The village is the only one of its kind in Canada.
The SOS Children’s Village in Surrey provides both a home and a supportive community for foster children at risk.
For Executive Director Douglas Dunn, however, it’s about much more than just creating a revolutionary foster care environment. It’s also about the long-term relationships that are developed with these kids once they become adults.
“When I arrived, we had a young woman who had only been with us for a short period of time,” Dunn tells SurreyCares. “At 19 she left us. Less than a year later came back, she was going to have a baby and had no preparation. This woman was with us for a brief period of time, but she is one of our kids.”
“We threw her a baby shower, outfitted her, got her set up, found her a new place to live. When things fell apart again, and her child was taken into care, we lobbied to get that child to stay in care with the young lady’s former foster mom. We think of that as our first grandchild in the village. That child was raised with all the love and care that any child living with their grandparents would expect.”
“Since then they’ve formed their family and are doing very well, but they still need some support from time to time. When we report that to the ministry, they say ‘you can’t help them, she’s not a part of your village anymore.’”
“That explains exactly why what we do is so important. Nobody you know would say when their child goes to university at 19, ‘by the way, don’t come home. If you need help, look somewhere else.’ We believe that the children in our care are our kids, and that’s what makes me so passionate about what I do.”
Origins of the SOS Village date back to 1949 by Austrian student Hermann Gmeiner. Today, SOS Children’s Village has 576 villages, nurturing family homes to over 80,000 orphaned and abandoned children in 134 countries around the world.
The work of SOS Children's Village in Canada started in the 1960s with the founding of the "Friends of SOS Children's Villages Canada" by a group of volunteers. Surrey is home to the only SOS Children's Village in Canada, and its importance remains undisputed. Numerous children continue to suffer parental neglect and tens of thousands grow up without their parents in Canada. Parental neglect, abuse or the complete absence of parental care has a strong impact on a child’s life. SOS Children’s Village BC (SOS BC) tries to nullify that by supporting foster children who need help right here in our province with the village and their outreach programs.
Located in the heart of Surrey, SOS BC is committed to offer healing and stability to children and youth who have experienced family crisis and need a stable foster family. The village comprises 12 homes with 15 caregivers supporting 40 children and 5 youth in transition. They own and oversee 5 foster homes and a Village Centre on a 2.5 acre wooded site, with seven more homes integrated in the surrounding area.
“Working with the SOS Children’s Village has been the highlight of my working career,” Dunn said. “I’ve spent 35 years working with non-profits and businesses, and my five years here has been the most challenging and rewarding in my entire career.”
SOS BC has been a recipient of SurreyCares grants in the past, and it has funded projects that assist youth who are aging out of care.
“The support of SurreyCares has been absolutely important in the work we’ve done” said Dunn. “Not just the financial support for specific programs or projects, but rather what SurreyCares represents. Going to the grant awards, networking and connecting with other grant recipients, that helps us as part of a wider community work together more effectively.”
“We will never, ever be able to give children in the community all the programs they need, so what we do is look at every other organization in the committee. When a youth in transition needs a resume, we know Services BC offers a resume writing course. If there is an indigenous child under six, we know that the Local Aboriginal Friendship Centre has programs. When we have youth who have an issue and want to do animal therapy, Sally’s Farm is there.”
“SurreyCares helps facilitate that strengthening of community capacity, and we can’t say enough about their support.”
Grants from SurreyCares to SOS BC have help fund multiple programs that help teenage youth in the program as they enter the next phase of their lives. This includes The Transition to Adulthood Program, which provides vulnerable youth with 1:1 support that helps them develop life skills, independence, find employment or training, and secure housing with the help of our experienced youth workers. The grants have also aided The Year Intensive Housing Program, which helps youth aging out of care to continue living in a supported environment while they attain the essential skills for independence.
Here is a brief description of the other services that SOS BC provides to youth living in the village.
SOS Children’s Village BC services include:
On-site Homework Club
On-site Music Room
Camps and Recreation
Youth in Transition
After School Homework Club
Sounds of Learning Music Program
Help SOS Children’s Village BC achieve their vision
“Every child belongs to a family and grows with love, respect and security.”
Please donate now.
Visit www.sosbc.org to learn more about their work.