29.6.2019

Hope, Determination, and the Courage to be Different

A while ago I was honoured to be invited to “No Child Should Grow Up Alone – 70 Years of Global Impact”, the 70th anniversary event of the SOS Children’s Village organized by the Finnish section in Helsinki, Finland. I was asked to give a short speech and share my personal experience from the journey I have had in my life and the things that have helped me to survive along the way.

After spending some time brainstorming, we came up with a title – “Hope, Determination, and the Courage to be Different”. I got excited because, firstly, it was the first time I felt I was ready to share my personal experiences of this subject in front of an audience. Secondly, I felt the nature and the spirit of the event were related to building families for children in need and helping children to shape their own future. I felt it was purposeful to be part of such activities.

The experience of attending the event was very especial and indeed quite touching. I was grateful to be there. It was an unforgettable experience to follow deeply impressive and affecting presentations on the number of children around the world suffering from the lack of a safe home and loving family – both essential foundations and pre-conditions for growing up as a healthy, happy and successful person. Such foundations seem commonplace for those of us who are more fortunate, but for far too many children in the world they are sadly missing. At the same time, I was gladdened to hear of the vast number of activities taking place to solve these problems and of the many contributions made my people around the world as we seek to help children not only survive but to flourish in happy homes and families.

It led me to think of how wonderful a chance it is for those who can and are ready to help children to have a safe home, promoting children’s participation in their everyday life by giving them a voice in matters important to them, thereby helping them to become a member of society and learn, little by little, how to function and prosper. Children are at the same time both “beings” and “becomings”; we can easily imagine how significant an impact certain experiences in childhood, or the lack thereof, may also carry into adulthood.

In such an environment and spirit, I felt it was time to share my own experiences and describe the fundamental principles that have helped me to survive. I started with “Hope”, which I believe is the essential source of energy for survival. By hope I mean a certain state of mind and attitude that may help you to retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of difficulties and, at the same time, that you confront the most difficult facts of your current reality. In the journey of becoming something, determination is about the pursuit of what you believe in, hope, and love, no matter how difficult the conditions are. These along with the courage to be different, which means being yourself by discovering your uniqueness and the power of being resilient will help you to find meaning in your life in your own way. It is a long journey but there is a path for everyone – for every child to become “something”.

Fortunately, I had the experience of a lovely home to share. Home is about feeling that we matter, are accepted and cared for. The feeling of being safe and having the possibility to love and be loved. Such a foundation will take us safely from childhood to adulthood.

I closed my speech with words from Albin Gebhardt, the founder of SOS Children's Villages Finland, in 1962. ”The world is full of fear, anxiety, and pain. The wall of hate and prejudice dominates the relationship between nations. There are daily news on bloodshed all around the world. Imagine, how much room is for love in the world we live!”

It was a short speech but the most demanding one I have ever delivered, because it was about my life. But I was relieved and thankful for having had such a unique experience – I felt at home!

I hope some day the vision of the founder of SOS Children Village International, Hermann Gmeiner will come true – that someday there will be no need for such organizations to exist because all children will have a safe home and family. Sadly, there is still a long way to go but there is hope and one person can make a difference and fortunately many have done, and many are ready to do.

 

”Lennä, lennä, leppäkerttu

Lennä, lennä, leppäkerttu,

ison kiven juureen.

Lennä leikkikedon kautta

unipuuhuun suureen.

 

Kulta-kultalehden alla

äiti puuron keittää.

Unituutu leppäkertun

lämpimästi peittää.

 

Laula, laula, unilintu,

tuoksu, tuomenterttu.

Nuku, punapaitulainen,

pikku leppäkerttu.”*

 

“Fly, fly ladybug

Fly, fly ladybug

By a large stone

Fly through a playing field

To a large dream tree

 

Under a gold, gold leaf

Mother will make porridge

A lullaby shall surround the ladybug warmly

 

Sing, sing, dreamy bird

Smell good, flowers of bird cherry

Sleep, you with a red shirt

Little ladybug”

* Composed By Pekka Jalkanen

 

Hermann Gmeiner, Founder of SOS Children's Villages: https://www.sos-childrensvillages.org/who-we-are/history/hermann-gmeiner