Loving “Ates” Fulfilling The Holistic Family-like Care For SOS Children
Although SOS children Jillian and Joseph are not related by blood, they will always consider each other as family.
For most of us, our family has always been there. We have parents and siblings who support us in the things we do and guide us as we grow to become better individuals. But for SOS children Andrew and Joseph, it’s their first time to have “ates” or older sisters like Lea and Jillian care for them.
“I remember the first time Andrew came home,” Ate Lea shares with a smile on her face. “He was quiet, and he held on to our mother tightly.” Andrew seemed afraid to enter through the door. When she came to greet him, he avoided her gaze and did not say a single word.
Just like Andrew, Joseph was also a shy kid. His Ate Jillian experienced how difficult it was to get him to open up. She had to go the extra mile to build a connection with him. “Even when I gave him what he wanted, he would still cry because he seemed afraid of everyone around him,” she shares.
Joseph, who is seen here in a striped t-shirt, seems like his fears have gone away. Thanks to his new loving home!
Although their first meetings were not the best, the two ates never gave up on their new brothers even when their relationships were put to the test. Lea has been frustrated with Andrew numerous times. “It wasn’t always the easiest having him around. There were times when I couldn’t sleep because he’d cry in the middle of the night or when he’d upset me. But that’s what younger siblings do,” she explains. Their mama would tell them to forgive and understand one another because siblings should always care for each other.
Jillian, on the other hand, recalls all the sleepless nights and the running back and forth to help mama care for Joseph, who was 8 months old when he came to the village. “I’m glad that I didn’t give up on him. It was worth it. Even getting his drool on me - all worth it,” she erupts into laughter.
Today, Joseph and Andrew are both happy kids who appreciate their sisters and everyone around them. Andrew was not taught to read and write before coming to the village, so he's grateful to have Ate Lea teaching him. Even with her own busy student life, Lea always finds time to teach him.
Ate Lea is proud to know that Andrew dreams of becoming a nurse. He’s going to enroll this coming school year, and it would be his first time to enter a formal school.
Young Joseph is also learning new things. Recently, he just learned how to walk when not long ago, he could barely crawl. Now, Joseph can run about as he pleases, which worries Jillian sometimes. “I know he might fall, but I promise to always be there to remind him to be careful, to comfort him when he gets hurt, and to encourage him to get back up. I won’t get tired of caring for him even as he grows up,” she said reassuringly.
Joseph would smile and laugh a lot, especially when his Ate Jillian is around. As they take a stroll around the village, Joseph also learns the names of his fellow SOS children.
When Hermann Gmeiner founded SOS Children’s Villages in 1949, he believed in the value of family and siblings and pioneered the family-like approach in providing alternative care to the orphaned and abandoned children. SOS believes that every child needs a loving family and supportive environment to grow and develop into contributing members of their society. If a child cannot grow up with their family of origin, we must support them to form lifelong bonds in an alternative family with a normal environment – complete with parents, siblings, and other members of a family that help a child develop holistically.
*The children’s names were changed to protect their privacy.