Former SOS children empowered with life's skills

When her mother passed on in 2007, nine-year-old Veronica Fikeng together with her three siblings found themselves lost, confused and uncertain of what would become of them owing to family conflicts over their care.

After intervention by social workers, they were taken in by the Tlokweng SOS Children’s Villages Association of Botswana and later moved to the Serowe SOS village.

Today, Fikeng is one of the over 100 young people that SOS has taken through the Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development training offered by the Local Enterprise Authority (LEA).

This was the second group, following the graduation of 150 SOS graduates in Francistown recently.

According to SOS National Director, Motshwari Kitso, the graduation was for young people from both their alternative care and the family strengthening programme that operates in Mmatseta, Gakuto, Mmanoko, Kumakwane and Ramaphatle among others.

Fikeng, now 26, is happy that upon exiting the SOS child care programme, the organisation still has her interest at heart, having facilitated her to go through the training that will significantly improve her quality of life going forward.

With the skills acquired, she plans to pursue business and is currently working on finalising her business plans for funding. She is also a graduate of AWIL College.

Twenty-nine (29) year-old Joyce Makoti is also a proud graduate of the SOS childcare programme. She arrived at the Tlokweng home with two siblings after the passing of their parents in 1998 at only five years old.

When she heard about entrepreneurship training, she jumped at the opportunity because she has always had a dream to run a catering business.

“I have also connected with people who can help me in establishing my business,” she said, adding that she is grateful for the opportunity by SOS, and partners.

SOS National Director Kitso said at the graduation ceremony that the training is part of SOS Children’s Villages’ efforts towards the empowerment of young people to gain opportunities for entrepreneurship and employability.

This also complements the government’s role in empowering young people and reducing youth unemployment.

Kitso said they are working with different institutions including LEA, Ministries of Youth, Sport and Culture and of Entrepreneurship, as well as Standard Chartered Bank, which sponsored the training of 1000 young people.

They are looking for more willing partners to ensure that they deliver on this promise.

“We want to empower our young people with entrepreneurship skills, offer them internships and do all in our power to expose them to proper work environments,” Kitso said.

SOS provides parental guidance to vulnerable children to ensure stability in their lives.

The organisation that has a footprint across the world is concerned with the protection and welfare of children and ensures that children are raised as well-rounded adults and empowered with skills to be independent and self-supporting.

Currently, SOS has about 320 children in their villages in Tlokweng, Serowe and Francistown and a majority, about 1500, are in the family-strengthening programme.

“We all have a responsibility to ensure that these children are taken care of,” Kitso said, adding that after 30 years in childcare, they are shifting to a new strategic direction of placing the children in homes.

He believes that nothing replaces a natural family and therefore it is only right for children in their programme to be raised in normal families rather than in institutions that do not have a homely feel.

“There are things that children miss when raised in institutions that they would have and experience in a family setting, so this is what we want to promote,” Kitso said.

Already they have successful pilot projects in Boatle, Mochudi, Francistown and Serowe and hope to roll the programme across the country. “SOS will still take care of them in different family settings in different communities,” he assured.