June 23 2009

The skies above Imst

The celebration of the 60th anniversary of SOS Children's Villages was full of pleasant surprises – and not all of them had to do with the weather!

Photo: Alexander Gabriel
Helmut Kutin greets a guest from far and away: Cardinal Rosales is the archbishop of Manila - Photo: A. Gabriel

Everything seemed possible when it came to the weather on 19 June. After a rainy morning, the guests that came to SOS Children's Village Imst, including the Governor of the Tyrol, Günther Platter, as well as the State Secretary of State Christine Marek and other public figures, were welcomed by bright sunshine and the "Tiroler Schützen" (Tyrolean Marksmen). The high clergy was also represented at the celebration of the 60th anniversary of SOS Children's Villages: Manfred Scheuer, Bishop of the Diocese of Innsbruck and the popular former bishop, Reinhold Stecher, were joined by the guest who had probably travelled furthest to attend the celebrations, His Eminence Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales Archbishop of Manila. It may well be that the presence of these important visitors persuaded the heavens to bring the celebrations a blessing in disguise. The downpour feared did come but the only thing that got wet was the marquee that the guests had gathered in to listen to the speakers.

Photo: Alexander Gabriel
Image captionGreeting the commander in chief: a young Tyrolean Marksman welcomes Governor Günther Platter - Photo: A. Gabriel

The words of one person in particular caught the attention of the audience. The Federal President of Austria, Heinz Fischer, was unfortunately unable to attend the celebrations in person but had taken the time to send a letter of congratulations, which was full of praise: "SOS Children's Villages has made a significant contribution to Austrian social history, which deserves respect and recognition."  The Federal President also said that we should be proud of SOS Children's Villages as an Austrian idea and a model of cooperation, support and solidarity.

Photo: Alexander Gabriel
The musical entertainment was performed almost exclusively by children - Photo: A. Gabriel

The speeches given alternated with musical performances by children and young people from Imst and the speakers were invited onto stage by the children of SOS Children's Village Imst, who presented amusing poems which caused some laughter! But even more laughter came when SOS Children's Village President Helmut Kutin, with a twinkle in his eye, told the Governor of the Tyrol that SOS Children's Villages was very happy to receive congratulations but that it was just as happy to accept donations. Shortly afterwards, when he announced that the Governor had just promised that the government of the Tyrol would finance eight more houses at SOS Children's Village Lumbini in Nepal, the anniversary project of SOS Children's Villages Austria, there was great applause.

Photo: Alexander Gabriel
And the winner is: two young women who grew up in SOS Children's Villages facilities are honored for their achievements - Photo: A. Gabriel

Another round of loud applause was given to Sandra Bürger and Kersti Kukk who represented the voice of young people in the Quality4Children project and who were given the 2009 Hermann Gmeiner Award for their achievements and exceptional commitment. Even though the 60 SOS Children's Village mothers who had been invited to the celebrations did not receive awards, they did experience the respect and gratitude of everyone present, as the entire audience – led by the Mayor of Innsbruck – honoured these strong women with a standing ovation. 

Photo: Alexander Gabriel
The ballons added a splash of colour to the otherwise gloomy skies - Photo: A. Gabriel

When the guests finally left the marquee to the sound of "Here I am", the official song of SOS Children's Villages International, featured by Frank Posch and his band of young people, the weather had calmed. The releasing of the balloons in front of "Haus Frieden" (Peace House), the first SOS Children's Villages family house, had been cancelled, but a last minute decision was taken to go ahead and release them after all, much to everyone's delight - not just the children!

This day has shown us that SOS Children's Villages is not only indebted to its sponsors, donors and friends – the weather has also been very good to us.