children. The people in our country are earning enough so this is fair. So funds can be diverted to poorer nations. By 2023 Sri Lanka has to be self- sufficient,” explained Umashankar.

Vice Chairperson of the committee on the rights of the child, Dr. Hiranthi Wijemanne,a mother and grandmother herself stated that in her experience children are extremely precious and that a country should put its children first in the family and community. She said that the development of a country cannot be judged by the number of skyscrapers it has or the number of luxury shops. The development of a country is judged by how that country looks after its children.

“If we look after our children we will automatically be looking after the future of our nation. Today children throughout the world and our country are in jeopardy. Today we see that families are having problems and there are many broken families. There are a lot of single parent families with the single parents unable to cope because of insufficient income and most children are in institutions. Most children are not orphans and have at least a single parent and most times it is the mother. In many cases the child loses contact with the mother,” said Wijemanne.

Wijemanne added that when the child becomes a young adult of 18, the boy might join a street gang and the girls’ situation is no better. So the child is in an extremely vulnerable situation. So fortunately SOS Children’s Villages have stepped in to provide protection for these children and try and prevent children from having to go to institutions. National Director, SOS Children’s Villages, Divakar Ratnadurai has firmly stated that admitting children to SOS or any other institution must be the last resort. The first resort is to keep the child in the biological family with the biological mother or father. Prevention is better than cure and the family needs to be kept together and the family needs to be supported.

“We know as adults that what matters to us most is our family. Not having a family is one of the worst things that can happen to a child. The last resort is SOS which provides a ‘mother’ and a caring family for the child to grow up in. I know for a fact that in our jails, we get prisoners who are there because as children they did not have the support of a parent,” explained Wijemanne.

Sociologist, Dr. Nishara Fernando said that the family is the first introduction to the socialization process when it comes to a child. The child learns about values, norms and culture from their family. This is why parents are so important.

“So what happens if children do not have their parents? These are critical social issues in Sri Lanka that we have to deal with. What is alarming is that the children will pass down the characteristics they learn from their parents to the next generation. So what we have here is a serious problem. We need to break this cycle. These children who are orphans or single parent children come under a lot of stress. They are also not in a position to successfully cope with it. As a result they end up in institutions. So when they are in these institutions they must be treated with sensitivity and understanding. We need to help them to help themselves build a secure life in the future. I fully endorse what SOS Children’s Villages are doing and I pledge my support for their activities,” said Fernando.

Fernando’s comments are indeed relevant when he says that these children must be able to build a secure life for themselves. This is the entire philosophy of SOS children’s villages.

Managing Partner of BDO Partners, Sujeewa Rajapakse,a father of two daughters has visited SOS villages and in his address he commented on how the youth go astray. Some of them have parents, so one can imagine the plight of those youth who have no parents.

“On Television we see enough and more stories about how young people get caught to crime and various patterns of misbehavior. I feel every child has a right to love and care by his or her parents. At my firm I have interviewed many young boys and girls. I have experience with youth who have difficulties who I have come into contact with. With my daughters I am open, and we discuss various things. I feel that now talking about divorce and such subjects is normal unlike years ago when people did not want to discuss those subjects. I think as businessmen we have a responsibility to society. The world is now progressing at a very fast rate. Society is changing and we must look after the young ones. We need to have compassion. We need to invest in worthy causes. We need to feel. I am going to support SOS Children’s Villages. That is my duty,” said Rajapakse.

National Director, SOS Children’s Villages, Divakar Ratnadurai,is father to many at SOS Children’s Villages and has 33 grandchildren.

“There is a percentage who have not done well but 95 percent of our children are employed and doing well in society. More than 600 boys and girls have got married. We have never allowed a child to be alone. We have always been behind them. They have someone in SOS to fall back on. The SOS mother never abandons them. She is retired and living in SOS. At SOS Children’s Villages the bond with the adoptive mother and the family is never broken. It is forever till death. The mother is always there for advice. The siblings have a bond with each other and that too is forever. Our team is working hard to reach the 2023 deadline. Helping SOS is not only through money it can be through education/ counselling. You can support in different ways,” said Ratnadurai.


 

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