April 6 2006
25th anniversary of the Hermann Gmeiner Academy
06/04/2006 - Well, an academy. People working in the field frequently look at the facility Hermann Gmeiner Academy with mistrustful eyes: "What do we need research for in view of the misery in which numerous children have to live?" A more careful consideration makes clear: Academic work and concept development at the Hermann Gmeiner Academy is not locked up in the ivory tower but rather provides valuable support to practical SOS work.
Linking theory and practical work
How does this work? Let's look at a current research project, "Tracking Footprints". In the framework of Tracking Footprints former SOS children were asked to answer questions such as how they live today, how they experienced their stay in the SOS Children's Village and what recommendations they would like to make in terms of SOS work. The answers from interviewees from more than 20 countries provide clear conclusions: What has worked well during the last couple of years, where is need for improvement? These results are then taken into consideration in our present work. Theory and practical work.
"We link" - is what it says in the mission statement of the Hermann Gmeiner Academy - for instance the experiences and the knowledge of co-workers from different countries in order to draw up concepts for our educational work. To do so we need the exchange with those working in the field, with those making hands-on experiences. It's together with these people that the Hermann Gmeiner Academy elaborates these concepts, considers, develops, analyses, collects feedback from various countries. And it tries to do the tightrope walk of drawing up concepts for far more than 100 countries with their great variety of mentalities, cultures and moral concepts. On the one hand, these concepts have to do justice to these differences, while on the other they have to provide clear guidelines.
The Hermann Gmeiner Academy also wants to "link" itself with other people, with experts, other organizations, scientists. Conferences and publications are the means to this aim - seeing beyond the borders of our own organization, broadening our horizons, combining well-established customs with innovative concepts, developing ourselves further.
Past and present
A "spiritual centre" and a "place where SOS co-workers from all over the world meet" is what Hermann Gmeiner had in mind in the late 1970s, and exactly this became the cornerstone of the Hermann Gmeiner Academy which was finally inaugurated in 1981. As to our content-based work we have seen changes and development in various areas, but the essential feature has remained the same: both in the past and at present the Hermann Gmeiner Academy is a place where SOS co-workers from all over the world meet and exchange information. Both in the past and at present it provides support to those working in the field. And to those this work is done for: the children, youth and families.