Welcome to “SOS Children’s Villages”, more than just a job, a career

All children are in school, college or high school. Before the class science session, Sylvie found time to sit on the beige sofa in her living room. “Do you want coffee, tea? Take the pastry!”, She says before getting up quickly to head for the coffee machine. Sylvie got used to receiving it. Besides, it’s kind of his job.

“Here’s my office!” “,” She smiled as she prepared coffee in the bright kitchen. For 13 years, Sylvie has been the “Mother of SOS.” Thus, 258 days a year, the former saleswoman lives in a house in Calais where she welcomes six children, aged 3 to 17, with the SOS Children’s Villages Association.

Welcoming 50 children in Calais

Founded in 1949 in Austria and France since 1956, the association aims to provide a family environment for brothers and sisters by court decision, as well as to ensure a lasting emotional and educational relationship with the family breeder. Reunited, the siblings placed by Childhood Social Assistance (Ase) live under one roof, under the care of “SOS Mother,” the nickname given to the family’s teachers. SOS Children’s Villages now has 571 villages in more than 130 countries, including 17 in France. In Calais, there are 50 children residing in about a dozen homes, all in the same residential area. They are, on average, between four and six per home. The emergency structure also accommodates nine children, it’s time to find a solution.

Sylvie, who was originally from Calais, learned about the association’s existence by word of mouth 13 years ago and began going to the SOS Children’s Villages Joint Center. The idea of ​​wanting to keep the siblings together satisfies him. At the time, Sylvie was an area salesperson, and she watched her four children gain independence one by one and leave the family home. Only the youngest, 14-year-old Alice, stayed at home. After a year of reflection, this divorced mother decided to tell her children about her desire to become an “SOS mother”: “They find it logical, and it agrees with who I am.” So they agree to “share” their mother. Only the youngest comes to live at the SOS House, in Calais, with a brother of four children who are cared for by Ase, ages 1 to 5.

“Children who pass here are not forgotten”

Today, three of the four boys, now ages 14 and 17, still live with Sylvie, whom they call by her first name or nickname “Aunt.” In recent months, the three teens have been joined by a 14-year-old sister as well as an 8-year-old sister and 3.5-year-old brother. Pictures of all the kids Sylvie has welcomed over the years are displayed on the wall separating the living room from the kitchen, hung alongside certificates and other highlights. “Children who pass here, we don’t forget them”, Sylvia confirms. Some have flown in and kept in touch with the “SOS Mother” they visit on the weekends. as a family.

“What we are trying to do is recreate a family environment over time. These children have already experienced abandonment, they should not be made to have a new experience. When you become an SOS mother, it is for life,” Explains Vincent Doyles, Head of Service at SOS Children’s Villages in Calais, who is responsible for supporting mothers working with children at SOS. This former professional educator who joined the association in 2008 is categorical: Mommy SOS is more than just a job. “When they get home, they have to put their ‘other places’ aside. Certainly the one we were before we arrived follows us home. However, SOS moms put their lives aside.”

The term “Mother SOS”, inherited from the association’s origins in the 1950s, does not mean that only women can work as teachers in SOS Children’s Villages. In Calais, two men recently joined the team of teachers. However, in reality, volunteers are generally women in the second part of their careers, often in search of meaning.

Being an SOS mother is a commitment throughout her daily life, to her whole being.

• Lewis Witter / Photo for Life

“It has nothing to do with courage. It is natural.”

This is the case of Monique, Sylvie’s neighbor. I first heard about SOS Children’s Villages through a TV report ten years ago. Immediately, this regional agent who specializes in nursery schools (ATSIM) feels a fiber in it. “I immediately said to myself: This is what I want to do,” Today, she says, sitting on a plastic chair in her garden furniture, basking in the sun. She is the mother of a daughter, but she will wait until adulthood and leave the family home to begin the association.

After a training course in Calais, this Druze fell in love with the area and agreed to come and work in the Pas de Calais. It still had a bowling alley installed at the bottom of the garden, so it wouldn’t be out of place. Because the rhythm of work remains special: three weeks of work 24 hours a day, eight days of rest, during which the family assistant takes over. “When I talk about my job around me, people do not understand, and they tell me that I am crazy or, on the contrary, that I am very brave. But this has nothing to do with courage. It is natural. Almost a profession.”

Learn how to cut to save yourself

Even if they are accompanied by a team of department heads, psychologists, and doctors who are in the immediate vicinity of the SOS homes, the mother’s task remains challenging, facing children who have faced the worst very early on. “We are a sponge”, Monica confirms. Therefore, to continue, each person has his own style. For Drômoise, it’s a journey back by train to its home region. “At first, I thought about work all the time, I was constantly physically and emotionally exhausted. Now I’m learning to tell the kids not to call me when I’m on vacation.” To keep a distance, cool head.

Raynald, he found his balance by taking a flat on the coast, overlooking the sea, to breathe the sea air whenever he wanted. Former animator of the Social Structure of the Town Hall in Paris, this teacher is one of the two men responsible for children for the Calais branch of the SOS Children’s Villages. He works in the transitional home for teens to help them gain independence before they leave the village. “These are children whose lives require them to grow up faster than expected. And that is where the teacher is important to be, because he knows everyone’s story.”

It’s 4:30 PM, mom time∞ or approx. Sylvie came to pick them up at the school gate, before taking them home. SOS’s mother supervises one’s homework while the other plays ball in the garden. Despite appearances, Sylvie would like to point out: His commitment to SOS Children’s Villages is a profession, not a profession. She considers herself a lesser heroine. The heroes are my children who agreed to share their mother! »

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