Fall 2016 Fellow: Tsega Teffera, SOS Children’s Villages USA
Ms. Tsega Teffera is currently a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow with SOS Children’s Villages USA, an international NGO that builds families for orphaned, abandoned and other vulnerable children in 134 countries and territories, including the United States. Originally from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, she recently received her Master’s Degree in Communications Management from Webster University. In this blog post, Tsega writes about her increased knowledge of the international development sector as well as the projects she supported throughout her Fellowship in the Marketing department.
From my first day at SOS Children’s Villages USA (SOS), each person, in their own way, made me feel like part of the team. Everyone that I met genuinely believed in the organization’s mission. And soon, I understood why.
SOS has a unique approach to a problem that is all too common – orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children. The organization provides the most basic yet foundational element of every child’s upbringing and life – a family.
The SOS Model is simple: there are villages, homes, siblings and mothers – in short, families. The SOS Village is a supportive community that offers psychological and medical support, schools and recreational facilities. The home is a safe environment where children have a sense of belonging and responsibility both for their home and for each other. Biological siblings are kept together, not separated. Most important of all is the SOS Mother, a trained caregiver who loves and cares for the children.
As a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow, my projects this summer and fall ranged from developing communication materials for internal and external use to conducting research and collecting content. I was tasked with telling the inspiring stories of SOS families all over the world and supporting the organization’s efforts in building awareness about SOS in the United States. These projects definitely helped me to sharpen my skills and to take my know-how from theory to practice. More than that, it allowed me to discover that sweet spot where my interests and skills could be used to better people’s lives.
SOS is changing kids’ lives and giving them the opportunity to fulfill their potential. This is evidenced by the many success stories I learned of through the course of my fellowship, including that of Gebre, a little boy in Ethiopia who found his way to an SOS Village after losing his family to famine, and ended up at Harvard University on a full scholarship; and that of Mavis, a young girl raised in an SOS Village in Zimbabwe who made it to the Rio Olympics as part of the national soccer team. Seeing these changed lives has motivated me to work hard and put in the extra effort, because not only is the outcome worth it, but the positive effects are lasting.
As I wrap up my time at SOS, I see a future for the organization that is exciting and impactful thanks to corporate partners, individuals, SOS alumni and other groups who believe in the organization’s mission. Of these partners is one that I was able to meet in person was 11-year-old Capri Everitt. Capri was so moved by the plight of vulnerable children that she decided to use her voice to raise awareness and funds for SOS. For nearly a year, the young girl traveled to 80 countries and sang the national anthem of each country in the national language (41 languages total). Being involved in this project taught me that there is always something that I can do, no matter what my position or resources. Capri’s story is proof that anyone can help, if we are creative with what we have.
This fellowship gave me the opportunity to discover what I, as a young African woman and leader, can do to serve my community. I’ve learned that it is possible to provide holistic support to individuals, and also that the various factors that impact people are interconnected and therefore require a multifaceted approach. As I aspire to work in the international development sector, this fellowship has broadened my thinking and taught me to consider both the short and long term impact, which is critical for sustainable development. There are many development-related issues that need to be addressed to support kids and people in general, but after my time at SOS, I’m confident that I can contribute to positive change and make a difference in my community and communities around the world.