Hong Soja, wife of the current Prime Minister of South Korea, was welcomed by two girls in Korean as well as Uzbek on the occasion of her visit to the SOS Children's Village in Tashkent.
Tansilya Narbaeva, president of the association, and Laziza Azimova, director of SOS Children's Villages Uzbekistan, accompanied her on her tour of the village. The Korean First Lady stopped inside a family house to find out first hand about the daily life of an SOS mother with her children.
Ms Hong Soja came laden with gifts: on top of two computers, she also presented the children with a big parcel full of learning materials and toys. The children returned the favour with gifts they had made themselves. "These gifts are the best of all, because they were made by children." To complete this very special day in Tashkent, the children performed a number of songs and dances, some even presented by the children from the SOS Kindergarten.
Children have been living at the Children's Village in Tashkent ever since the year 2000; a second Children's Village was inaugurated in Samarkand six years later. There is a high demand for out-of-home care and a reform of existing institutional care in Uzbekistan. Families here suffer particularly under the poor economic conditions and social discrimination. The consequences of these conditions, such as substance abuse, joblessness and poverty often lead to the neglect of children. A family strengthening programme has been running in Tashkent for a year to support and accompany families threatened by crises.
South Korea, on the other hand, was home to the first SOS Children's Village outside of Europe. This first project in Asia was financed by Hermann Gmeiner's then unheard-of fundraising initiative "One grain of rice". In the meantime, SOS Children's Villages has become a well-established organisation offering family-based care in South Korea.