Mother Merle from SOS Children's Village Keila celebrated her 10th year in the village with a family get-together - all eleven children who have lived in her house came over to congratulate her. In an interview she tells us about what she has learned during the past decade in the village.
Is the ten-year anniversary important for you?
We have celebrated April 12, the "Family day" as we call it, every year, but ten years is special - it makes you think about the time. Ten years is in a way a very long, and at the same time, a very short period. I remember that in the beginning, even the four-month probation was terrifyingly long. But now I can say that the time has slipped away unnoticeably.
What have you learned during the past ten years?
I have learned to forgive. In fact I'm still learning from the way the children have forgiven their parents. I have learned a lot about forgiving, but I can't do it to the extent that they do. We have constantly been learning from each other - I have taught them the most basic values: honesty, caring, and hard working. The main lesson I have taught them is that it's better to have 100 friends than 100 Euros and that they now have people who think and care about them.
What educational background would an SOS mother need in order to be able to solve all the problems?
My educational background includes both studies in child education and in social work sciences. I feel that I would also need knowledge in special child education. At the same time, knowledge and education is only the basis; you need more than that to do the job.
When I joined SOS Children's Villages I thought that education and child education know-how were the most important things, but I was wrong. The ability to be empathic is very important and hugging and sitting the child on your lap can do miracles. It's so simple, and it works!
Why did you decide to join SOS Children's Villages ten years ago?
Educating children was the dream of my life from an early age on. I worked in a state-run orphanage before I joined SOS Children's Villages; and the reason I changed was that I really liked the role of the SOS mother in the system. It's important that the same person who lulls the child to sleep greets him or her in the morning. And there must be a person whom children can name "my mother"; it gives them a feeling of security.
I must admit I considered for four months whether I should join SOS Children's Villages or not; as I told you my greatest fear was not having enough knowledge, abilities and experience. I made the decision to join and I have never regretted it.
What is the main reason that has kept you working here?
The education learned in schools is tiny if compared to what hands-on experience with SOS Children's Villages has given me. And there's so much more to learn! In a way it's like dealing with a fire long time after the actual fire - you have to fill all the spaces in a child, at the same time the child has to learn and do stuff in accordance with her/his age. It's working with the child's past and present in order to guarantee him/her a good future.
Unconditional love is an important message you have to communicate to the child, and then everything can be worked out. I think I have managed all that. Every child is different and there are no two problems which are exactly the same - the work here is so creative. And the smile on a child's face is the reward, which crowns my efforts.