The Meaning Of SOS

You have probably seen the acronym “S.O.S.” before, but do you know what “SOS” stands for in the name SOS Children’s Villages, the world’s largest organization caring for children who have lost both their parents or been abandoned?

Before it was called SOS Children’s Villages, Hermann Gmeiner’s Societas Socialis was a social club organized to raise funds for the care of children without parents in Austria. That’s where the “SOS” comes from, an acronym of the club’s name.

To Gmeiner – pictured below – and his supporters, SOS meant socially responsible society (Societas Socialis is a Latin phrase and translates literally to “social service society”). Gmeiner believed that every child deserves a mother, as well as brothers and sisters, a home, and a supportive community environment. Officially founded in 1949, Hermann Gmeiner refined the name to SOS Children’s Villages to emphasize the call for attention to children in need worldwide.

Those four essential needs have become the principles that lead each SOS Children’s Village. All SOS Villages continue to answer the SOS call of children around the world by providing safe, loving homes and happy childhoods.


Some people mistakenly think the “SOS” in our name means “Save Our Souls”, “Send Our Succor”, or “Save Our Ship”. The original use of “SOS,” however, dates back to 1908 and the International Morse Code distress signal used with maritime radio systems. In Morse Code, “SOS” is a signal sequence of three dits, three dats, and another three dits spelling “S-O-S”. The expression “Save Our Ship” was probably coined by sailors to signal for help from a vessel in distress.

Today an estimated 140 million children worldwide have lost one or both parents, and that number is expected to increase. Most of these children do not have access to education, clean water, food, medical care, and many do not have homes.

SOS Children’s Villages continues to respond to the call of children in 136 countries. With over 550 SOS Villages, SOS Children’s Villages is currently raising more than 73,000 needy children. Calls of SOS in the communities surrounding the SOS Villages have also been heard and over a million children and adults are being responded to daily in over 2,600 SOS Family-Based Care facilities worldwide.


The SOS call is an easy thing to ignore.
The noise created by the stress and complication of our own lives can easily overpower and weaken it.
To some it is a faint whisper and, to others, it is silenced.
However, if you stop for just a moment, you might hear it.
How will you respond?