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Chile is one of Latin America’s most stable and prosperous countries. However, over 20 per cent of children live in poverty. In collaboration with the national authorities and other organisations. SOS Children’s Villages provides support to vulnerable families, children and young people throughout the country.

The transition from emergency relief to sustainable community programmes

A painting workshop gives children the chance to get together and chat about their lives (photo: F. Espinoza).

The small city of Bulnes, in the Ñuble Province of Chile, has a population of just over 20,000 and is located in central Chile. The region has warm summers and very cold winters. Its main economic activities are agriculture, forestry, and the production of artisanal crafts such as pottery.

In 2010, a massive earthquake measuring 8.8 on the moment magnitude scale hit Chile. Its epicentre was only 34 km off the coast of the Ñuble Province. An estimated nine per cent of the Chilean population, and over 17 per cent of the population in the Ñuble region, lost their homes due to the earthquake and the ensuing tsunami. SOS Children’s Villages provided emergency relief, such as food, clothing, and basic hygiene products, to around 280 families, as well as offering emotional support. These emergency programmes were then gradually turned into self-sustainable development programmes run by the community itself.

Rebuilding does not just refer to infrastructure

The earthquake did great damage to the region’s infrastructure and the consequences are far-reaching. The destruction of innumerable shops and companies meant that many employees were laid off – and some no longer even have a home to return to. This led to a big migratory flux to other cities. Several small towns were abandoned entirely, with residents fleeing to the hills in fear of further tsunamis.

Hundreds of small farmers and business owners lost everything in 2010. Animals were killed, harvests destroyed, and forest fires demolished thousands of hectares. The regional government of Ñuble has created an emergency fund to help people get back on their feet, but hundreds of families remain in a desperate situation. Migration to a larger city may seem like the only option to them, but there is no guarantee that their lives will improve once they arrive there. Infrastructure may not be in place, or they may not be able to find work.

What we do in Bulnes

 At a workshop run by SOS Children’s Villages, mothers and children spend time together and learn new games (photo: SOS archives ).  

SOS Children’s Villages began its work in Bulnes in 1969.

Family strengthening: SOS Children’s Villages supports vulnerable families in the area. The families often work in agriculture or in tourism, and live in modest homes. The families we support face various kinds of challenges – for example addiction issues, or domestic violence.

We work in partnership with local organisations and schools to assist families so that children can grow up in a safe and stable home. We offer different kinds of support depending on the needs of the family. This assistance ensures that the children can go to school or visit the doctor if they are ill. We also run workshops for parents and out-of-school activities for children.

Support for young people: SOS Children’s Villages support young people until they are ready to live independently. We provide shared accommodation, and qualified counsellors guide the young adults while they continue their education and training.