New family homes for SOS Children's Villages
The Norway Grants have partnered with SOS Children's Villages to help orphaned and abandoned children find a new family and home in southern Estonia. On 15 June 2009, construction works began on three new family homes in Põltsamaa.
At mid-Monday this week, a crowd and TV cameras appeared alongside the muddy field next to Kellukse street. Despite the cold rain, the people of Põltsamaa had met up in large numbers to watch local children pour concrete into the foundation of one of three new family houses for the SOS Children's Villages. "The construction works are easyt. The real challenge starts in December when the children move in," commented Margus Oro, National Director of SOS Children's Villages Estonia.
Providing a family
SOS Children's Villages is the largest private childcare organisation in the world, offering family-based care to children who lack parental care. The only SOS Children's village in Estonia today is located in Keila, a small town situated 30 km southwest of capital Tallinn.
Here, a cluster of 12 pastel coloured houses shows what can be done with a large enough scale of ambition and heart. Since 1995, children who have lost their parents or lived in families struggling with alcoholism, drug abuse or poverty have come here to be brought up in a supportive and protective family environment headed by an extensively trained SOS mother.
One of the 62 children living in the village is 14-year old Gertu Kinks from Põltsamaa. She came to Keila four years ago, together with her three younger sisters. Natural siblings are always placed together, and in addition to the four sisters from southern Estonia, two other biological siblings are part of the family. "I was frightened when I first came to the village, but also curious to see what kind of place Keila was like," Gertu said.
Trust and continuity are intimately interconnected in the village. According to Oro, the fundamental task when a child arrives is to heal wounds from a harsh past and build trust between the new parent and child. "The child sees that yes, they have food every day, a house everyday, a family everyday and no one shouts at them. After a few months, the child starts to speak with you and no longer sits and silently looks at you."
Social problems in the south
According to SOS Children's Villages, the southern part of Estonia battles large social problems, with an underdeveloped social welfare system and widespread alcoholism. The number of abandoned children is increasing. "We see that this area in Estonia has many problems with families and children losing parental care. There are no state children homes in central Estonia, so when the local municipality gave us land, we decided to build the new homes in Põltsamaa," Oro said.
The grant from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway originally covered the construction of two houses in Põltsamaa, but falling prices due to the economic slowdown will allow a third home to be built. The required 15% co-financing of the project will be covered by the private fund of Renit Otason.
Two striking features of the coming houses in Põltsamaae will be the absence of picket fences and also the introduction of a SOS father. "This will not be a traditional children's village, in which the houses comprise a separate unit in the community. These three homes will be integrated in the neighbourhood, to allow each of these new families to be like any other family in the area", Tom Malvet of SOS Children's Villages International said.