One young woman from the United Kingdom is doing her part to raise awareness about SOS Children’s Villages in a unique way.
In an effort to encourage people all over Canada to show their kindness to others by supporting the charity, which is helping orphans around the world who must rely on the kindness of strangers for their survival, she is also depending on the kindness of strangers for her own survival.
“By undertaking the journey in this way,” said Tana Silverland, “I hope to show people the difference a little kindness can make. It can get a bit scary at times, but I passionately believe that SOS Children’s Villages is worth it; I hope that my dedication will demonstrate just how extraordinary I think the charity is.”
Silverland was in Placentia Sept. 12-13, and left on the ferry from Argentia Thursday for the final leg of her campaign, which will end in Ottawa.
“It is the kindness of Canadians - feeding me and taking me into their homes - that has made it possible for me to keep going this long, and I hope to inspire many similar acts of kindness towards the children that SOS Children's Villages is helping.”
Silverland is from England, but traveled to Whitehorse in June 2010 to begin her awareness-raising campaign. She’s been bicycling across Canada for the past two years, speaking to community newspapers, radio stations and really, anyone who might listen, in an effort to raise awareness of the good these villages do.
Silverland said she became aware of the work the charity does when she volunteered for them in Cambridge in the U.K.
“SOS Children’s Villages is quite extraordinary,” said Silverman. “I did volunteer work for them, and what it is they do resonated so strongly with me. They provide orphans with a loving family, something I actually grew up with myself, and so I recognized the need for that, and how important it was what they were doing.”
SOS Children’s Villages raises orphaned and abandoned children in more than 133 countries. They provide these children with a home, an SOS mother and a sense of belonging, according to information on their website, www.soschildrensvillages.ca. They also offer education, training and medical care for the children in the SOS villages and surrounding regions.
The charity is non-political and non-denominational and has been operating for more than 60 years. It is the recipient of the 2002 Hilton Humanitarian Prize and has been nominated 14 times for the Nobel Peace Prize.
The charity was founded in 1949 by a young Austrian medical student, Hermann Gmeiner, who saw so many children suffer after World War II, he felt something had to be done to help.
Currently there are nearly 500 SOS Children’s Villages, which provide a permanent home for children who might otherwise have been forgotten. In these homes, “each child receives the loving care of an extensively trained SOS parent within the secure environment of a family home with brothers and sisters. Natural siblings always remain together,” their website states.
The charity also tries to strengthen the communities in which it operates through schools, medical and dental clinics and family counseling and social centers, which benefits many other children as well.
Silverland said she wasn’t quite sure what to expect from her trek that has lasted two years, but she has been pleasantly surprised.
"SOS Children's Villages is possibly the largest, oldest, most well-respected charity that Canadians have never heard of," said Silverland. "Because they spend so much of their money on the children, rather than advertising, I wanted to do this journey to help them get the recognition they deserve."
Although she is making her journey on a distinctive three-wheeled bike, she stressed that this was not a ‘cross-country charity challenge’.
“For me, the journey is about the kindness of the people in the places I stop at. I have visited towns all over the length andbreadth of Canada to tell people about SOS - the trike is simply my means of getting there!”
If you would like to follow Silverland’s journey, or make a donation to her fundraising appeal, go to http://tanasilverland.wordpress.com.
If you are interested in sponsoring a child, or finding out more about SOS Children’s Villages, you can visit www.soschildrensvillages.ca, or call them on 1 800 767 5111.