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No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Author Inspired by SOS Children's Villages - Botswana
Best-selling author Alexander McCall Smith, the Scottish writer whose gentle stories about life in Botswana have put that country on the map for millions of readers around the world, owes one of his characters to SOS Children's Villages.
By: SOS Children's Villages - USA
"As my readers know, she is a very determined lady who does everything she can to help the children," says Smith, who grew up in Botswana and once taught law at the University of Botswana. "There is a certain pace of life here, a slowness that is very special," noted the author during a recent visit to SOS Children's Villages - Tlokweng.
SOS Gives "Unconditional Love" to Botswanan Children
The SOS Children's Village in Tlokweng is one of three that SOS operates in Botswana, a desert country in southern Africa that has been hard hit by AIDS. SOS has been helping children in Botswana for almost 25 years. It has expanded its capacity over time to help raise the nation's many AIDS orphans.
SOS provides warm homes, loving SOS mothers, and supportive communities where orphaned and abandoned children can reach their full potential. Like SOS Children's Villages around the world, SOS-Tlokweng also runs youth facilities where teenagers can transition to independence, and vocational training centers. The SOS clinic and kindergarten are open to local families.
SOS-Tlokweng lies about seven miles outside the capital of Gaborone in a small town near Botswana's border with South Africa. Alexander McCall Smith returns regularly to visit the SOS children. "What impresses me most is that every child gets unconditional love. It is the most extraordinary feeling every time I come here."
SOS, AIDS, and Picking up the Slack of Broken Tradition
Alexander McCall Smith does not explicitly name HIV/AIDS in his books. "AIDS has an enormous impact on Botswana ... But if I were to put the epidemic center-stage, the books would change from being celebrations to being tragedies. Almost every book that is written about Botswana is a tragedy and I want to show the other side, all the good that still is here."
As for why charities like SOS Children's Villages are so needed in Botswana, Smith notes that relatives are the social safety net in most sub-Saharan countries. But the traditional system of extended families has broken down because of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. "To me," he says, "it is very encouraging to see the good work that is being done to help all these children. I admire SOS Children's Villages greatly."
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For 60 years, SOS Children's Villages has been dedicated to the long-term care and prevention of orphaned and abandoned children. Through their Children's Villages, Family Strengthening Programs, and other initiatives, SOS impacts the lives of over 1 million people each year. In 2009, SOS Children's Villages received the Save the World Award. SOS has also received numerous honors including the Mother Teresa Gold Medal, the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, and the Vietnam Friendship Medal. For more information about SOS Children's Villages, visit http://www.sos-