SOS Children’s Village, Lefkoşa – March 2014

by Jewel Pearce

On Friday morning, 14th March 2014, Chairman Işık Muhtaroğlu, and 4 committee members visited the SOS Childen’s Village, Lefkoşa. The purpose of the visit was to present a cheque for 1,000TL to Naciye Sunbur, the Chief Accountant. The cheque is the ATA’s annual donation towards the running costs of the Village.

Our wonderful, supportive journalist member, Marion Stuart, attended for the official presentation of the cheque. The group was told that 1 million TL is needed each year to fund the work of the SOS. This is made up of 18% from the Government, donations and a top-up from the Austrian Headquarters. Unfortunately, due to demand from newer “Villages”, especially in Africa, the Austrian contribution is being reduced by 15% annually, with Lefkoşa having to be self-sufficient after 2015. Government funding is also being reduced.

There are currently 72 children at Lefkoşa, living in 12 of the 13 “Homes.” Each Home has 7 children of mixed ages with siblings always kept together.  A permanent live-in “Mother” is responsible for each Home with a pool of 8 “Aunties” providing cover for the mothers when they take their 6 days break each month.

Each mother has a budget for her house and does the shopping, cleaning, cooking etc as part of the overall parental care of the children.

On arrival, each child has to sign a copy of the house rules, such as not taking the property of others, or playing in the house – or on their beds! Homework has to be done on the night given, and the children are encouraged to develop interests and skills.

We met Sali, an 11 year old who is in the home with his brother and sister. He wants to play sport and had to have a medical that morning so did not attend school that day.

Regular contact is kept between the children and their families, and if deemed appropriate by the combined agencies relating to child and family welfare, they may return to their own homes.

The children and “Mothers” develop a strong bond with each other. This is reflected in the fact that the mothers visit them when they are doing their Army service and they, in turn, make return visits to the mothers. Mothers are also invited to engagements, attend weddings and become “grandmother” to their children.

Twelve years ago, a Home in Girne was opened for the children of 16 years old where they live till they are 18. SOS then supports the youngsters by providing semi-independent living till they are 21-22, finding work placements for them, or arranging for the Government to take over the support of those who gain university places, regardless of the country chosen.

The Home is given legal responsibility for each child in its care after a protocol is signed with the Social Welfare Office, very important when the time comes for the child to decide his/her own future.

In 2006, SOS started an Out-Reach Programme, offering support to families in the villages and this need is constantly increasing.

I visited the SOS Village a few years ago when I first joined the ATA Committee. I was saddened during today’s visit, to find that the rooms in the house that we visited were very shabby. I remember the rooms as being really smart and full of the fancy bits with which children like to decorate their rooms. One can understand that now the priorities of Staff cannot include redecoration or refurbishment and that each year now will be a struggle just to provide a basic living for the children.

Hicran also mentioned that as well as cash they welcome goods such as good second-hand clothes and shoes.

We left Lefkoşa with plenty to think about.