Family Strengthening Programme
As a result of the growing orphan crisis in Southern Africa, largely attributed to the HIV & AIDS pandemic, SOS realised that there was a need to expand beyond its children's village operations to prevent children from becoming orphaned and abandoned, and falling out of the family environment. SOS responded by developing community-based family strengthening programmes, which provide support to families caring for orphans and vulnerable children, with the aim of keeping these children in their families and communities of origin.
Guiding Principle 1: We meet the needs of children within their community
Activities are designed to support, strengthen and empower families and the community, so that they are able to effectively care for and protect vulnerable children. In this way, children can be brought up within their community, in keeping with their social and cultural roots. This creates greater stability and continuity in their life, which minimises the trauma and stress of their situation.
Guiding Principle 2: We base our actions on the needs and priorities of the community
It is recognised that community members are best placed to identify their own needs and priorities, and to design appropriate solutions. They best understand their own situation and environment, respecting social norms and being able to identify locally available resources. People organise best around problems they consider most important.
Guiding Principle 3: We build equal partnerships with the community
The community is worked with as an equal partner in the development process. As far as possible, community members and organisations actively participate in all stages of project development. As such they gain a sense of ownership over the process and outcomes. The SOS Children's Village organisation contributes its experience, knowledge and skills to this partnership, and shares these with community members.
Guiding Principle 4: We promote self-reliance within the community
By building the knowledge and skills of young people, families, households and the community, development activities foster self-reliance. As such, they will be able to stand on their own feet and create a more positive future for themselves. Through active participation, community members may develop the capacity to plan, negotiate and manage such activities themselves. They are thus enabled to take on more responsibility and help to extend the range of development activities.
As an organisation that specialises in providing care and support to orphans and vulnerable children (OVC), we keep our focus on those children who have lost the care of their parents and those who face a significant risk of this happening to them.
It should be noted that while AIDS is increasingly the major cause of children losing their parents, we do not exclusively focus on orphans of AIDS-related deaths, as this is often practically difficult and carries the risk of stigma and discrimination.
As such, our target group is made up of children who:
- are living with a terminally-ill parent (can be AIDS or other terminal illness)
- have already lost one or both parents (due to AIDS or any other cause)
- are living in an orphan household (i.e. a household sheltering one or more orphans)
The Family Strengthening Programmes focus on enabling families to "unlock keys" to self-reliance, so that they ultimately take charge of their own development and of their children's futures. These Programmes are either Village-based (operating in an area close to an SOS Village), or community-based (operating from an SOS Social Centre).