SOS Children’s Villages and UBUNTU: Building Child Awareness through Arts and Culture

How can art help to create a culture of peace? Can the arts be used as a way to mend conflict, pain, and promote humanitarian development? Through SOS Children’s Villages Lebanon recent collaboration with the Ubuntu initiative children are encouraged to use creativity as a way to foster positive participation in their local community and open their eyes to the powerful tools of art and culture.

Earlier this month works by esteemed photographer Roger Ballen were on view in Beirut to support SOS Children’s Villages as part of the Ubuntu initiative. The transient, edgy yet somehow charming works from Ballen’s most recent series Boarding House aligned the walls of UNESCO Palace. Although the images may appear to be out of place and a bit scary for a child’s charity, they nevertheless show the potential of communicating the beauty and misery of life through art.

Founded in 1949, SOS Children’s Villages is an international non-governmental and non-denominational child-focused organization which provides services in the areas of care, education and health for children who have already lost or are at risk of losing parental care. The organization also strengthens the capacity of the children’s carers as well as their families and communities to provide adequate care. The organization advocates the rights of the child without parental care and operates in the spirit of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 133 countries including 11 in the Arab world (Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Palestine, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Sudan, Mauritania, Algeria, and most recently, Djibouti).

“My experience impacts my work because I believe in the importance of family and a place to belong to. A village in important for a child to learn and grow and accept the reality of life. We warn not to be too overprotective over a child because he needs to learn and discover things on his own,” Helmut Kutin, President of SOS Children’s Villages during his stay in Beirut. President Kutin was himself admitted to the world’s first SOS Children’s Village in Imst, Austria at the young age of 12.

A pioneer in the realm of alternative care, the SOS model is internationally recognized. The model’s success has led Arab countries where  SOS Children’s Villages  national are not yet present seek SOS support and expertise in order to develop and modernize their child care systems. SOS provides such countries with technical assistance based on cooperation agreements.

The SOS model is revolutionary in the way in which it provides children with a home, siblings regardless of religion, culture, and race and educates them to become a positive force in their communities. The use of art in conjunction with the Ubuntu initiative helps the child  to be more sensitive to the world around them. Opening up the imaginative allows the child the possibility to hope, create and to dream.

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