The origin of the Hermann Gmeiner Academy

The seminarhouse in Amras

The SOS Children’s Village Hermann Gmeiner Academy

From the exterior, it has been a familiar sight for almost three decades, which changed somewhat after a renovation in 2007, but has not really alienated itself: The SOS Children’s Village Hermann Gmeiner Academy in the eastern outskirts of Innsbruck, in Amras.


The SOS Children’s Village – a non-profit organization of global importance

It all started in 1949 with the vision of the young medical student Hermann Gmeiner. He wanted to give children who, for various reasons, were not lucky enough to be able to grow up protected in a family, a new and loving home. To achieve this goal, Gmeiner defined four main factors, which still form the basis of the SOS Children's Village idea: a mother, siblings, a house and a village. Those factors should enable the children to grow up in a safe social environment. In 1949, the construction of the first SOS Children's Village began in Imst, Tyrol. There are currently 559 Children's Villages in 132 countries around the world.

The first SOS Children’s Village Youth Facility

When the first generation of children at the SOS Children's Village in Imst had outgrown the age for compulsory school in the mid-1950s, the search for suitable apprenticeships or secondary schools was initiated. In view of the educational needs in the following years, the decision was made to found an SOS Youth Facility in Innsbruck. The Tyrolean capital simply offered more options than Imst.

After a short search, the association acquired a building, formerly owned by the Tyrolian public health insurance company, north of the “Kurbad Egerdach”. It was scantily adapted and opened in early 1956 as the first SOS Children's Village Youth Facility with nine young people under the leadership of Rudolf Maurhard. Maurhard is one of the pioneers of youth work for SOS and left his mark on SOS Children's Village history. Even though he is retired now, his heart still beats loud for the SOS Children's Village.

SOS Children's Villages Hermann Gmeiner Academy/Archive

A new building is necessary

Even when SOS Children's Villages were built in all Austrian provinces in the second half of the 1950s, the Youth Facility in Innsbruck still remained unique. Adolescents from all SOS Children’s Villages in Austria were admitted here. In 1958, due to the enormous influx of people, the decision to build a new building next to the already existing one was made and quickly implemented. With its sports and leisure facilities (nature right on the doorstep, soccer field, gymnasium), this facility was outstanding regarding youth care at that time. However, this new building soon reached the limits of its capacity, as up to a hundred residents were supervised, supported and cared for.

These “large groups” however did not follow the pedagogical concept of family-oriented care at SOS. For many of the young people who had just started to gain a foothold and trust in their SOS family, this "overcrowding" meant another painful break in their personal history.

As a result, the construction of Youth Facilities in all Austrian provincial capitals was accelerated in order to relieve the pressure on the Youth Facility in Innsbruck. In addition, a broader range of urban training opportunities could be used to its full potential. Furthermore, due to the relative proximity to the respective SOS Children's Villages, close contact with the SOS Children's Village mother and the siblings, the familiar social environment could be upheld.

The Hermann Gmeiner Academy is created

In 1979 Hermann Gmeiner initiated the planning and construction of the SOS Children’s Village Hermann Gmeiner Academy. The original Youth Facility was knocked down for this. In place of the torn down building, the Academy was built as a western extension to the Youth Facility, which had been put up in 1958. The construction of the Academy took place between 1979 and 1981 and resulted in a step-shaped structure that nestled on the slope behind the building. The house was officially opened in May 1982. The “New Youth Facility” (1958), which was connected to the Academy, remained as such for the time being. Not until the early 1990s did the last adolescents move to Telfs. The building that has now become vacant has since served as the seat of SOS Children's Villages International.

The Hermann Gmeiner Academy not only impresses with its architecture, but has also had a special purpose from the start: From the 1960s - and especially in the 1970s - the humanitarian idea of SOS Children's Village began to expand worldwide. The needs of children in distress have remained unchanged to this day. They need healing experiences in an environment that embraces and protects them as well as a family that encourages them on their way to a self-determined future.

SOS Children’s Village accepts all cultures, ethnicities and religions. Even though the idea of SOS is always the same, the social framework and requirements for how children get help from the SOS Children's Village are different. Due to constant advancements and further training, there are now a large number of complementary programs to the conventional SOS Children's Village Families. Examples include schools, medical and therapeutic facilities, social centers and workshops.

The purpose of the Hermann Gmeiner Academy is to support developments for the optimal care of children and adolescents. We achieve this by offering employees from all over the world a wide range of programs in the Academy.

SOS Children's Villages Hermann Gmeiner Academy/Archive

Why are there no children here?

The year 1981 marks not only the completion of the building, but also the legal formation of the SOS Children’s Village Hermann Gmeiner Academy. Because of its educational mission, the Academy retains a special spot in the organizational structure of SOS Children’s Village. Nonetheless, people not familiar with SOS Children’s Village are often puzzled by the fact that there are no children or adolescents living at the “SOS Children’s Village Amras” (anymore).

Conceptualized as a "spiritual homeland" for training and further education of SOS Children's Village employees all over the world, the SOS Children's Village Hermann Gmeiner Academy has spent two decades dealing with quality assurance, quality development and the further development of the idea of SOS Children's Village. Some of these areas have been recently incorporated in the organizational structure of SOS Children’s Village International. Both Associations are connected by a good and close cooperation.

Although no protégés live in the house itself, the Academy still supports children at SOS Children’s Villages by providing a venue for seminars and education for all employees of SOS Children’s Villages worldwide.

The Hermann Gmeiner Academy – a welcoming place

We cordially invite you to come and visit us! In addition, we look forward to welcoming you to public events at our facility.



For further information please contact:

Judith Dengler, BA
+43 512 3316 5643