In the post-World War II era when Europe was rebuilding both its physical and social infrastructure, Hermann Gmeiner, Maria Hofer, Josef Jestl, Ludwig Kögel, Herbert Pfanner, and Hedwig Weingartner recognized a problem: thousands of children had lost their families and the infrastructure of the time presented them with the prospect of an institutional childhood in large-scale orphanages.
Together, these six individuals decided to make a difference and in 1949, founded the Societas Socialis – SOS – in Innsbruck, Austria. A year later, the name was changed to SOS Children’s Villages. Under their guidance, the organization and its many volunteers pioneered an innovative model of alternative care that focused on providing children with reliable, family-like relationships that created security and a real place of belonging.
Their initiative was highly successful and the organization grew quickly, becoming the Global Federation of SOS Children’s Villages International in 1963. Over the past 70-plus years, we have supported close to 4 million children and young people through a wide and ever-evolving range of programmes that are adapted to contextual and cultural needs. Today, our locally led operations in more than 130 countries and territories work to strengthen families experiencing hardship so they can stay together. When staying with their family is not in a child or young person’s best interest, we provide them with quality care and support adapted to their unique needs, experiences and culture. We advocate to help build a sustainable future for all children and young people. We put them at the centre of our actions to support the Sustainable Development Goals, recognizing that every single child and young person has a right to be included in global efforts to make sustainable development a reality.