Sunday, July 12, 2009

Keynote Address by H.E. the President Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama at the Official Opening of the Serowe SOS Children`s Village

source: Republic of Botswana (11/7/09) TAUTONA TIMES no 18 of 2009
The Weekly Electronic Press Circular of the Office of the President
Democracy, Development, Dignity and Discipline

B1) 26/6/09: Keynote Address by H.E. the President Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama at the Official Opening of the Serowe SOS Children's Village:

1. I feel greatly honoured to have been invited to officiate at this very important occasion today which marks the official opening of Serowe SOS Children’s Village.

2. The disastrous effect of the Second World War and the chaos which followed, directly confronted countless children and young people.

3. Charitable Organizations of all kinds, National, International, Religious, Private and State controlled did what they could to control the many homeless, displaced and vulnerable children roaming the streets at that time from at least the worst dangers of neglect, abuse and demoralization.

4. The first SOS Children’s Village was founded in 1949 in Austria. The SOS idea spread rapidly through the world and within only a few years it was firmly established both in Europe and other continents. The SOS philosophy highlights the need for special advocacy focusing on the under privileged, especially children. The SOS Children’s village Botswana started in 1986 as an initiative of my late mother Lady Ruth Khama and Dr Pearl Mashalaba, both of whom took a deep interest in getting the SOS Children’s Villages established in Botswana. SOS Children’s Village Botswana started as a result of the disintegration of the extended family system, continued and persistent droughts which have robbed families of their livelihood as well as urban migration resulting in lack of accommodation. Today, the HIV/AIDS pandemic is producing orphans on a shocking scale. It is happening so quickly that family structures can no longer cope. Extended families and communities are being robbed of a generation of adults leaving behind children to be raised by relatives, or left on their own in households.

5. The impact of HIV/AIDS on Orphans and Vulnerable children is substantial for the children themselves, the families that step in to take care of them and the communities in which they live. Not only do children lose the security and safety of their immediate families, they frequently end up taking on adult responsibilities at an early age. They provide care for ill or dying parents, take over farm and household work, care for younger siblings and earn money for basic necessities.

6. SOS Children’s Village was thus founded to provide long term family based care to children who are at risk of losing parental care through the Family Strengthening Programme and those who have lost parental care through the village model. Children are admitted to SOS Villages when all traditional safety nets such as immediate (Nuclear) family and extended family and other alternative safety nets such as foster care, home based care and adoption cannot or are unwilling to absorb or care for them. This is no doubt a noble effort. The effort, underlines the important role played by NGO’s such as SOS in fulfilling the vision 2016 goal of a compassionate and caring nation. Our presence here today, bears testimony to governments’ commitment to the millennium development goals (MDG’s).

7. Over the years, the SOS Children’s Village of Botswana has made headway in a number of areas. Among others, has been the establishment of the National Coordination Office in Gaborone. This office has been instrumental in the growth of and its ability to reach out to other parts of the country by creating satellite stations as in Francistown as well as strengthening SOS’s capacity to render quality service to its clients and stakeholders. Today SOS has set foot in Serowe, further strengthening its outreach. I am reliably informed that there are a total of 166 graduates from SOS who have been fully integrated into society and are employed in different sectors of the economy such as the Police, BDF, the hospitality industry, health, Education and farming. SOS should be proud of these achievements. I wish to congratulate you on this achievement and wish to urge you to continue striving for more.

8. In 2003 the SOS Board realized that the two villages of Tlokweng and Francistown would not cope with the increasing number of children in need of care hence the decision to build the third village. Initially the village was to be built in Maun. However the orphan Statistics indicated that the greater number of orphans was in the Central District (44%) hence the decision to build the village in Serowe. Further the decision was a tribute to one of the founders of SOS Botswana by Lady Ruth Khama. The village will admit a maximum of 120 children and a staff complement of 35.

9. SOS’s journey thus far would not have been easy without the support of others. Several companies, individuals and NGO’s have contributed towards the construction of the Village. Among others we wish to recognize Kgalagadi Beverages Trust, FNB, Debswana, Barclays Bank, Lady Khama Charitable Trust, Sponsor a Child Trust, African Alliance, Capital Securities, Letshego Legal Guard, SOS Iceland, CB Stores/Furnmart, Phakalane Estates, Mr Sandy Kelly, The Gibberd Family, Peter Armitage, BBS, SOS Denmark, the Government of Australia and many others who contributed in different ways. We urge these parties to continue with this humble effort.

10. SOS Vision is to create lasting and reliable relationships within a caring family environment which is considered fundamental for a child’s well being.

11. The organization faces a big challenge to meet the ever increasing cost of goods and services. The SOS care is individualized according to the needs of an individual child. Moreover SOS depends on community support and thus availability of funds can never be guaranteed at all times. Removal of children to alternative care can be avoided at times if relatives and other members of community are willing to help those less fortunate.

12. It is the government’s position to promote the best interest of the children and to ensure that they are brought up in a healthy environment and in places that promote positive development. Government has also put in place policies, programmes and laws to protect the welfare of children such as children in need of care regulation of 2005 and lately the children’s Bill. Furthermore we undertake to provide funding through the Department of Social Services as per the signed Memorandum of Understanding between SOS and department of Social Services.

13. My government is aware of the demanding challenges faced by various underprivileged groups in this country. To this end, we as government, remain committed to promoting sustainable policies and programmes aimed at alleviating their situation. As I have said before, we shall continue to strive towards uplifting the quality of life of our people to lead a life of dignity. Our efforts, both individually and collectively should endeavour to make this a reality.

14. Let me once again congratulate SOS for having touched the lives of many of these children who would have otherwise missed such opportunities as have been provided by SOS.

15. It is now my singular honour to declare Serowe SOS Children’s Village officially open. Thank you.

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