By Chanel Beckenlehner
|Miss Universe Canada 2010, Elena Semikina greeting some of the SOS children in Managua.|
We were honoured to partner with such a great organization working together to ensure that the orphaned children have the bright future they so deserve. Deeply touched and indeed humbled by the generous donations, countless hours of charity work and contributions from our friends, family, alumni and business partners of the Miss Universe Canada family we were able to help others see the need.
Travelling with a purpose (Global Social Responsibility) we had a chance to give something back an opportunity to share skills, knowledge and friendship. The Miss Universe Canada organization decided to raise funds so that we could provide all the SOS children in Nicaragua with computer labs.
This would give them the opportunity to explore, experiment and express themselves. We wanted to open a world of opportunities and show them that we are all connected. In keeping with Google’s Mission Statement “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” and it’s passion for sharing knowledge across cultures our trip began.
SOS CHILDREN’S VILLAGES – ESTELI, MANAGUA and LEON
|Children being children at SOS Children’s Village Esteli.|
Many children lost their parents and others were abandoned because of the severe poverty of their families. In 1973 the first SOS families moved into their new homes. This became a place where youths live together and prepare for their independent lives while they continue their education and life skills training.
The outbreak of civil war in 1978 caused SOS to expand its operations across the country, including the opening of the SOS Managua in 1995. Located only kilometers from the heart of the capital city SOS Children’s Villages provides homes, day care facilities, health care services, a primary, a secondary school and social center which provides support to vulnerable families in the community.
The province of Leon is situated in the western part of Nicaragua. It is among the regions that were severely affected by hurricane “Mitch” in 1998. SOS Emergency Relief Programme and Emergency Accommodation was set up in Leon however in 2002 a study of SOS Children’s Villages determined that there was considerable need of family-based care for orphaned and abandoned children.
In August 2004 SOS Children’s Village Leon opened its gates with the goal to help the children and strengthen the families of the local community.
|One of the education resource centers that the organizers of Miss Universe Canada funds. It was great to see the kids working so hard at the computers!|
Amazed and overwhelmed we were awestruck that even the smallest gesture whether it be a smile, hug, high five or signing their Canadian and Nicaraguan flags could help lighten and lift the spirits of the most vulnerable of all- the children.
Can you imagine what the computer/ resource centre will do to change their lives? You could not help but think of your own life, your family, your home and want to reach out and do more now. It reminded us how fortunate our life is and how poor this country really is.
The reality is that a little can really go a long way, especially in a country where supplies and needs can be bought for such a small amount of money. These precious children welcomed and shared their lives with us through games, dances and tours through the village facilities. They greeted us with smiles, hugs and invited us into their homes.
We gave gifts of toys, clothes, Canadian pencils and tied handmade friendship bracelets on over 800 children. The children were so very happy and so, so many would just latch on to us not wanting to let go. The overwhelming feeling was of love and gratitude!
|I had the privilege to meet some of the wonderful SOS mothers during my trip.|
As we approached our last day of this Goodwill Tour our hearts were filled with such raw emotions. It was like a our heartstrings as we went from village to village. The work that SOS Children’s Villages is doing for the orphaned population in Nicaragua is without a doubt worthy of the highest honour! Without the help, love and support from these villages where would all these children be?
Having met hundreds of sweet, innocent children the common denominator is the basic need of LOVE. Without it how can anyone survive and grow into responsible, productive individuals that can then turn around and give back to society. For through love we find the compassion that stirs our souls to reach out and give back to our global community.
To say we have been inspired, motivated and educated on this enormous need to help is an understatement. Our lives will never be the same, as we once knew. Forever changed – our work has just begun! To read more about our trip to Nicaragua, please visit http://www.beautiesofcanada.com/muc/.