Benjamin was seven years old when his mother fell seriously ill. For many children like Benjamin, this leads to a life on the street. With a lack of support systems, families are at a greater risk of falling apart when a crisis happens.
Benjamin and his siblings moved to the SOS Children's Village in Mbalmayo in Cameroon. There, they found a home, love, security and friends for life.
They were given a very warm welcome in the SOS Children’s Village. “We came from nowhere and got everything here. Above all, a loving home. It was a wonderful moment,” Benjamin recalls.
For Benjamin and his siblings, the daily struggle for the next meal was over. Benjamin finally had a new home, family and access to education.
“Family is the most important thing in life. It gives us the air to breathe and the courage to keep going. Family is everything. It accompanies us for life. To have a family is the biggest chance we have,” says Benjamin.
His SOS mother, Rosalie, has raised 26 children and always welcomes each one of them back to the SOS Children’s Village.
“My mother. She is my everything. I'm so happy every time I think of her. She really gave me everything,” he says with a smile.
Rosalie still remembers the night Benjamin and his siblings came to her house. “They came late at night. They were covered in mud because it was raining all night,” she says. She told Benjamin he could go to bed immediately, since it was too late to have a wash. He looked at her and asked: "Am I really sleeping in this bed?”
For 17 years, Rosalie raised Benjamin and his siblings, watching them grow into independent adults. Benjamin left the SOS Children's Village when he enrolled in university and got his first job in the Ministry of Youth. Today, he is the managing director of an NGO promoting HIV prevention and education.
“I think my life would have been very different if I hadn't grown up in the SOS Children's Village. When I look at the paths of some friends or cousins, I see how well I was cared for. We were just very lucky,” he adds.
Benjamin wishes all children who are in similar situations could have the chance to grow up in a loving home like he did.
“Helping children and young people is very important to me. I see it as my duty to pass on my good experiences.”
Strong relationships and bonds, education and a feeling of security are just some of his memories of growing up in an SOS Children’s Village. Benjamin always tries to share these values when working with children and young people in his job today.