Christmas at the SOS Village

By Grace S. Uddin

DAVAO CITY — While busy falling in line along with other children to get his share of porridge, Rickmon, 11, recalled why he was sent to the SOS Children’s Village to live with the other children he didn’t even know.

“I was so thin my parents sent me here,” he said. Rickmon is a shy boy but there was an unmistakable loneliness in his face when he told his story.

He is the ninth in a family of 10. His mother sells viand at the Bankerohan public market while his father drives a passenger motorcycle. Even though his parents earn a living, it wasn’t enough to make life for Rickmon and his sibling easy. With 10 mouths to feed, his parents simply did not have enough income to care for the children properly.

Rickmon is not alone in his predicament. Dindo, 13, Rickmon’s friend, said his parents are separated. His father had been too busy working that there was no one else to look after Dindo and his siblings. One day, they found themselves put under the care of the SOS Children’s Village.

Rickmon and Dindo, just like several children in this city, have found refuge and an alternative family in the SOS Children’s Village. Many here had been abandoned, orphaned or went through extremely difficult circumstances, such as child abuse and neglect.

The SOS Children’s Village, an international child-welfare organization, was established in the Philipppines in 1964 and it now has eight villages in the entire country. In Davao, it is home to 180 children.

Inside the village, children live in houses as though they belong to a home and a family. They are being taken care of by SOS Mothers (whom they call “Nanay”). Other SOS workers serve as their aunties, who give them love, support and encouragement. They try to address their concerns, like in a real family.

The children behave as brothers and sisters to one another, thus promoting a sense of family. While in the village, the children live like ordinary kids — groomed, nourished and sent to school.

During Christmas, various institutions, organizations and groups flock to the SOS Children’s Village happy to bring joy. Last Dec. 2, groups led by the Catholic Campus Ministry of Davao (CCM-Davao) and the Ecumenical Asia-Pacific Students and Youth Network in Davao City organized a “peace concert” for the children.

Dina Caballero, head of CCM- Davao, said the concert was more educational than entertainment. “We want the people, especially the young ones, to know what really is the true essence of Christmas and that is having to change one’s self, having a perspective on peace and harmonious relationships,” she said.

Various young artists from groups such as Kabataang Artista Para Sa Tunay Na Kalayaan (Karatula), Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), Student Christian Movement of the Philippines (SCMP) participated in the event.

Erwin Faller, Easynet-Davao chairperson, said the event also raised funds for the benefit of the children in the village at the same time that it promoted “peace based on social justice.” The presentation by some of the artists tried to explain to the children why they and their families were suffering economically.

Luis Serras, the village director, was grateful for the peace concert. He said the proceeds would go a long way in helping the village with its projects and programs for the children. The good heart of other people had brought happiness during Christmas to children like Rickmon and Dindo, he said. (Grace S. Uddin/

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