SOS Children’s Village Qodsaya is situated on a hill 6 miles west of Damascus, on the road to Lebanon. The Village consists of 14 family houses for up to 108 children, as well as the village director’s house, a house for SOS aunts (SOS mother trainees or family helpers who support the SOS mothers in their daily work and fill in for them when they are ill or on leave), a multi-purpose hall, and an administration and service area.
It was officially inaugurated on October 18, 1981 by Hermann Gmeiner, the founder of SOS Children’s Villages. Since then, the SOS families have been leading happy and peaceful lives until one night their world was shattered by the endless sounds of gunfire. Faced with a constant downpour of bullets and gunfire, the families were left with only one option- to leave their homes and Village behind. People clung to the last thread of hope, and prayed that everything would pass and life would return to normal, but after a few sleepless nights, the SOS mothers decided to move everyone to safer grounds- to the SOS Children’s Villages Regional Office in Damascus.
Over 50 people were forced to take refuge in a tiny 1000 square foot apartment. Among them were SOS mothers, children and a number of older girls. Not everyone was prepared for the long wait to go back home. With no space, or the warm feeling of their own rooms, many of Syria’s children expressed their concerns.
Ibrahim, a 10 year old boy said “I am not happy here; I don’t have enough space to play. I want to go back to the village, I miss my room. I don’t care if it dangerous to go back there, it is home!”
Ismael, a 14 year old boy said “ What upset me the most was that I had to be apart from my sisters and my little brothers, since I was moved to the boys youth house. They were at the SOS Regional Office. For about a month and half I only saw them once, and I’ve missed them a lot. At the same time I was relieved to know that they were in a safe place, and that’s what I cared for the most.”
Hanaa, an SOS Mother, expressed her concern over the children’s safety. Everyone including Hanaa hoped for the situation to clear up so that they could all go back to their normal routine lives.
At present, the children along with their mothers have returned to Qodsaya. SOS Children’s Villages has put plans in place to safeguard against future violent situations. Unfortunately, while the SOS families from Qodsaya have been able to return to their homes, the SOS families in the Aleppo village have been forced to flee theirs.
The children living with their mothers in the SOS Village are indeed fortunate. Even in times of crisis, they know of a safe place – and that is their SOS home. Many other Syrian families are not so blessed. In desperate times, they are left to fend for themselves and their children. The fortunate ones are those who have families and friends in neighboring places where they can find some shelter. In order to help many Syrian families who are left helpless in times of crises, SOS Children’s Villages is working in partnership with local humanitarian organizations to find solutions. Today across Syria, all that children really wish for is to wake up from this nightmare.