Posted by: Silver | October 26, 2010

SOS Children’s Village BC

There’s only one SOS Children’s Village in Canada, and I quite deliberately planned my route to ensure that I would be able to stop by and say hello; having volunteered for a while on the fundraising and administration side of the charity back in Cambridge, I was very keen to see the ‘action’ end of the organisation. And the executive summary is: it was inspiring!

The children were all at school when I visited (again, quite deliberately: they’re kids after all, not exhibits), but two of SOSBC’s staff very kindly took several hours out of their schedules to talk to me about the work they do there. Having fallen in love with Canada as a well-developed, forward-looking nation, it was a bit of a shock to learn just how badly the system here is failing Canadian children who have to enter foster care. Within the ‘standard’ provincial foster care system, children are moved an average of seven times during their childhood, leading inevitably to terrible feelings of instability and a lack of belonging; due to a lack of government funding, they also receive little if anything in the way of therapeutic help to address their special needs (many children in the foster care system have foetal alcohol spectrum disorder or similar difficulties, and many develop challenging behaviours precisely as a result of their unstable upbringing). As in all SOS Children’s Villages, however, the children cared for by SOSBC grow up in the same family home with the same SOS Mother throughout their childhood, and beyond if necessary – no arbitrary severance on their 19th birthday here.

More than just providing them with stability though, the charity also helps the children to make the most of their potential by offering a whole range of therapeutic services, from a homework club (as popular for its one-on-one interaction as for its academic assistance), to neurofeedback, a cutting edge technology for helping the kids retrain their brains away from damaging and unhelpful behaviours that they may have built up as defence mechanisms to deal with the trauma they have suffered in their young lives, but which have now become habitual and destructive. It was really inspiring to see that SOS not only builds homes for the children in its care, but also does all it can to build a brighter future for them too.

I learned an incredible amount from my visit – about the inadequacies of the provincial foster care system, about the traumas faced by the children who enter this system and the (behavioural, social and other) difficulties it results in, and about the work SOS is doing to repair this damage. I learned of the charity’s aspirations to prevent children from entering the system in the first place by extending its services to families at risk, and I also learned that their funding is almost entirely separate from SOS Children’s Villages International, which is why I’ve added an extra link on the right, for anyone who might feel motivated to make a donation directly to the Village in Vancouver!

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Responses

  1. Ah that’s really nice! Glad you got to visit and that you had such a positive experience! Yes you are probably right: As Canada is a developed country with a tradition of charitable giving they would probably be responsible for most of their fundraising on a national level. Many of the other 507 SOS Children’s Villages around the world can’t do national fundraising to that extent though – that’s why we depend on people like you SIlver to tell the story about them!

  2. Noting the concern about lack of government support, I can’t help wondering if that’s part of the ‘downside’ of Canada’s spending cutbacks of 20% in the mid-90s, which the current UK govt is saying we should emulate now. Longterm effect?
    It’s a good job, and inspiring, that SOS is there to pick up the pieces, but as you say, it’s dissapointing if the govt is apparently not fulfilling its own responsibility.
    Cheers, John.

    • Hi John,

      Yes; the long-term effect, of course, is that – without funding for prevention services – more children end up in care (costing more money), and without adequate funding for care, more children end up either in hospital or in prison (costing even more money). But the benefits of spending money on prevention may only be seen and felt many years later – far longer than a political term of office… Realistically, I think there would always be a role for charities like SOS, as – short of taxing us all at 100% – government money is always going to be limited, but it was indeed very disappointing to learn just how far short of adequate the current situation is.

  3. Hi Silvia: Great to know you’ve visited SOS Children’s Village BC! I’m a founder/ambassador for SOS BC and delighted to read your observations.

    One thing to clarify: SOS BC is funded through local fundraising only, not national support. SOS Canada is committed exclusively to international projects.

    I’m including the website for our local SOS Children’s Village Run, conducted by a volunteer community group in Richmond, BC and welcome any and all to come play with us in May 2011 to raise funds for local kids. Watch for the date which will be announced early in the New Year!

    Happy trails, and thanks for sharing your stories!

  4. Oops ~ apologies for mis-naming you, Tana!

    • Hi Lois,
      Thanks for your comment, and no worries about my name: my real name is indeed Tana, but almost everyone knows me as Silver, so I’m pretty much set up to cause confusion! Anyone in the lower mainland who’d like to find out more about (and hopefully take part in!) the SOSBC run should definitely check out the website at http://www.sosbcrun.ca.

  5. SILVER!
    Christmas Greetings to you! It is lovely to see your site and comments…and it was especially nice to have you come and see us at our village in BC! I look forward to reading about your continued adventure!
    We’ve just had our kids Christmas party and it was a blast! Kiewit donated all the toys and Beachcomber Spas sponsored the party and the mom’s dinner! By the time the kids were done- their tongues were blue from candy and they had that sugar crash look in their eyes! Something that you will have to come and share in the future!
    Well..that’s all from the west coast! Take care…be safe….and all the season’s happiness to you!

    Corina


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