Each of the nine Chinese SOS Children's Villages is celebrating 20 years of the SOS Children's Villages association being present in the country, which was founded in 1985 in order to work towards the goal of the humanitarian organisation to provide family-based child care to orphaned, neglected and abandoned children. The highlight of the anniversary celebrations was a ceremonial act in SOS Children's Village Tianjin, which was the first project to start operations in 1987.
Guests included Li Xueju, Minister of Civil Affairs of the People's Republic of China, Vice-minister of Civil Affairs Li Liguo, the Mayor of Tianjin, representatives of the ministries, provinces and cities where there are SOS Children's Villages, friends and sponsors, as well as SOS Children's Village President Helmut Kutin, numerous high representatives from SOS Children's Villages in China and Europe, and children, youths, mothers, and co-workers from the Chinese SOS Children's Villages.
Before the ceremonial act, exceptional musical talent QiQi, who is growing up at the SOS Children's Village in Tianjin, gave a world-class performance with his xylophone, and on 22 June, a splendid dance and music performance by students of the SOS Hermann Gmeiner School took place in Yantai.
During the celebrations, the facts that high quality child-care within a family-based environment can fundamentally change the lives of disadvantaged children and that the personal commitment of Hermann Gmeiner made this model of child-care a reality, were clearly mentioned in the numerous speeches.
"More than 300 youths have grown up at and left SOS Children's Villages in the past 20 years. They are active participants in the development of our society and serve as proof of the fact that SOS mothers, employees and the ongoing friendly cooperation between the Ministry for Civil Affairs and SOS Children's Villages make this possible", said Vice-minister of Civil Affairs Li Liguo in his speech, which he traditionally gives in the name of the Minister of Civil Affairs. "The SOS Children's Villages and SOS Hermann Gmeiner Schools are an integral part of the social and educational system of China", said Li Liguo.
SOS Children's Village President Helmut Kutin, who received the Ru Zi Nui Award, which is the highest distinction the Ministry of Civil Affairs of the People's Republic of China can offer for humanitarian efforts, from the hands of Civil Minister Li Xueju (Helmut Kutin is the fifth foreigner to ever receive this award), stated in his speech that, "Thanks to the exceptional work of the mothers and employees at the SOS Children's Villages in Tianjin und Yantai, it was possible for the SOS Children's Village idea to spread through the whole of China. SOS-Kinderdorf International is thankful for and proud of what SOS Children's Villages China has achieved. We ask everybody to join hands in the effort so that we can help even more children in the next 20 years."
One girl, who herself has learned how early childhood experiences leave their mark, is 20-year-old Liu Ling. In a touching speech, she explained to the ceremony guests how affection, trust and respect can change the lives and the development of children who had to go through difficult and traumatic experiences during early childhood to the better.
Liu Ling also is an "anniversary child"; she was born the same year the national SOS Children's Village association was founded. At the age of four, she lost her mother; five years later, her father died of cancer. By coincidence, her grandmother came across an article on the SOS Children's Village in Qiqihar. Liu Ling and her brother were admitted to Qiqihar; however, it took time, patience and empathy to help the child find her way out of her inner emigration step-by-step: "My SOS mother slowly opened a window to my soul; I had barricaded myself in; the door to my soul had been tightly locked [...] She helped me reveal my personality; she showed me all the important things in life and how I could participate in society [...] Dear brothers and sisters, let's welcome life with arms wide open, even if it might not always be easy."
In appreciation of the work performed by SOS Children's Villages, Hui Liangyu, Deputy Prime Minister of China welcomed a delegation of SOS Children's Villages headed by Helmut Kutin on 24 June 2005. In his speech, Hui Liangyu said: "I am pleased about the very effective and long term cooperation between SOS-Kinderdorf International and the Government of the People's Republic of China. The 20th anniversary of SOS Children's Villages China marks a notable progress in the welfare of orphaned children in China. We can learn a lot from the way SOS Children's Villages is working and the government should further support the work of SOS Children's Villages in China."