What are the experiences that these former SOS children, the so-called SOS adults, made in and with the SOS Children's Village? What can we learn from this in order for us to further develop our educational work? What recommendations can the SOS adults give us? These are the questions the study concentrates on. Another matter of concern was to show by means of the results who we are, what we do and what we achieve. Furthermore, the results of this research should clarify whether our learning organization deals in accordance with its mission, vision and values.
The study was developed and coordinated by the SOS Children's Villages Hermann Gmeiner Academy. The research tool - a questionnaire - emphasizes both the experiences the interviewees made during their life in the SOS Children's Village and important things that have happened in their life as well as their present living situation and their moral concepts. The SOS adults are considered experts who are questioned about their experiences and their recommendations.
The project is based on a participative approach which becomes obvious through permanent cooperation with partners from various regions of the world. External interviewers who had been trained in the framework of workshops carried out a total of more than 1,100 surveys. During the first year the Hermann Gmeiner Academy evaluated the results, while this was done by SOS internal and -external local experts as of the second year. In the long term the research process will be decentralized in order for the study to be carried out independently in the countries involved.
From 2001 to 2004 Tracking Footprints was carried out in 20 countries. The results give the SOS co-workers feedback on the goals in their practical work as well as on the extent to which they have been achieved. At the same time attention is paid to the points which the SOS adults think should be changed or developed further.
What do the results show?
The majority of the interviewees is satisfied with their present living situation: They have built up relationships, married or started living in a partnership, founded families. As to their living situation most of the young adults say that they are satisfied as well. When being asked about their labour situation the majority of the interviewees find it difficult to make a living on their own income.
Most SOS adults see SOS Children's Villages as a place where they were able to have a family, where they felt safe and well cared for and where they had numerous possibilities in terms of their vocational training. In many cases the relationships built up in the SOS Children's Villages were described as good, yet some interviewees said that it could have been better. A few interviewees reported on violence. Although this percentage is very low, this topic must get our special attention in order to prevent this from happening again in future. Meanwhile, in the vocational and further training courses of SOS mothers and other educational staff more attention is paid to this topic.
What was difficult for many of them was their adolescence, especially the process of growing independent, of having to stand on their own feet. Some felt not sufficiently prepared for an independent life. As a consequence, it is not surprising that several interviewees recommended that adolescents get more adequate support in their professional development and in the process of growing independent.
As to the integration into the surrounding community there seems to be need for action as well; some interviewees found the relationship with the surrounding community too distant. In order to reduce this distance SOS Children's Villages has lately started to deliberately take steps, for instance by organizing joint celebrations with the community, by children and adults joining social or sports associations or by initiating and organizing such events together with the community.
What's up next?
From the results of the study certain recommendations have been deduced which will now be included in the working plans of the countries involved and implemented accordingly. The participative approach has proven very useful and will continue to be a fixed component of the implementation of Tracking Footprints.
Experience has shown that there is yet another group of people who should be included in the network: the SOS adults themselves, who want to share their experiences with us in order to contribute to achieving the goals of SOS Children's Villages.
Contact and information: SOS Children's Villages Hermann Gmeiner Academy, Barbara Pittracher, firstname.lastname@example.org