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The SOS solution: room to dream and the means to achieve

January 22, 2013

It is fitting that for my first 2013 post (somewhat tardy I admit), I revisit SOS Children’s Village in Surrey because this organization is all about the future – of children.

I had the pleasure of attending the SOS children’s party on one of those many dark, rainy evenings just before Christmas. Around 100 excited youngsters and “cooler” teens, parents, foster parents, volunteers and the committed crew at SOS celebrated Christmas in a big hall in Cloverdale. Volunteers manned activity stations, including a candy station, dangerous when you have a room full of kids but the sugar highs didn’t get out of control. Santa came and each child received a present, carefully chosen with him or her in mind. A little girl, when asked what she thought of her new doll, beamed and said simply, “it’s beautiful.” Santa went off to deliver gifts to other boys and girls and his departure was followed by a sudden exodus to the food line where everyone enjoyed a good meal.

A number of people shared their experience with SOS with me that night. One woman told me her middle daughter, diagnosed with ADHD and learning disabilities, was having trouble in school and the mother didn’t know where to turn. A suggestion from her daughter’s school led her to Big Sisters and from there to SOS. The daughter started working with Kristie Singh, program coordinator for the education programs at SOS, receiving help with homework, coordination with teachers and one-on-one tutoring. “My daughter loves Kristie,” the mother told me. While she still has challenges, her daughter is more positive and has more confidence at school. A significant side benefit is the relieving of stress on the mom. “I was pulling my hair out. It was sometimes too much.” Now, even though there are still challenges,” she said, “it’s wonderful, I am so happy.”

A woman I will identify as “E” has been a foster parent for 16 years. She adopted one of the children in her care, a girl affected by fetal alcohol and drug complications, and has a son of her own who was suffering from emotional issues. To help these children, she turned to neurofeedback, a treatment that is offered by SOS and described by SOS’s Clinical Advisor and administrator of the treatment, Mark Thomas, as a “sci-fi process that really works”. Think of it as changing, in a completely non-invasive way, the way the brain responds to situations.

During a training session, clients sit in a comfortable chair facing a monitor, watching a movie or listening to music while shapes and images move onscreen.  Sensors applied to the scalp receive electrical information produced by the brain.  No electricity is delivered to the brain.  Feedback in the form of short, subtle pauses in the audio and video streams provide real-time information to the brain about its own activities, which it then uses to make adjustments and corrections. The brain’s adaptive and self-regulatory mechanisms utilize the feedback without any conscious activity by the client.

E said her son had suffered a trauma and, with the added stress of school, he took to hiding behind his hoodie and was often in tears. “He darkened himself,” she said and added that she saw a turnaround in her son following six months of neurotherapy.

E’s adopted daughter has been going through neurofeedback for two years. Behavioural issues that started in kindergarten have substantially diminished. Her anxiety levels are much lower, she is not getting into fights or throwing tantrums, is socializing better, has less obsessive compulsive behaviour and is less demanding. E told me her daughter’s diagnosis was so harsh, she feared for where she would end up as a teenager without SOS’s help.

E has had a lot of experience with the foster system in BC. Speaking of the Village, she said that these foster homes are the kids’ homes, not the foster parents’. In contrast, she told me about one girl that she looked after who had been in upwards of 30 homes. “Their self-esteem disappears when they change homes. Through SOS, lots of happy kids are getting their needs met. They (SOS) are there for the kids. If you want success, you need the support system.”

Resources are often inadequate for older teens and young adults, including for those transitioning out of foster care, and here again SOS steps in. Its two youth workers, Katie and Stephanie, work with approximately 14 teens, their assistance ranging from mentoring and assisting with job hunting, to how to use the bus. One young 19-year-old woman was clipped to Stephanie’s hip throughout the party, following her every move and chatting excitedly about her new dress and upcoming trip to Vegas. The youth workers obviously have a great rapport with the older kids. “Steph is my BFF,” the young woman announced with pride. The youth workers could do much more if there was more funding; there is a long wait list for this program.

B&B Contracting, Sea-Jae Builders Ltd, FS Financial Strategies Inc, HSBC, Mary Lou Owen, Jaylene McNeil and friends, Beachcomber Spas and Diamond Delivery were key supporters in helping make the SOS Christmas party a success. Like all non-profits, none of this would take place without the generosity of our communities and businesses like these.

If you would like to know more about SOS, see earlier posts An SOS Oasis and A Village’s Answer to Trauma, Turmoil and Tragedy . I would encourage you to also check out their website or follow them on Facebook.

My next post is about a young man with a vision and an SOS success story. Please come back to visit.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Lucinda permalink
    January 22, 2013 9:03 pm

    I am always amazed at the research you do and the interest/love you have for these wonderful organizations that are helping those less fortunate than we are. Keep up the good work. Looking forward to hearing about more SOS success stories.

    • January 23, 2013 3:10 pm

      Thanks for your oh-so-positive comment. It is always great to know people are reading and appreciating what I throw out into the internet vastness. Be sure to read the next article tomorrow about one young man. I was very impressed by him and he and others like him represent the future of our native people.

  2. January 22, 2013 11:25 am

    We are fortunate to have SOS and other nonprofits in society. They deserve all the help we can give them.

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