Since 1972, SOS Children's Villages has been supporting Salvadoran children who lack parental support and protection. It was partly thanks to a Franciscan monk that the idea of Hermann Gmeiner could be established in El Salvador. Recently, the organisation has also introduced family strengthening programmes, supporting and empowering local families.
At present there are in El Salvador five SOS Children's Villages, four SOS Youth Facilities, one SOS Vocational Training Centre as well as six SOS Social Centres.
Lack of formal employment and reliance on remittances make for a life of insecurity
Young boy from San Miguel (photo: A. Gabriel)
San Miguel is a municipality located in eastern El Salvador and has a population of roughly 220,000 inhabitants. It is an important economic centre in the region both in terms of agriculture and industry, and has a growing service sector. Another important economic pillar are the remittances sent to El Salvador by the thousands of migrants who now live abroad, primarily in the United States. In fact, these remittances made up around 17 per cent of El Salvador’s GDP in 2011, with around one third of households in the country receiving financial contributions from family members living abroad.
Although poverty has steadily been on the decline in El Salvador in recent decades, today it is still at shockingly high levels, with about 35 per cent (2014 est.) of households living below the national poverty line. This means they live off a per capita income that is between the equivalent of 45 US dollars and 90 US dollars per month.
There are various reasons for these consistently high levels of poverty, but they include declining remittances due to the global financial crisis, stagnation of the economy, lacking access to basic infrastructure, low education levels, and inadequate housing conditions, amongst others. When accumulated, these factors can make it impossible for people to escape the poverty trap.
Children from struggling families need support in order to escape the poverty trap
Children are most severely affected by these conditions. Often, they are expected to work in order to help the family survive. Many children from poor families go to work as domestic employees for better-off families; this is very common in socioeconomically divided regions like San Miguel. Only around 30 per cent of these children go to school, and usually only very irregularly.
SOS Children’s Villages aims to support families in San Miguel by providing parents with opportunities to improve their situation, e.g. workshops and training that will help them attain formal employment. This, in turn, will improve their children’s situation.
What we do in San Miguel
Children in our care learning through play (photo: SOS archives)
SOS Children’s Villages began its work in San Miguel in 1995.
Family strengthening: SOS Children's Villages works with local organisations and communities to support vulnerable families so that they can stay together. We ensure that they have access to basic goods and services such as health care and education
We also provide counselling and psychological support, as well as training workshops for parents so that they can gain skills and improve their income.
Short-term care for children: In 2017, SOS Children’s Villages will work in partnership with the Salvadorian Institute for the Integrated Development of Children and Adolescents to provide short-term, emergency foster care for children and young people who need immediate protection.