Helmut Kutin, Longtime President of SOS Children’s Villages, Dies at 88

Helmut Kutin, former President of SOS Children's Villages International, passed away on April 23 from a serious illness at a hospital in Bangkok, Thailand. He was 83 years old. Kutin dedicated his life to helping children in difficult circumstances, with the hope of providing them with a loving home.

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Bring happiness to thousands of children around the world

According to SOS Vietnam Youth Village, Helmut Kutin was born in 1941 in Bolzano (Northern Italy), once the territory of the Republic of Austria before World War I. By 1953, due to family events, the 12-year-old Helmut Kutin was sent to the SOS Imst Children’s Village (Tyrol, Western Austria), the first SOS village worldwide, founded by Dr. Hermann Gmeiner in 1949.

Helmut Kutin, former President of SOS Children’s Villages International.

In 1985, Kutin was appointed President of SOS Children’s Villages International and SOS Children’s Villages Austria. According to SOS Children’s Villages, when Kutin began his term, there were 233 SOS Children’s Villages and nearly 400 affiliated organizations in 85 countries. Now, SOS Children’s Villages operates in 135 countries with 571 villages, along with more than 1,300 affiliated organizations and programs such as kindergartens, high schools, youth hostels, and vocational training centers.

In 2012, he stopped serving as the President of SOS Children’s Villages International. He was still elected honorary President of SOS Children’s Villages International by the General Assembly of SOS Children’s Villages International.

Helmut Kutin celebrates Christmas with the children of SOS Children’s Village Dalat. (Photo: SOS Children’s Villages Vietnam)

Kutin does not build a family of his own, he spends most of his life going to places where there are misfortunate orphans who lack loving help. He said the SOS children around the world were his family, and the orphans and unfortunate children raised by the villages were his children.

Responding to the Vietnamese press, Helmut Kutin said: “I will not retire, I will continue my work with the SOS village. I will go to places where there are still misfortunate children living in orphanages that need help and love… I already have a big SOS family, I am happy to have thousands of children around the world.”

Special love for Vietnam

Helmut Kutin fell in love with Vietnam during his visit to Saigon in March 1968. Witnessing firsthand the pitiful situation of orphans in Vietnam due to war, despite the country’s security situation, he decided to stay because “I know there are many lovely children in need of help,” he said.

He started building SOS Children’s Village in Go Vap, recruiting mothers, aunts, and village staff and receiving children. To understand the thoughts and feelings of the mothers and the thoughts and aspirations of the children, he began learning Vietnamese. Even though his pronunciation was not excellent, he was happy, because “only children in Go Vap SOS Village can understand my Vietnamese.”

Kutin and Vietnamese children. (Photo: SOS Children’s Villages Vietnam)

On December 15, 2009, the Viet Nam Union of Friendship Organizations awarded the Medal “For Peace and Friendship among Nations” to Helmut Kutin, then President of SOS Children’s Villages International.

This is the highest award of the Viet Nam Union of Friendship Organizations to honor Helmut Kutin’s contributions to helping disadvantaged and unfortunate children in Vietnam.

For many years, Helmut Kutin spent three to three weeks in SOS Children’s Villages in Vietnam, listening to each story of mothers, each thought and aspiration of the children. He remembers the names of many mothers and many orphans in Vietnam. He had many meals and stayed many days with the children there.

For Helmut Kutin, Vietnam is his second homeland. He constantly looked for organizations, businesses, and individuals who wanted to support funding to build SOS Children’s Villages in Vietnam. Up to now, Vietnam has 17 SOS Children’s Villages in 17 provinces and cities.

Helmut Kutin also conveyed his profound understanding of Vietnam to international friends through dialogues and campaigning for funding for Vietnam, which has contributed to advocate people around the world to better understand Vietnam, sympathize with, and contribute to Vietnam.

“Vietnam and SOS Children’s Villages in Vietnam are my second homeland. I will forever keep fond memories of my visits to the country,” he wrote in his Anniversary Message on the 20 years of establishment of SOS Children’s Villages Vietnam.

SOS Children’s Village Ben Tre held a memorial service for Helmut Kutin. (Photo: SOS Children’s Villages Vietnam)

From April 26-28, the National Office, grassroots SOS Children’s Villages, and Hermann Gmeiner high schools in Vietnam held a memorial service for Helmut Kutin to show respect and condolences to the person who spent a great affection and made significant contributions to the formation and development of SOS Children’s Villages Vietnam.

Valerie Mai