The sun was streaming down over Dafra, on the outskirts of the town of Bobo-Dioulasso in western Burkina Faso, when President Helmut Kutin officially opened the SOS Children's Village, the kindergarten and SOS Hermann Gmeiner School. Hundreds of guests were present at the official opening ceremony, amongst them the children who are now living in Dafra with their SOS mothers. They were the stars of the show with their traditional dancing, poetry readings on the vulnerability of children, and musical interludes with xylophones, drums and castanets.
One of the honorary guests present was Pierre Pascal, the executive director of SOS Children's Villages France which is the main financial backer of the SOS Children's Village in Dafra. In his speech he stressed that the construction of the village had been "possible because of the friendship that exists between people in France and Burkina Faso" and announced that SOS Children's Villages France intended to use French donations to finance a third SOS Children's Village in Burkina Faso.
Some of the other guests present were Burkina Faso's Minister for Education and Science, the German Ambassador, as well as numerous representatives from SOS Children's Villages and of course all those who now work at SOS Children's Village Dafra.. Minister Joseph Paré spoke of 35,000 disadvantaged children in Burkina Faso, 1,086 of whom live in Bobo-Dioulasso: "SOS Children's Villages plays in important role in the fight against child poverty and advocates a happy childhood for children."
After the opening of the SOS Children's Village, which is now home to 105 children, the SOS Hermann Gmeiner School was also officially opened. The combined primary and secondary school has been open since October 2004 and currently has 745 pupils. Joseph Paré emphasised that it was not just parents who were responsible for their children, but also all of those who care for and guide the children. Addressing the teachers, he said: "The environment that you are creating here for the pupils is one of the best in the country."
"Children are our present, not our future. They need us today, not tomorrow, because tomorrow would come too late", said Helmut Kutin in conclusion.
Children from poor families in the neighbourhood attend the kindergarten and school. Families that have no access of their own to water have also been able to obtain clean drinking water at the SOS Children's Village since 2005. If necessary, they can also obtain medication from a small dispensary in the village. There are plans to launch a family-strengthening programme this year for disadvantaged families from Dafra.