In Need of Care and Protection: At the SOS Children’s Villages

October 15th, 2017

Towards the end of the summer, I had the opportunity to visit two SOS Children’s Villages in Jamaica: one in Stony Hill, St. Andrew and the other in Barrett Town, near Montego Bay. On both occasions, the villages were relatively quiet; most of the children were out enjoying themselves at summer camps, before the new school term started.

Village Director Marcia Brown on the steps at Stony Hill SOS Village. (My photo)

Village Director Marcia Brown on the steps at Stony Hill SOS Village. (My photo)

Village Director at Stony Hill Marcia Brown welcomed me at the top of the steps. The building is quite an old one, with deep cut stone steps and some solid stone walls inside. There was an unfortunate fire there in October 2016, which destroyed the computer lab and equipment, donated through IGT’s generous After School Advantage Programme for underprivileged children. However, the lab is already restored, and due to have its official opening shortly. I am not sure if they have located one yet, but the home does need a trained IT supervisor for the computer lab.

The view from Stony Hill SOS Children's Village. There is a proliferation of ackee trees, but I would like to see a "greener" compound. (My photo)

The view from Stony Hill SOS Children’s Village. There is a proliferation of ackee trees, but I would like to see more “green” on the compound itself. (My photo)

The SOS Children’s Village in Barrett Town was embraced in a sleepy hush, apart from the distant sound of music over the hill. It was a humid afternoon; all the children were out at their much-anticipated summer football camp near Montego Bay. At the end of a bumpy road, the Village is tucked into a small, green valley. There were brilliant yellow crotons, and a splash of red on the hillside from an African tulip tree. 78 children currently live there.

A beautiful quote from the idealistic Hermann Gmeiner, founder of the SOS Children's Villages. (My photo)

A beautiful quote from the idealistic Hermann Gmeiner, founder of the SOS Children’s Villages. (My photo)

A quote from the founder of the SOS Children’s Village, an Austrian philanthropist named Hermann Gmeiner, was painted on the wall of the computer lab building (also a donation from IGT). A large framed photograph of Mr. Gmeiner (1919 – 1986) depicted a man with a kind smile, perched on an Alpine mountainside far away. He founded the first SOS Children’s Village in Imst, Austria in 1949, and clearly this quote reflected his post-war philosophy. Hermann Gmeiner believed in family; as of 2013, over 82,000 children and youth were being raised and cared for in 554 SOS Children’s Villages and over 600 SOS Youth Facilities (for 16 to 18 year olds) worldwide, and many thousands of adults and children were benefiting from a family strengthening programme.

The SOS Village in Barrett Town, St. James. (My photo)

The SOS Village in Barrett Town, St. James. (My photo)

The children, aged six upwards, who live in these homes (in separate houses, headed by “Aunties”) are not orphans. They are separated from their family homes because – to cut many long and painful stories short – they are no longer happy family homes. All of the children bear the inner (and in some cases outer) scars of abuse and neglect. There are brothers and sisters living in the Villages. A few may, one day return to their families, depending on the circumstances. Most do not. At age eighteen, they are supposed to leave the institution where they have been nurtured, and fend for themselves; in some cases, however, they are kept on into their early twenties, if they simply have no place to go. Some pursue college courses, at this point; Stony Hill has students at Shortwood Teachers College, the University of Technology and elsewhere.

Approximately 4,800 children were in State care in Jamaica, as of March 2016; more than a village, almost a small town; and around six Ward Theatres full.

These Jamaican boys and girls are, to coin the official, legalistic phrase, “children in need of care and protection.”

Certainly, that is what family is all about – with love as an added ingredient.

If you would like to support the SOS Children’s Villages in Jamaica, you can donate in cash or kind (tools for skills training, computer equipment, scholarships to colleges and universities, and other needs); volunteer; leave a legacy or will; or sponsor a child or village. Contact the National Office at:

SOS Children’s Village of Jamaica Foundation
National Office
26 Peter Pan Avenue (Brandon Hill)
P.O. Box 654, Montego Bay 2
JAMAICA
Tel : (876) 952-6215, 979-5850
Fax: (876) 979-5855
e-mail: sos.jamaica@cwjamaica.com

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