Jino George and two of his friends recently visited an SOS Village in India while in the country for a wedding. Jino first began supporting SOS as a member of the Sigma Beta Rho Fraternity in 2008, and he was excited to finally have the chance to see an SOS Village. He and his friends also fundraised for the SOS Village that he visited, which is located in the same state where his family is from.
We had a chance recently to catch up with Jino and ask him about his trip...
What was the purpose of your recent trip to India?
The initial purpose of my trip was to attend a wedding, but my friends Ajith Varughese and Lijo George and I wanted to give back to our community in Kerala State, India. Therefore, we thought it would be a great idea if we could fundraise amongst our friends for the SOS Village in Cochin. I had also mentioned to them that I wanted a chance to visit the village. They were both excited about the idea, and we all went to the village upon our arrival to Kerala.
What made you decide to visit an SOS village? Which village was it?
It has been a long desire of mine to visit an SOS Village. We have been working with SOS since 2008, and I wanted to see the organization in action. My friends and I visited the village in Cochin, Kerala.
How long were you at the village? What did you do when you were there?
We were there for about an hour, which gave us time to visit a few of the houses and walk the grounds of the village.
Who did you meet with at the village?
We met Mr. Sreekumar (Village Director), the assistant director, two mothers, and many children of the village.
Describe the village for someone who has never been there.
The village we visited was 20-30 minutes away from the Cochin Airport. Upon our arrival, you can see a big building with steps leading up to it. This building was their auditorium which they were in the process of decorating for their 25th anniversary. The village was surrounded with lush green trees and bushes, along with colorful flowers and benches in front of each of the houses. The village also had a large level ground used as a play area for the children.
What was the thing you remember most about the village?
SOS Village Cochin in Kerala State, India.
One thing that stood out to me was the attachment the toddlers had to their mother. It was great to see that these children were basically afforded a second opportunity to a family life.
Did you remember the stories of any of the children you met? Please describe that story.
My friends and I met two little children there. One was Alka* and the other was Amit*. They both were brought to the villages as newborns that were abandoned by their parents. Their sisters and brothers were very protective of them and would carry them around. Sharon was really shy at first but finally came around. Amit was also shy until he was told we had candy for him at the office. He came out of hiding behind his mother and tagged along with us all the way to the office where he performed a recited a nursery rhyme for us. The assistant director told us that both of them were brought to them within the first two months of their birth.
How did you find out about SOS Children’s Villages?
In 2008, during my first year as National Vice President of Expansion for Sigma Beta Rho Fraternity, we were researching charity organizations that were involved in developing children through education. SOS was brought to our attention by a fellow member from Boston that had worked with the organization.
How are you involved with SOS today?
I periodically raise awareness for SOS by either organizing fundraisers or donating on my own. There are so many organizations out there to support. Why SOS?
My parents immigrated to the United States when I was five in order to provide my siblings and me an opportunity for a better quality of life and education. In my opinion, education is the key to success and the only avenue to avert poverty. SOS provides their children with a similar opportunity, which I was fortunately provided for by my parents.
Would you recommend an SOS supporter to visit a village? If so, why?
Yes, I think it’s important to have a tangible understanding of where your efforts are going towards. The visit might impel one to take further action for the cause.
Has seeing a village inspired you to do more for SOS or for vulnerable children in India more generally?
I have always wanted to do more for my home state by providing resources to individuals that lack them. I enjoy providing these children with financial resources that they can used to develop themselves. I would do more after seeing the village and the children that reside there.
*The names of the children were changed to protect their privacy.
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