CÔTE D’IVOIRE – August 22 2019 How Raphael learned about love and family Raphael grew up in the first SOS village community in Africa. Today, he passes on important lessons from his childhood to his own children. Raphael Adou was one of the very first children to whom SOS Children’s Villages offered a safe and loving home in Africa, when our village community in Abobo-Gare in Côte D’Ivoire opened in 1969. Now 58 years old, Raphael has shared with us what it meant to him to be an SOS child. “I was born in 1962 to an Ivorian mother and a European father whom I never knew. Being of mixed heritage was difficult growing up as my maternal family never recognized me. At the time, mixed-race children were considered outcasts by most communities and were usually placed in special orphanages such as “Le Foyer des Métis.” My mother tried to place me there twice, but I was too young to be admitted, so thankfully I ended up being one of the first children to be raised at the SOS village community in Abobo-Gare. “In those days, Abobo was a stark contrast from the highly dense urban area it is today. It was a remote place filled with palm tree plantations, lush green vegetation and dusty roads. It was a dream world for the children. We would spend most of our free time outdoors chasing squirrels and riding horses. “I remember when the first four houses in the village community were built. The first one was yellow, and the other three were blue, green and red. Children would meet to study and do their homework together in the evenings.” The care Raphael received from his SOS mother, Zaratou, has shaped his relationships with his own family. “My experience living with SOS made me want to have children and pass on that care promise that was entrusted to me. I am married now and have four children of my own, two boys and two girls. I also help support three other children, two girls and one boy. “My SOS mother had a big impact on me. I had never realized how important mothers were in terms of keeping families together. I had also never experienced that kind of love before.” Raphael values his experience at SOS and offered this advice for today’s children: “Life is a battle at times, and you have to fight for it, seizing all the opportunities that come your way. I remember that at the time we were given the opportunity to diversify our professional training. I, for example, am a trained accountant but I am also a farmer and have also done a lot of training in mechanics. It is crucial to have more than one string in your bow.” Building a lifetime of success Around the world, the problems children face are complex and multi-faceted—and so must be our approach. SOS is unique in our holistic view that encompasses a lifetime: guiding children from rescue to adulthood. We save children from heartbreaking circumstances; provide a better childhood through care, education and support—along with their siblings; prepare them for success in adulthood through skills training and youth employability programs; and continue to provide emotional and material support as adults. And these stable adults bring our mission full circle by visiting current SOS children and showing them what’s possible, and by providing for their own families. Investing with SOS means investing in a quality of life that spans a lifetime and impacts future generations. SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children and struggling families in Côte D'Ivoire for almost 50 years—offering children without parental care the chance to grow up in a stable environment where they feel loved, safe and supported and working to reduce child abandonment and neglect. Over the decades, the nature of our work in Côte d'Ivoire has varied according to the needs of the community. As poverty levels have risen in recent years, we have increased our family strengthening support for local communities, running HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns and providing affected families with access to food, medicine and education.