In their own words

This year we share with you the voices of people who are part of our greater community. They describe the additional hardship and stress that COVID-19 created, but also positive moments and opportunities for change that have resulted from the pandemic.

Shaiima* (12) is in grade three. He lives with his parents, three younger brothers and sister in a rural village in Ethiopia and participates in our emergency response programme.

How do you spend your day?

I attend school in the morning hours only because it is too hot here to have lessons in the afternoon. I wear a mask for protection. Science is my best subject. After school, I feed my father’s cows and then I play volleyball with my brother.

Which challenges are you currently facing?

I am afraid that Covid will infect children in my community because people here do not always follow prevention instructions. I also worry that our small farm does not produce much food. Now my father has to find work at a construction site so we can eat, but the money is not enough, and we do not have enough water. The water at the water point here comes once a week and what we fetch lasts three days only.

How does your family bond?

In the evening when we come together, my younger brother tells us funny stories and everyone laughs. He gets the fairy tales he shares from my grandparents. I also tell stories but my brother is better at it. It’s a good way to end a difficult day.

Who do you talk to when you are feeling discouraged?

My father and I are very close. He is the one I talk to when I am sad or disturbed by our home situation or life itself. I go to him because I am able to talk to him freely. I believe he is able to protect me.

Which is your future dream job?

When I grow up, I want to be a doctor to help sick people feel better again. I visited a hospital once and I saw the doctors in their white coats helping patients and that inspired me.

*Names changed to protect child's privacy

My father and I are very close. He is the one I talk to.



Teresa Ngigi (53) has worked at SOS Children’s Villages for five years. A specialist in trauma-informed care, she is Kenyan by birth and lives with her family in Italy.


Have you learned anything from the pandemic?

How to use Zoom! Initially it was difficult because I’m such a people person. Now I’m conducting a lot more trainings virtually – we can connect faster. Technology has really saved us.

What has been the biggest impact on children?

The stress generated by COVID-19 has put many families under strain. The caregiver may not have any more resources to take care of the child, which the child is expecting, and this has caused conflict.

How has the pandemic affected mental health?

Covid has reawakened a lot of tigers in people’s lives. There is unpredictability and that keeps a person in anxiety. We must ensure that caregivers have all the resources they need, that they are trained and supported in dealing with their own traumas. When we don’t recognize our own traumas, we may be triggered by a child’s behaviour, and in some cases, roles can get reversed: the child we care for starts taking care of us.

How have we supported caregivers this year?

There have been capacity-building sessions, one-onone sessions and trainings. We have also developed a Digital Care Assistant, where caregivers can use their cell phones to help them deal with challenges.

Have you seen any positive change come out of the pandemic?

Before, when people spoke about mental health it wasn’t really given the importance it deserves. But now because of Covid, we’ve been able to put it first and we know that if somebody’s mental health is not safeguarded then their holistic life is affected.




Covid has reawakened a lot of tigers in people’s lives.


— Teresa Ngigi, mental health expert, Italy

Phong Le (28) grew up in family-like care in Ho Chi Minh City and has since founded his own education centre. He is also a dedicated advocate for the rights of care leavers.


How has the pandemic affected you personally?

In terms of my business, I’ve been hit really hard. When the first lockdown happened, I could not provide an online platform to teach students and at that time a lot of the students claimed back their money. It’s been difficult.


Who have you been able to lean on?

Our family members created a group chat on social media and asked a lot of questions: “Are you ok?” “Do you need any help?” My mother called all the children on rotation, and we only needed to hear our mother’s voice for our mental health – it works, honestly. Because of coronavirus, we also had very serious and direct conversations about financial management. Before, when we talked about money, we were shy.



Have you learned anything from the pandemic?

Be a lover of yourself. Everyone needs a person who is always there for them, who always supports them and who always listens to their concerns. But during a pandemic there is no guarantee someone will be able to look after you, so self-care is the lesson I learned.

What can we do to better support care leavers during this difficult time?

In terms of housing support for care leavers, I think we should have a common house – like a safe house – for every care leaver, who can share it, who can use it when they have any trouble in life. Care leavers really need to connect with each other around the world to address our problems directly. The thing I learned from the Care Leavers Convention is that our voices matter. We not only talk about our individual history but we also talk on behalf of other care leavers.

Self-care is the lesson I learned.


— Phong, care leaver, Vietnam

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