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SOS Village goes a long way

Conrad Sangma with the children in Umiam on Saturday

Shillong: Located close to U Lum Sohpetbneng (the navel of heaven), the SOS Children's Village at Umiam in Meghalaya's Ri Bhoi district has grown from strength to strength.

Overlooking Umiam lake, the village started functioning in 1999. There are 202 children, comprising 101 boys and an equal number of girls, being cared for by the village, which has 12 family homes.

SOS Children's Village provides family-based care and reaches out to 6,500 parentless or abandoned children in 32 SOS Children's Villages across India. Each children's village has 12-15 family homes, with every home consisting of 10 children on an average and an SOS 'mother'.

On Saturday, the village observed the 99th birth anniversary of its founder Hermann Gmeiner in the presence of chief minister Conrad K. Sangma.

A report prepared by the village said more than 25 youngsters have completed their higher education and skill training and are placed in different vocations. Dona, who completed her diploma in hospitality, is working for a US Caribbean cruise while Splendour, armed with an MBA degree, is working as a senior executive with a leading mobile service provider.

The Village has also been implementing the Family Strengthening Programme since 2007. Currently, the programme supports 484 children with 116 families from six villages located in Umroi and Umsning. For economic empowerment, the programme has initiated 10 self-help groups. This year, 150 children in two villages will be joining the programme.

The programme addresses care, protection, participation and development needs of socio-economically vulnerable children and their families. It aims to address four crucial areas of intervention, which include educational and psycho-social support to the children, healthcare and nutritional support, mobilisation, empowerment and skill development of the heads of the families (mainly mother), and support to families for enhancing livelihood and income generating activities.

Speaking on the occasion, chief minister Conrad K. Sangma advised the children to "keep smiling, keep working, and keep praying" even in the face of adversities. Umroi legislator George B. Lyngdoh stressed on the need for the government to change its current policies vis-à-vis providing financial assistance to orphans.

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