Today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders. And children in long-term care should have every opportunity to make a mark on the world.
In fact, so many already have.
At the age of eight, Eddie Murphy and his brother entered foster care when his single mother became ill. Now a Golden Globe-winning actor, comedian and singer, Eddie credits his year in foster care for developing his famous sense of humor—which skyrocketed him to stardom.
After her father abandoned her family and her mother sustained a tragic brain injury, actress and comedienne Tiffany Haddish spent several years living in and out of foster care. Sadly, during this period, she endured bullying, physical violence and molestation. But today, Tiffany is recognized for her humor and positive outlook: strengths that molded her professional success. “My soul is very determined,” she asserts. Tiffany even volunteers with people experiencing homelessness to give back to those less fortunate.
Calvin Ridley, NFL football player for the Atlanta Falcons, is a proud alum of SOS Children’s Villages Florida. Calvin arrived at the village with his brothers in third grade. Though he had never played football, he demonstrated raw talent and felt a natural love for the sport. With the encouragement of his SOS family, Calvin followed his dreams all the way to the top. Ever since, children have been inspired by the true story of the boy who went from SOS to NFL. “I cry some games, really,” Calvin explains, “because I feel like I came a long way.”
In the U.S. and around the world, SOS Children’s Villages works to inspire orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children to bravely reach for their dreams. It’s this spirit of motivation, and the confidence we instill in our children, that drives everything we do. We empower the next generation of trailblazers!
Inspiring the leaders of tomorrow
Starting as early as possible, SOS combats the social and economic barriers that prevent so many promising young students—particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds—from pursuing rewarding professions in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and the arts fields.
At SOS Illinois, children aged 12-16 attend an annual expo themed around Black History Month, which celebrates the groundbreaking, revolutionary impact of people of color in STEM and the arts. By highlighting black inventors, scientists, creatives and tech leaders, we shape each child’s journey to an empowered sense of self-worth, ambition, accountability and positive racial identity. Youth engage in immersive, hands-on activities at the expo, including the chance to converse with professionals in STEM and arts industries. This workshop teaches youth to forge their own paths forward, paved by the legacy of distinguished black leaders.
Rafael: a leader in the making
We see the direct results of our dedication to leadership in the individual stories of children at SOS—children like Rafael. Rafael and three of his brothers came to SOS Illinois when he was 15 after facing difficult periods of neglect, poverty and homelessness. At that time, Rafael felt little motivation to seek academic success or think about his future. He remembers feeling distrustful and without hope: “I didn’t have trust in anyone or faith that my life would become anything more than the suffering I was already enduring emotionally and mentally.”
But Rafael’s transformation has been a privilege to witness. He graduated at the top 10% of his high school class and won a full college scholarship to a highly selective institution from The Posse Foundation, beating out close to 3,000 other applicants. When we asked Rafael what he hoped for in his first year of college, he said: “I hope that I make it close to the top of my class of about 600 students. It’s a pretty hard goal to reach, but I won’t be satisfied with myself if I do not. I also want to overall grow as a person and learn what exactly I want to pursue academically.”
Encouraged by the leadership of inspiring figures who have come before, Rafael and every child in the care of SOS have the building blocks to achieve success. It doesn’t matter where they came from; the only question is, how far will they go?