Former German international Thomas Helmer and his wife, the actress Yasmina Filali, have officially opened the SOS Children's Village of Dong Hoi in Vietnam. The village and its SOS Kindergarten are part of the '6 Villages for 2006' campaign that was run jointly by FIFA and SOS Children's Villages. Thomas and Yasmina were the high-profile patrons of the SOS Children's Village of Dong Hoi.
"We visited the building site at Dong Hoi two and a half years ago. Seeing what a great facility it's now become touched us very deeply. Laughing children and mothers, a proud village leader - a really fantastic project. It's not just about the fun we had with the kids, but also the joy of knowing that the kids have a wonderful home there and a tremendous opportunity for their future," says Helmer.
At the heart of the new SOS Children's Village is a large field where the kids can play ball games. Thomas and Yasmina had brought along 50 balls, and the kids all lined up to take a shot at the same time - with Thomas Helmer in goal. He did not stand much of a chance. Thomas also played a full part in the subsequent match, cheered on by many fans who knew him well from his time as a German international and Bundesliga star. Yasmina did not get involved for a very appropriate reason: she is five months pregnant.
Lots of friends and visitors from the surrounding communities had come to the SOS Children's Village of Dong Hoi to join in the festivities. This reflects a strong tradition, as those responsible for the SOS Children's Villages always make sure that these facilities maintain close contact with people in the area, and that the children in the village play football and participate in other activities with other children. Many of the guests in Dong Hoi could still recall Thomas Helmer from his playing days. In other areas of Vietnam too, they are so keen on football that they are familiar with both current and former stars from all over the world.
This SOS Children's Village has room for 120 children, although at the moment it is not full to capacity. In collaboration with the authorities, children with the most urgent need for long-term care in the SOS Children's Village are being selected. Most of the children are orphans. A large number of parents across the country are still dying prematurely from the long-term effects of chemical weapons used during the war in Vietnam.
The SOS Children's Village is supplemented by an SOS Kindergarten for 180 boys and girls. This kindergarten is also open to children from the area around the village.
Dong Hoi is the second of the '6 Villages for 2006' to be officially opened. The first one is in Morelia (Mexico), which is supported by German actor and Schalke fan Peter Lohmeyer as well as Mexico's national coach Hugo Sanchez. The '6 Villages for 2006' illustrate how a global community of football fans are coming together under the FIFA umbrella to recognise and fulfil their social responsibilities.