It seems Herbert Humphrey was not the only one who believed this is true. Save Our Children Foundation (SOCF), a registered NGO and social development organisation for children, was founded on this very principle by a woman, who at the age of 21, believed she found her calling. Leslie-Ann Nelson, an educator, said the genesis of SOCF, was a response to the cries of the children, who were deprived emotionally, spiritually, intellectually and physically in various communities across the country. “At that age many would think ‘better’ things would concern me, but having grown up in a much more fortunate situation, and also being exposed to those who were not so fortunate, it always bothered me because I thought everyone should have the same opportunities regardless of their financial background,” said Nelson.
She said it was because of this belief she became the ambassador for the plight of children in need. “That became my business, I was more interested in wiping away the tears from the faces of those who didn’t have a voice, than I was in shopping or partying or just hanging out with friends, things any normal 21 year old would do,” Nelson explained. She said the core of the Arima-based organisation focuses on the holistic development of a child. “The organisation’s social commitment focuses on family-based long-term care for orphaned and abandoned children and integrated community-based relief programmes for families in need,” said Nelson. She decided on this approach because international research has proven time and time again that it is an effective model for the holistic development of the person, as opposed to traditional institutionalised care. SOCF is working on the development of what would be the country’s first home built to accommodate displaced children, in a setting that resembles a real home with resident couples who would provide parental care to children.
“It is a family-centred approach. This will be nothing like a regular home. Each family will have their own room. Services such as counselling, extra-curricular activities, self development programmes and more, will be provided at this family centre. The aim is to get them prepared to take on the world,” says Nelson. She continued: “Many homes just house children and when they have come of age, they are released into this harsh society without any sense of direction, SOCF is working towards eliminating this.” Nelson hopes to start building by the end of 2013, but financial constraints pose a challenge. “I really want this project to be up and running but the organisation is in need of financial aid. This is a self-funded NGO. Finances come through fund-raisers mostly, or through donations from interested individuals and entities,” said Nelson. “Our major need at this time is a minibus, there is an organisation in Orlando which has promised to supply us with computers, we are hoping this promise materialises before September.”
On November 24, the organisation will host a fund-raising dinner in commemoration of its tenth anniversary. The dinner is also being held to honour five outstanding women who have contributed to the life of SOCF. Nelson said over the years the work of the NGO has been recognised by reputable people in society, among them the late Archbishop Anthony Pantin. “I remember him in all I do. His words will always remain with me. He said: “The foundation of the society is the family. When that foundation is shaken, a society can be destroyed.” Nelson said based on a recent survey done by an associate group which is part of the organisation’s executive, the number of orphaned children is on the increase in Trinidad and Tobago. “SOCF consistently works on further developing child care methods to be able to meet ever-changing demands, because we believe foundation is key,” said Nelson.
She said some of the initiatives formed by SOCF include its most recent called STEP (Social Training and Empowerment Programme), which seeks to teach children the art of effective communication and qualities that constitute a good leader. Another is the Kids Chess Academy which focuses on the fundamentals of chess and how it can be used to aid in expression. And Tomorrow’s Men and Women, its first initiative, which is still ongoing. This initiative is geared towards meeting the needs of families and young people affected by HIV/Aids who are at a high risk of contracting the illness every day. Services offered include support provided to child or grandparent-headed families, Aids counselling and prevention, education and health services.
For more information on SOCF call 377-4974 or email the organisation at [email protected]