SOS Children's Villages
, a global organization that focuses on family-based, long-term care of children, this weekend welcomed UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie to its Village in Santo, Haiti outside of Port-au-Prince. Jolie arrived with gifts for the sick, injured, orphaned and homeless children.
Jolie spent the night at an SOS house in the Santo Village after attending a dinner and round-table discussion that included UNHCR, SOS Children's Villages, UNICEF, Partners in Health and PRODEV. She also met with Haiti President Preval, along with lawyers, Haitian Judges and the US State Department. The purpose of these meetings was to study the Haitian legal system surrounding child protection issues
and explore mechanisms for strengthening the Government's capacity to address these need.
This is Jolie's second visit to the SOS Haiti Village. When last there in February she met with the 33 children who were brought to the village after the Haitian government intervened in the attempt to take these kids out of Haiti and to the Dominican Republic by Laura Silsby
, Executive Director of New Life Children's Refuge and her missionary group that attempted to smuggle these kids of the country without permission from the government. This weekend, Jolie learned that all of the children have been reunited with their families and continue to receive assistance from SOS.
During her stay Jolie commented, "That is why I like to visit and support the SOS Children's Villages
in the world because I have seen that the children are growing up in a safe and loving environment." SOS announced
in a press release this morning.
Jolie just finished a highly praised video
for the United Nations World Refuge Day. In the 30-second video, Jolie urges us to remember those who have been forced from their homes and are currently struggling to survive.
"Having a home, a place we belong, a place we feel safe, is something most of us take for granted," she says in the clip. "Please remember the millions of people around the world forced from their homes. Because the only hope of return is to not be forgotten."
In contrast to an orphanage, SOS is a family-based model of care that makes a commitment
to provide each child with a loving mother, home and a future. SOS places a priority on keeping biological brothers and sisters together and raising them in their own culture. SOS has 500 villages worldwide as well as thousands of schools, vocational training centers and medical clinics.
Jolie enjoyed breakfast in the village. SOS children welcomed her with a song in Creole as she distributed toys she had brought for them. One of the children spoke on behalf of the group and told Ms. Jolie how happy they were that she had visited the village again reports SOS Children's VIllages.
Jolie and Brad Pitt have been long-time supporters of SOS. In the past, Jolie has also visited an SOS Emergency Relief Program in Chad, an SOS Children's Village in Ethiopia and the couple also visited the SOS Village in Amman, Jordan.
There has been speculation since the earthquake in Haiti on whether or not Jolie-Pitt are planning to adopt an orphan from Haiti. Jolie answered those questions in an interview
on CNN where she said "this was not her intention at this time" nor did she it rule it out in the future.
Jolie said "they (Jolie-Pitt) were focusing all their attention on the basic needs of all of the children at risk in Haiti."
"Ms. Jolie's involvement helps to raise spirits when life has become so hard for children who have lost everything. Her continued support sheds an important light on the progress and challenges all of us face in Haiti." said SOS Children's Villages - USA CEO, Heather Paul. "With the six month anniversary of the earthquake approaching, Jolie helps the world remember that the struggle for survival continues on the ground every day. International partners working hand-in-hand with Haitians will be there for many years to come, long after the cameras have gone away."
SOS - Santo is currently housing nearly 500 children without biological families to care for them. Over the past few months, 160 children who were temporarily in SOS care have been reunited with their families. They are beneficiaries of the SOS Family Strengthening Program that provides food and counseling assistance to 10,000 people daily.
Jolie also toured the SOS "Global Village Shelters
" at the SOS-Santo site. Made of polypropylene materials, these shelters are quickly installed. They each provide 8 children and an SOS Mother with dry, safe housing as the rainy season approaches. About 300 SOS children will be moved into the shelters as added protection against the rainy season. "Global Village Shelters" promise to set a high standard for mid-term housing in Haiti.
For information on how you can Help and to see the SOS Villages
throughout the world check out their web page. Please consider making a donations or sponsoring a child.