SOS Children in South America: Family Strengthening and Street Children
SOS Children has been operating in South and Central America since the 1960's. In recent years an emphasis has been placed on family support; on building up different social facilities and community-based programmes for disadvantaged families and street children. Single mothers form one of the most troubled groups in society, partly because they have few education opportunities. SOS Children's Villages provides support in many locations: it holds courses, supports networks of families who help each other; it offers education opportunities, an employment service and loans, and it has nurseries and advice centres, which all improve the prospects for families and their children in the long term. This is an example of the kind of situation impoverished families in South and Central America are in, and what SOS Children does to aid these families, more can be found on the right hand menu:
Street Children in Bolivia
Poverty in Bolivia is taken for granted and that is the great tragedy. It is there, it always has been, it is not newsworthy and it gets brushed under the carpet. The better-off live in the same towns as the poor, walk the same streets, but choose to close their eyes to other people’s problems.
In La Paz the capital of Bolivia, ,there are nearly ten thousand children living on the streets, neglected and with no one to look after them. For these children daily life is a continuous fight for survival – a battle against starvation, disease and misery. Some scrape together tiny amounts of money from any casual work they can find, but most resort to crime.
The situation is made worse by a police force which regard the children as exploitable rather than to be helped. Street children are frequently caught by the police, beaten and any money they have on them is taken. The police then send them back to the streets telling them to bring more money by the end of the day if they wish to avoid harsher punishment. A self-perpetuating cycle of evil; but one that is easy to break with a little help from you. We run six social centres in Bolivia to help street children and help poorer families escape from the tragedy of their children ending up on the streets.
For many of Bolivia’s street children the slippery slope starts at birth. They inherit malnutrition from their mothers. Twenty percent of babies die before they reach the age of three. Many of the ones who survive on a grossly deficient diet are disabled in one form or another.
Fathers frequently have no involvement with their children, nor do they take any responsibility for them. Mothers are left to cope as best they can with large families and ridiculously small incomes. And so the children take to the streets, sleeping in the gutters, hollows in the ground, the market – and sometimes gaol.
But a little care, good food and clean clothes can make all the difference to a child and providing support so that they can start schooling can break the poverty cycle for children and their children forever as they become independent.
'Good food, clean clothes and a little love make a brother and sister happy'