In 1980 the founders of SOS Children’s Village BC, Gilles and Lois Bouchard, were troubled by the unstable life of a 15 year old girl who entered their lives. She had been in foster care from the age of 6. She was separated from all her siblings and lived in several foster homes (some extremely difficult) with three different placements just between age 15 and 16 alone. At 19, she received a government cheque for $400 and was on her own in the world, struggling to survive without family or adequate education.
The research of the founding members led to the discovery of SOS Children’s Villages. The first SOS Village was founded in 1949 in Austria by a student of pediatric medicine, Hermann Gmeiner. SOS Children’s Villages has been dedicated to providing family-based, long-term care to children who cannot grow up with their biological families. It also focuses on strengthening families and communities so that conditions that cause children to be placed in out of home care are avoided.
Today Gmeiner’s vision for children and family is reflected in the continuum of service demonstrated through 568 Villages in 137 countries, 620 Family Strengthening Programs, 579 Youth Facilities, 277 Kindergartens, 247 Alternative Care Programs, 196 Schools, 137 Vocational Centres, 82 Medical Centres, 35 Emergency Relief programs, impacting the lives of over 1.1 million people each year.
Spurred on by their ever-increasing understanding of the difficulties inherent in the foster care system, the founders together with other committed individuals persevered to establish SOS Children’s Village BC. Years of navigating a complicated system and diligently raising funds proved positive with the opening of our doors in 1999.
As the only Village in Canada, we are financially autonomous from SOS Children’s Villages Canada, the National Office that raises funds only for International work. The Village reflects families, staff, board members and donors committed to the provision of safety, health, nurture and opportunities for children and youth who have lost so much over the course of their very young lives. Nearly all the funds we require for our annual budget come from private donors and corporations who are dedicated to making a difference for children.
In 2009, SOS Children’s Villages received the Save the World Award, and in previous years, received numerous honors including the Mother Teresa Gold Medal and the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize.
Investing in children at risk and families demonstrates its positive impact in due time. Dr. Gmeiner was noted for saying “Nothing in the world is more important than to care for a child.” Today it is the motto by which we at SOS Children’s Village BC conduct our work.