SOS Children's Villages (German: SOS-Kinderdorf) is an independent, non-governmental international development organisation which has been working to meet the needs and protect the interests and rights of children since 1949. It was founded by Hermann Gmeiner in Imst, Austria. It has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize 14 times and received the 2002 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize. According to the Financial Times, the 2004 turnover of SOS Children's Villages altogether was US$807 million, and it was ranked 33 out of a 100 global NGOs for "global accountability". . Its international umbrella organisation, SOS-Kinderdorf International, was founded in 1960, after national associations had been established in France, Germany and Italy in addition to the original Austrian association. Over hundred national associations across the world have since been established.
The organization's work focuses on abandoned, destitute and orphaned children requiring family-based child care. Millions of children worldwide are living without their biological families for a variety of reasons including:
Such children are supported to recover from being emotionally traumatised and to avoid real danger of being isolated, abused, exploited and deprived of their rights.
SOS provides about 50 000 such children and 15 000 young adults with a permanent new family, with a '24 hours a day' new SOS mother to provide family-based care. Typically (in the developing world) about ten children are grouped into a house with an SOS mother and between ten and forty of such houses are grouped together as a "Village" with shared facilities. Families groups once formed are kept together as a priority.
In addition to the SOS Children's Villages (over 450 worldwide) that form the core of SOS Children's Villages' work, the organisation runs a whole range of programmes and facilities in support of socially disadvantaged and impoverished families to help them lead a better life in the long-term. SOS also supports about a million other children in community programmes such as family strengthening, running 192 schools across the developing world, running medical centres and programmes for street children, child soldiers and victims of disaster.
Prominent supporters include Nelson Mandela, FIFA, the Dalai Lama, Andriy Shevchenko, Argentine footballer Javier Zanetti, French writer & actress Anny Dupérey, Sarah Ferguson, Princess Salimah Aga Khan, Cher, Mike Holmes and Johnny Cash whose memorial fund is towards the work of SOS Children's Villages worldwide.
SOS invites support from community groups, schools and individuals through participation in World Orphan Week--an international week-long event promoting awareness of the needs of orphaned and abandoned children.