[COVID Warriors] This NGO is caring for children who lost their parents to COVID-19

Delhi-based SOS Children’s Villages is caring for children, for both short-term and long-term, whose parents are either suffering or have succumbed to COVID-19.
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The COVID-19 pandemic left many families in shatters, leaving many children unintentionally orphaned. Sadly, several children have either lost one or both of their parents to the virus or are left unattended because their parents have tested positive.

Amidst this, Delhi-based NGO SOS Children’s Villages — established in 1964 — as the name suggests, is taking on children who have lost their family to COVID-19.

SOS Children’s Villages of India protects children who do not have a family or those who are at risk of losing one. It focuses on providing children with a loving home, keeping their families together, and supporting young people to become independent. 

Children with their mother at SOS Children's Villages Of India

At present, the NGO has over 6,500 children living in 440 family homes inside 32 SOS Children’s Villages in 22 Indian states and UTs. It directly impacts 28,500 children every year with more

In fact, it also advocates for the rights of 20 million children and young people, laying the foundation for their brighter future. 

SOS offers two flagship programmes – Family-like Care and Family Strengthening.

A long-term care model, Family-like Care provides loving homes to children without parental care in Children’s Villages. 

The community intervention model, Family Strengthening, works with vulnerable communities to prevent ‘at risk’ children from losing parental care by upholding family income through women empowerment and capacity building.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the NGO turned towards aiding severely-impacted children by providing long-term and short-term care.

Impact

To date, SOS Children’s Villages has extended its care to over 95 children who lost their parents to the deadly virus. 

“All children are brought under our care through Child Welfare Committee of the respective state government under the Juvenile Justice Act. SOS Children’s Village Bengaluru has a ‘fit facility’ status from the Karnataka government,” he explains.

As soon as the NGO receives information about a child in distress, it refers them to the Child Welfare Committee. Through its placement orders, the NGO brings the child to the SOS Children’s Village.

While SOS’ volunteers ensure the children are safe, they also practice safety and hygiene protocols while handling such cases.

Distribution of rations as a part of Family Strengthening programme

“We wear PPE suit, headcover, and gloves as none of our body parts should be exposed. We change our kit every day after coming out of the ward, and once we remove the kit, it cannot be re-used. The situation is getting worse by the day, and it is becoming difficult for us. However, I have faith in God that good times will come, and till then, I will keep doing my duty,” says Ashwini, a settled youth of SOS Bengaluru.

Sharing a similar sentiment, Chaya Bora, a Village nurse, SOS Hojai, says, “My job is to care for the ones on behalf of whom I stand because we all know that anyone could be a patient at some point, and everyone needs someone to depend on. I am ready to be one such for all. After all, this is a family of mine.”

She adds, “Nothing to worry about; it’s just a phase; have faith; follow the norms, and we shall emerge out of this with beautiful smiles.” 

The NGO’s fundings are mainly through donations and CSR funds. It also receives funding from partners, including Nikon India, DHL, Bajaj, and Franklin Templeton, among others. 

Safety first

“Keeping in mind the gravity of the current situation, we have taken some immediate actions to safeguard our children, mothers, and co-workers. The Villages are following the SOP and have restricted all visitors. No one is allowed inside the Village,” Sumanta Kar, Secretary-General, SOS Children’s Villages of India, tells SocialStory.

 

These Villages and the medical centres within them are equipped with medical essentials, including PPE kits, sanitisers, masks, and medicines. Moreover, it is procuring oxygen cylinders in almost all villages.

Within regular intervals, the NGO is also carrying out sanitisation and fumigation at every project. In fact, it is also educating all the members of the Village about the dos and don’ts, including highlighting the need to wear facemasks.

“Every village has strengthened its medical facilities for new COVID-19 cases with necessary medicines, oxygen generator, and other supplies. New SOP has been developed for each village to minimise the spread and for any unprecedented events,” Sumanta says.

Further, these Villages are equipped with all necessary information regarding hospitals and doctors, including hiring nurses on contracts, for any emergency.

For example, in Bhopal and Rajpura Villages, two youths, who earlier benefitted from the NGO, are voluntarily providing nursing care to the affected children and mothers in the villages.

Rehabilitation activities during COVID-19

During the COVID-19 pandemic, SOS Children’s Villages of India stepped up to provide help and care to affected children and families wherever its Family Strengthening programme is operational.  

“Our co-workers are tirelessly facilitating vaccination drives in several states, supporting the government and vulnerable communities to get vaccinated. Our teams have taken several initiatives, including supplying COVID-19 medical kits, dry ration, setting up community kitchens, free ambulance services, etc., for the benefit of the affected families in vulnerable communities,” Sumanta shares.

It has started a COVID-19 vaccination drive in various Anganwadi centres for over 700 people in Hojai and 200 people in Silao and Begusarai clusters. Also, it has provided medical support to BPL families in many locations across India.

COVID-19 vaccination drive

“We also distributed personal hygiene and safety supplies in Rajpura clusters, provided free ambulance service for COVID-19 patients in Bhubaneswar, dry rations to over 200 families in Bengaluru, and livelihood support to over 350 caregivers affected from the pandemic,” Sumanta adds.

SOS provides short-term care facilities to children whose parents and caregivers are undergoing treatment for the virus, whereas it’s extending long-term care under its Family-Like Care Programme to those who have lost their parents.

Each Children’s Village has a medical facility, short-stay homes, and quarantine centres to accommodate children who have lost parents to COVID-19. 

“A dedicated toll-free number: 18002083232 is created for people, children, and civil societies to contact us to reach out to those children in distress,” shares Sumanta.

Besides, the NGO is operating a community kitchen at the Bawana JJ Colony, Delhi, with the help of community members and volunteers.

It has set up two more kitchens in Latur, Maharashtra, and Bengaluru. With over 12 volunteers, the kitchen has supported close to 317 families so far.

Challenges and the way forward

“Children who have lost parental care are in a state of shock and have to be handled with tremendous care. However, our committed SOS mothers and co-workers are doing everything in their capacity to reach out to those in need,” he says. 

He adds that the NGO is ensuring all the children under its care are safe and secure, including those from smaller child care institutions, which lack resources to support them under their custody, and are referred to SOS’ by local government bodies.

Talking about the road ahead, Sumanta says, “We endeavour to ensure that no child of any age grows up alone.”
Edited by Suman Singh