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University dreams turn nightmare - Fifteen SOS Children’s Village wards may never get degree

Published:Thursday | November 14, 2019 | 12:29 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer
Ray Gregory, interim national director of the SOS Children's Villages.
Ray Gregory, interim national director of the SOS Children's Villages.


The dreams of university education for 15 youngsters affiliated with the SOS Children’s Villages in Jamaica may soon vanish if the welfare group’s international funding dries up, its interim national director has said.

Ray Gregory told The Gleaner that the organisation had budgeted for 15 adolescents housed at the SOS Children’s Villages in Barrett Town, St James, and Stony Hill, St Andrew, who would matriculate into university.

“That budget, especially for university, we are looking at $15 million worth of expenditure between both villages. It costs a lot, but this is something we don’t want to stop,” explained Gregory, who is seeking to solicit donations to meet the organisation’s $266-million operational expenses for 2020 when the two local SOS outfits are slated to become self-sufficient.

The local SOS operation, which is a private, non-profit, non-political, and non-denominational welfare organisation, is worried about the more than 162 orphans it has to care for as the realisation sinks in that its fundraising arm in Europe, Promoting Supporting Association (PSA), which formerly provided the bulk of the international funding, has turned its attention to Africa and Asia, which are perceived to have greater needs.

“When I just came to SOS in 2011, we weren’t at that stage [funding tertiary education] yet. We were hoping to support people who matriculate by finding somebody in the community who could sponsor them,” the national director said.

Gregory said the SOS Children’s Villages in Jamaica will soon be taken off the books of its major international donor, SOS Kinderdrorf, which will create a severe dent in its ability to effectively run its operations because only 10 per cent, or $25 million, of its annual budget, is funded locally.

“Between 2022 and 2030, we will have to be raising our budget on our own. Our national running cost per child per month, including all the administrative costs, we spend $130, 704, which amounts to $1.5 million per year,” said Gregory.

The goal of SOS Children’s Villages is to offer orphaned and abandoned children, regardless of race, nationality, or creed, a permanent home and to prepare them for an independent life. The Jamaican chapter was founded in 1970 with the initiative of Dr Harland Hastings, John Rollins, and Professor Heinz Simonitsch.