Avanti (name changed) was given up for adoption a few months after she was born to an unwed young woman in Sri Lanka and was brought up in a SOS Village. Few decades later, she now runs a pathology lab in a large hospital in Sri Lanka after her education in the US.

“This is what we want for all the children growing up in SOS Children’s Village,” said Siddhartha Kaul, President, SOS Children’s Village International.

But, unfortunately, this is not possible unless the government and society come together and take responsibility.

SOS is a non-governmental organisation that provides family-like environment for orphaned and abandoned children. Each village has 12-14 houses with close to 10 children in each assigned to a foster mother. The organisation usually partners with local associations or government agencies.

It has presence in over 100 countries. In India since the 1960s, it has established 36 villages across 22 States.

In India, the organisation runs these villages mostly from private funding and gets government aid for some of its projects. In recent times corporate funding has started to come in as a part of Corporate Social Responsibility funding.

Kaul, who is visiting India, said, “But most of them are short-term like three years.” Given that the projects are long run, sustainability is a major challenge.”

It is a problem because welfare funds are scrapped first whenever there is a shortage. “You need political will to allocate money for social expenditure,” Kaul said. But, unfortunately, this is lacking.

For instance, Kaul was in Africa some time after the Ebola outbreak when the government asked him if it would be possible for SOS to take care of the 8,000 orphaned children after the pandemic.

An international agency had stopped funding due to cash crunch and the government’s money has dried up.

Kaul stated that there is only so much an organisation can do when it comes to taking care of children. In developed countries like France and some South Asian countries like Vietnam the government funds the projects completely or contributes a significant portion and the organisation monitors them.

But in India there are many initiatives. “Unfortunately they are either unknown or difficult for organisations like us to tap into it. We need an integrated approach where all of this can come together,” Kaul said.

“Even then we can only give them different models that can work for a country and monitor and implement them,” he said.

“The only solution is for the government to recognise and look for agencies that can do the work and support them. Otherwise, nothing will change,” Kaul said.