On March 1, the cornerstone of the foundation was laid for the Orkla-funded, SOS Children’s Village in the mountain village of Pleiku, in Vietnam.
The permit from the authorities is in place, the architect’s drawings are cleared and the construction work will now be sent out to tender. Construction will take a year, after which 140 of the most disadvantaged children in the region will gradually move into the 14 new, safe, family homes.
Ståle T. Risa, Norway’s Ambassador to Vietnam, attended the ceremony, together with government representatives from the Gai Lai Province and representatives from SOS Children’s Villages in Asia, Vietnam and Norway. Orkla also had representatives there from Lilleborg, Sapa, Orkla Asia Pacific and Orkla’s head office, along with participating representatives from Orkla’s biggest shareholder, Canica.
The ceremony was simple and dignified and was held on the site on which the children’s village will be built. Among the attendees were several of the children who will move into the children’s village once it is completed.
Around 40 percent of the children at SOS Children’s Villages are orphans. The rest are children whose parents, for various reasons, are not able to care for them. At the villages, the living quarters are set up as a family home which accommodates 10 – 11 children and an SOS mother. SOS mothers (and some fathers) live together with the children full-time, and take care of them as if they were their own, biological children. Biological siblings live in the same house.
In Pleiku, the youngest children will attend the new SOS kindergarten, which is mainly attended by children of the local community, while the older children will attend the local school. The children in the SOS Children’s Village will be granted stipends from the SOS Children’s Village to further their schooling and education.
Before the trip to Pleiku, we visited two children’s villages in the Hanoi region. The fate of every individual left a strong impression, along with a belief that it is possible to give people in the most difficult situations a good life. The stories say a lot about what this Orkla-funded SOS Village will mean to the children of Pleiku.
In Hanoi, we saw a three-day-old little girl who was found outside the gates of the children’s village. The little girl was most probably left there by a mother who had no way to care for her baby. The little girl is being cared for by an SOS mother in one of the family homes and will, once the necessary permits from the authorities are in place, grow up with a flock of siblings, go to kindergarten and later to school, get an education, then a job and perhaps, some day, even start her own family.
We met a 19-year-old boy who was abandoned at the hospital where he was born. A woman took care of him for four years. When she couldn’t manage to care for him any longer, he came to the children’s village. During our conversation with him and his SOS mother, he told us about how he grew up. It was a childhood that began with heavy memories, but which later was characterised by the security of the children’s village. He was given the opportunity to go to school, which currently allows him to further his education in hotel and tourism management at a college in Hanoi.
The SOS mother who took him in at the age of four, and helped him become who he is today, has also been a mother to 22 other children. SOS mothers are the backbone of the care the children receive in the children’s villages. Orkla’s agreement as principal partner with SOS Children’s Villages normally spans three years at a time. Orkla has decided to extend the current period by a year, until 31 December 2014.
“At SOS Children’s Villages, the most vulnerable children are helped to mould their own future. The construction of a children’s village in Pleiku will be visible proof that funding from Orkla and its companies provides tangible results. The extension of the agreement can be regarded as an expression of our long-term support of the good work being done by SOS Children’s Villages,” says CEO Bjørn M. Wiggen.
Together, with several of the group companies, voluntary salary deductions and Christmas gifts, Orkla’s contribution since 2008 has been earmarked for building this children’s village in Pleiku.
Orkla has been a principal sponsor of SOS Children’s Villages since 2000.