—A high wall, barbed wire and iron gates encircle an orphanage for girls in central India.
Inside, girls sit on a concrete floor and pray. When lunch is served, the girls eat with a disturbingly voracious appetite. All of them have an anxious look in their eyes. The majority of them do not attend school because of mental health issues.
This is what Dag Otto Lauritzen observed when he visited the orphanage with his wife, Ellen, in January 2015. Dag Otto, an accomplished cyclist from Norway, was in central India to visit his sponsored child, Soma. He went to the orphanage to see where she used to live before moving in with her SOS Family.
“She lived in a prison for girls,” Dag Otto said, commenting on the orphanage. “In addition to that, she was abandoned and will never know why.”
In India, if an orphaned child is not adopted before age 6, he or she is sent to an orphanage.
Soma lived in the orphanage from age 2 to 5. But when a new SOS Children’s Village opened up in Raipur, the manager of the orphanage, Reena Lariya, contacted local authorities to see about moving some of the girls there, including Soma.
“I knew that she would get an education and a future if she went there,” said Ms. Lariya.
“The orphanage was a much weaker alternative. I am very happy that she came to the SOS Village.”
Ms. Lariya added that she struggles to adequately care for the girls at the orphanage because of a lack of funding and insufficient involvement by the government.
Dag Otto finally met 11-year-old Soma, she was so excited that she forgot his name—the pronunciation of which she had been practicing before his arrival. She gave Dag Otto and his wife a flower wreath and several drawings. She then led him into her home, where he met her SOS siblings and SOS Mother, Purnima.
Dag Otto at the SOS Village in Raipur with Soma, his sponsored child, and Soma's SOS Mother, Purnima.
“The most important thing in my life is to give the children the care that they need,” said Purnima, a former nurse who has been an SOS Mother for seven years. “I am happy to be a mother of nine. The most challenging thing is to follow up with their schoolwork.”
Today there are about 140 children, including Soma, who are growing up in SOS Families at the SOS Village in Raipur. Across India, there are 40 SOS Villages where 6,000 orphaned, abandoned and other vulnerable children growing up under the loving care of an SOS Mother.
Photo credits: Bjørn-Owe Holmberg.
There are about 30 million orphaned children in India today. Sponsors like Dag Otto are the lifeline for our SOS children, and help provide the financial stability that children need to heal from their traumatic past, grow in a stable home, develop resilient relationships and face life’s challenges in the future. Become a sponsor today!
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