October 7 2011

The gift of feeling like a child

05/10/2011 - For part of his youth, Helmut Kutin lived in the first SOS Children's Village in Imst in Tyrol. In 1985, he was elected as Hermann Gmeiner's successor to the presidency of SOS Children's Villages International. He has dedicated his entire life to children and meets them at eye level. On 4 October 2011 Kutin celebrated his 70th birthday.

Photo: Mariantonietta Peru
Helmut Kutin meets a girl from Mombasa, Kenya - Photo: Mariantonietta Peru
Everything for the children

At 70 years of age and after a quarter-century as president, Helmut Kutin still does not like official awards. He says: "My employees earn the awards, and I receive them." He would rather walk through an SOS Children's Village. "Whenever I go through a village, I sense the strength that makes what we do worthwhile."

Kutin impresses people with stories, not with prepared statements. He says: "After more than two hours in the office, I feel like I have to get out again." He spends 250 days a year in SOS Children's Villages all over the world. He is the kind of traditional boss that loves substance. And in this case, children are the substance.

"The focus must be placed on the children"

Anyone who has seen Kutin watch children, for example when they sing and dance for him, has seen the joy in his eyes. When children present their shows and drawings, he doesn't say "cute" or "well done" and then turn back to the adults and their conversation. He concentrates on the child. "Children are all too often seen as an ornament, as objects, and they are rarely viewed as independent personalities. We should show more courage and really focus on them."

When a child has something to say, the adults should be quiet. And listen. When children like something, they laugh. When they don't like it, they cry. When they love, they embrace. Not only does Helmut Kutin meet the children on eye level; he also still possesses the rare gift of being able to feel like a child. (Text: Axel Halbhuber, journalist at www.kurier.at)

Helmut Kutin's biography

Helmut Kutin was born in Bozen in South Tyrol/Italy in 1941. After a family tragedy, he moved to the world's first SOS Children's Village in Imst in Tyrol in 1953. Long discussions with Hermann Gmeiner inspired Kutin to give up his position in tourism and as an educator in 1967 to pursue his first job at SOS Children's Villages International in Vietnam during war times. In 1985, Kutin was elected as Gmeiner's successor, making him the president of SOS Children's Villages International and the organisation's top representative.