June 17 2010

Estonia opens new family houses

17/06/2010 - Eighteen children without parental care find a new home in the little town of Põltsamaa, where SOS Children's Villages Estonia opened three family houses at the beginning of June. The First Lady of Estonia, Evelin Ilves, inaugurated the new project at a festive ceremony.

Photo: Marko Mägi
Estonia's First Lady , Evelin Ilves, at the opening ceremony - Photo: Marko Mägi

The three houses are situated in the town of Põltsamaa and are fully integrated into the residential area. Three couples will take care of the children. Põltsamaa is a little town with approximately 4,600 inhabitants, located in the county of Jõgevamaa in the southern part of Estonia. This district of Estonia has the second largest amount of children living at risk of losing their family due to poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, labour migration, teenager parenthood etc.

SOS mother Maire will move in with the first five children during June after the school year has finished. Currently, the family lives in the SOS Children's Village in Keila. The first thing Maire and her children brought into their future home was a big teddy-bear, who is guarding the house until the family moves in.

Care setting changes together with societal changes

Photo: Marko Mägi
Inspection of the new playground in Põltsamaa - Photo: Marko Mägi

Jaan Aiaots, the mayor of Põltsamaa, wished love and trust to the families and promised his support: "I am glad that a well known organisation has trusted us, so we try to justify this trust."

Katrin Raie, representative of SOS Children's Villages International, said that the core of Hermann Gmeiner's idea is still the same, but the organisation has changed with times. "In the village there still is a mother, there are brothers and sisters, there is a home, and there is the village to create a supportive community. However, in Põltsamaa there is also a father, and the village is not the traditional village of twelve family houses in a closed territory, instead it is the village of the local community, a new residential area. The society has changed around us and SOS Children's Villages echoes these changes while keeping its core values."

The Norwegian Ambassador in Estonia, Stein Vegard Hagen said at the opening ceremony that the idea of SOS Children's Villages is very well known in the world. "The Norwegian state has supported the Põltsamaa project and I am 100% sure that Norwegian people are supporting this, too," said the ambassador, reminding that SOS Children's Village Keila was opened by Princess Märtha Louise from Norway in 1995.

More children, more possibilities

Photo: Marko Mägi
Security guard Teddy and his best friend - Photo: Marko Mägi
SOS mother Leena said that she and her husband wanted to give warmth to more children, even though they have four children of their own. "Three of our own children are grown-ups, but we still have power and we want to give warmth to children. We discussed different options, including adoption, but have chosen to be SOS parents as the best way to care for children," Leena told. "I'm very glad this project exists - it would be extremely difficult to do something similar on our own, but it's possible when you have so many friends and support. We visited the SOS Children's Village in Keila and what I really liked was the open communication we had there. We shared not only the joys but also the problems. We think that more children don't mean more problems, but more possibilities."

Mother Maire, who has worked for five years at the SOS Children's Village in Keila, decided to move to Põltsamaa because of her own roots. "I come from this area and the children are also born in this area. All of my five children are siblings and they have elder sisters living close to Põltsamaa."

The new project in Põltsamaa was financed with funds from the European Union, SOS Children's Villages Norway, SOS Children's Villages Sweden and SOS Children's Villages Denmark.