Three of us visited SOS Children’s Village in Zarraga, Iloilo in December of 2008. SOS Children’s Village Philippines is part of an international charity which provides long-term care to orphaned, abandoned and neglected Filipino children. 128 children reside at SOS Iloilo. There are six other SOS villages in the Philippines, caring for over 700 children in total. The centers also provide outreach care and other services to families and communities near each SOS location. These “Family Strengthening Programs” help another 1,000 families in Iloilo and Guimaras Province.
Bob has thirty years of experience in the U.S. working for government and non-government organizations providing social services, including a residential center for children in New Hampshire. He came away from the visit very impressed with the SOS Iloilo operation.
SOS began in Austria and expanded worldwide. Funds come mainly from overseas, and oversight is through the Austrian offices. The entire physical plant was well financed, beautifully planned, executed and maintained. The staff is all Filipino and provide warm, compassionate, competent and focused care based on SOS principles. The combination of Filipino compassion and European financing and oversight is a happy one.
SOS villages are limited in size. They attempt to provide as family-like a life for the children as possible. About ten children live more or less permanently in each home-like cottage, or at least until they are ready to live on their own. The cottages have their own kitchens and all cooking is done by the mother with help from the family. Having this arrangement, instead of a central kitchen and dining hall, helps maintain the homey rather than institutional feel of SOS. The cottages are managed by single women who serve the role of SOS mother. The other children in the cottages are brothers and sisters. The mothers have considerable responsibility and independence in running their cottages, all within general SOS guidelines and standards. The overall village is each child’s community. These are the basic principles underlying SOS. They are a breath of fresh air in their simplicity and freedom from academic or social-work jargon.
Our tour was led by Ging Batogon (above) who showed us a video about SOS, its founder , its philosophy and its operations, patiently answered our many questions and then led us on a tour of the SOS Iloilo campus.
The cottages very skilfully incorporate traditional themes from Filipino domestic architecture and also some practical aspects too, such as the roof louvers which allow hot air to exit the roof and wide roof overhangs. There are lots of windows which open. These and other details help keep these un-air conditioned residences comfortable in the tropical Philippines.
The furniture is made by local craftsmen, another way that SOS supports the community in which it is located.
While we have no ties to SOS, we do feel we can recommend it as an extremely well-run Philippine charity. If you are looking for a trustworthy Philippine charity, consider supporting SOS. If you’d like to visit, just call ahead and we’re sure you too will be impressed. There are SOS villages in Manila, Bataan, Lipa (Batangas), Cebu, Tacloban, Calbayog (Samar) and Davao. The phone number of the Iloilo SOS Village is +63-33-525-4563.Visit the SOS website: www.sosphilippines.org