Hermann Gmeiner, a native Austrian, founded the first Austrian SOS Children's Villages association in 1949. For Hermann Gmeiner, the original goal was, after the devastation of the Second World War, to provide orphans and abandoned children with a family, a house, and a village in which to feel at home. The first SOS Children's Village was built in Imst in the Austrian province of Tyrol the same year.
The very first house in the village was named "House of Peace". Imst has become the model for SOS Children's Villages all over the world; an adaptable, internationally practicable and all-embracing child-care concept.
Every SOS Children's Village offers a permanent home in a family-style environment to children who have lost their parents or can no longer live with them. Four to ten boys and girls of different ages live together with their SOS mother in a family house, and eight to fifteen SOS Children's Village families form a village community.
The so-called 'four principles' - the SOS mother, the sisters and brothers, the family house and the SOS Children's Village - form the basis and the framework of the concept of our work at the SOS Children's Villages. The foremost of these principles is the mother, or mother-centred care.
SOS Children's Village BC (SOS BC for short) is the charitable organization that fundraises for and manages the only SOS Village in Canada in Surrey, British Columbia. SOS BC supports the many foster children who need help right here in our province with the Village and our outreach programs.
SOS Children's Villages Canada is the National Office of SOS Children's Villages in this country that fundraises exclusively for the international organization and orphaned children in developing countries. We do not receive any monetary support from SOS Canada due to our different focuses.
"SOS Children's Villages" is the English name of the entire organisation, active in over 130 countries and territories through national associations.
SOS Children's Villages International is the name of the umbrella organisation of all SOS Children's Villages associations. As the umbrella organisation has been registered as an association with the Austrian authorities, the legal name used is a German language term.
All SOS Children's Villages associations have their own local boards and are responsible for the organisation's activities in the respective countries. SOS Children's Villages International focuses on orphaned children in developing countries and thus does not provide SOS BC with monetary support.
Our 'non-denominational' stance could also be described as 'faith neutral'.
We operate in over 130 countries of numerous varying religions. In line with our mandate to help children shape their own futures, we do not encourage or advocate for any one faith or religion over another.
Instead, children are brought up according to the beliefs they have taken from their biological parents. If the parents’ faith is unknown, children are brought up according the most prominent religion within their culture. This ensures that children’s experience with SOS Children’s Villages is culturally relevant.
SOS Children's Villages' primary concern is always with the well-being of orphaned and abandoned children, regardless of politics. For these reason SOS works to remain a non-political organization, working in over 130 countries with various different political systems and ideologies.
In order to best serve the needs of orphaned children, SOS works with the governments of all host countries. Cooperation with governments helps ensure the long-term stability of our villages and services within a given country. Prior to the construction of any of our villages in a new country, an agreement with the host government is signed, laying out the foundation for cooperation (regarding everything from child care model, child admission, and taxation).
Every effort is made to ensure that the children who are admitted into an SOS Children's Village are those who are in the greatest need, and who can be best helped by integration into and SOS family.
The SOS Children's Villages association of the respective country defines the criteria for admittance which will best achieve this goal. They do so using SOS-Kinderdorf International guidelines which are interpreted according to local social, economic and legal factors, as well as working in cooperation with local child care authorities and government.
SOS never separates children from their biological siblings - this means that the siblings of SOS Children are automatically accepted into the SOS Village.
There is no specific age at which children have to leave the SOS Children's Village. Usually, they stay in the care of SOS Children's Villages until they are capable of looking after themselves; until they have completed their education or vocational training and can make a living on their own.
In British Columbia, foster children are deemed adults when they turn 19 and thus lose government support at this time. SOS Children's Village BC has a Youth in Transition Program to help such vulnerable youth outside of our Village.