Modern life gets busy and it's easy to lose perspective on what's important. Thankfully, my work always reminds me to be grateful for the important things in life, like food on the table and a roof over my head. For too many families all over the world, these basic necessities cannot be met. And when parents can't provide the basics--including medical care, water, shelter and food-- their children are at increased risk of abandonment.
Our first priority at SOS Children's Villages - USA is the wellbeing of children and families. We implement Family Strengthening Programs around the world to provide support to families in need. These families are often single-parent households, struggling with AIDS, political instability, and limited economic opportunities. SOS provides families with immediate help--like economic support and medical services--and longer term support that aims to permanently lift families out of poverty, such as vocational classes, counseling and psychological support. All of our programs aim to help families stay together and build safe environments for their children to grow and thrive.
I recently met an inspiring beneficiary of one of our programs at SOS Children's Villages Bahir Dar in Ethiopia. Genet is a young widow in her 20s who lost her husband to AIDS. She also has a 2-year-old son.
When she was first introduced to SOS, she was extremely ill and was struggling just to care for herself and her son. She had no source of income. Even the bare minimum--a "roof over one's head"--was a plastic sheet that did not keep Genet and her son dry.
Through our Family Strengthening Programs, she was able to receive the help she needed: childcare for her son, medical assistance to improve her health, and nutritional meals to help her and her son thrive. In order to provide Genet with her own source of income, the program also helped her enroll in food preparation courses and taught her about other income generating activities.
Slowly but surely Genet was able to rebuild her life. Her son is now a student in the SOS Bahir Dar daycare center where he is receiving an education that will position him to become a successful adult. Genet is thrilled her son is back in school and she is even happier that she is able to provide for him. She learned valuable job skills through our programs and now earns her own income by making and selling bread to local businesses. With the money she earned, she was finally able to purchase a real tin roof--one that keeps the water out and her son dry. Thanks to SOS and Genet's hard work and dedication, she and her son are now healthy and happy.
Unfortunately, not all families are as lucky as Genet's. There are still thousands of homeless Ethiopian children, many of whom roam the streets of the country's urban centers, and roughly 40 percent of all Ethiopian children below the age of 5 are chronically undernourished. As we take time to give thanks for the "bare minimum"--food and shelter--in our own lives, let's do our part to ensure all children have the same basics. Children everywhere need food, shelter, love and support to thrive, and we keep working towards that--one family at a time.