SOS mothers provide the children with the love and support they need to flourish (photo: T. Jol).
On the morning of 26 December 2004, a tsunami caused by an earthquake with the epicentre near Banda Aceh struck the coastal areas of the Indian Ocean. More than 130,000 people died in Indonesia, even more lost their homes and thousands of children were separated from their parents. Medan, Indonesia's fourth largest city and the capital of the North Sumatra Province, was less affected than the western cities of Banda Aceh and Meulaboh, but right after the natural disaster, many people fled to Medan.
As one of the main towns in the province, even today people continue to move to Medan. As many do not have any training or education, they end up doing informal jobs such as selling small goods on the streets. As parents struggle to eke out a living, families often fall apart. Most of the children in our care only have one parent; single mothers in particular find it hard to get a job and care for their children. A lot of children are also forced to go out to earn some money; they have no time to attend school because they are concentrating on surviving.
After the tsunami, SOS Children's Villages provided immediate emergency relief to traumatised children and homeless families. We tried to take care of as many children as possible and find their relatives in order to reunite the families. In addition, we reached out to the local community by re-constructing more than 500 private homes and community centres near Banda Aceh and Meulaboh. Generous donations and close cooperation with the local authorities finally made it possible for our organisation to set up three new SOS Children's Villages in Banda Aceh, Medan and Meulaboh. As people have continued to move to Medan, our activities in the area have grown and adjusted to the new needs of the local population.
A boy in our care shares an everyday moment with his SOS mother (photo: T. Jol).
In 2005, SOS Children's Villages Indonesia launched its first family strengthening programmes. Working with local authorities, we aim to support families at risk of abandoning their children and to encourage families to stay together. In the SOS Social Centre in Medan we offer counselling in various fields, community support and psychological support. The programmes are designed to ensure that children have access to essential services, such as education, health services and psycho-social support. Families are given food or assisted with income generation, and they receive help when dealing with the authorities. By attending workshops and self-help groups people's parental skills and awareness of children's rights are improved. In addition, the SOS Kindergarten provides day care for up to 90 children. To parents who have to earn a living it is very important to have professional day care for their children, so that they are not forced to leave them unattended while they are at work.
For children whose families can no longer take care of them SOS Children's Villages provides a loving home in one of the SOS families in Medan. These children can attend the SOS Kindergarten, where they are taught together with children from local families. Later they attend schools in the area, which helps them become part of the local community.
Young people who are ready to move out of the SOS families join our SOS Youth Programme when they start vocational training or go on to higher education. With the support of qualified professionals, the young people develop perspectives for their future, learn to shoulder responsibility and increasingly make their own decisions.