SOS Children's Villages has been present in India since 1964 and has continued to grow ever since. In times of emergency, our organisation has responded with emergency relief programmes. In many cases, these developed into permanent programmes which offered support to the local people. At present SOS Children's Villages supports children, young people and families throughout India.
An increasing number of families living in slums
An SOS mother with some older girls in her care (photo: SOS archives).
SOS Children's Village Greenfields is situated in Faridabad, near the city of New Delhi. Faridabad has about 1.7 million inhabitants and plays a central role in the economy of Haryana State, producing agricultural goods and machinery. Furthermore, in recent years some governmental offices have moved out of Delhi and to Faridabad.
Throughout India, people from rural areas are migrating to urban areas in search of a better life. Faridabad is no exception: many have moved here over the past few decades due to its thriving economy and location near the capital city. However, the city's infrastructure has not been able to keep up with this development. When no affordable housing was available, the newly arrived migrants created their own settlements wherever they found space, and using whatever materials were at hand.
In spite of some governmental measures to create housing and improve infrastructure, sprawling slums continue to be a problem in Faridabad. According to some estimates around 46 per cent of the population lives in such informal settlements. There is a limited sanitation system, and electricity and safe drinking water are in short supply. Access to other services such as health care and education is also restricted.
Children growing up in these conditions have a high incidence of sickness and malnutrition. Most of these children cannot afford to go to school as they need to go out on the streets during the day, in order to scrape together some money to contribute to the family income. Many are at risk of losing parental care. Others have been forced to leave their family homes permanently and now live on the streets. All of these children are very vulnerable as they struggle to keep safe, healthy and well-nourished.
Working closely with the community, aiming for self-sufficiency
SOS Children's Villages Greenfields provides services and support to families living in these informal settlements. Due to the conditions of deprivation in which they live, the local community has always been very supportive of our work. We work in close partnership with the local authorities and community-based organisations in order to identify families who are in need of support from our family strengthening programme. In addition, we collaborate with a local non-governmental organisation which provides free health care.
What we do in Greenfields
Providing information and support to local woman is a central aspect of our work. (photo: SOS archives).
A central part of the work that SOS Children's Villages carries out in Greenfields is focused on supporting children and families, the majority of whom live in the slums of Faridabad. Our SOS Social Centres run a family strengthening programme which offers a comprehensive package of services to enable families to stay together and take good care of their children. We aim to raise awareness of hygiene and children's rights, and we give guidance on parenting skills. We provide families with food, as well as educational support and medical advice, vaccinations and treatment. To help families generate an income, we offer vocational training, career counselling and advice. If self-help groups do not exist, we enable their creation. Families we have been working with are now able to be self-sufficient through keeping animals or selling goods like groundnuts or clothes.
If children can no longer stay with their families, they can find a loving home with one of the 20 SOS families, where they grow up with their sisters and brothers and are cared for by an SOS mother. When needed, the SOS Kindergarten can also provide day care for young children, while older ones attend the SOS Hermann Gmeiner School in the area alongside children from neighbouring families, thus integrating into the community.
Young people attending higher education or receiving further training can join the SOS Youth Programmes. With the support of qualified staff, they are encouraged to shoulder responsibility and increasingly make their own decisions. In recent years, young people have trained as bakers, or to work in the hotel and hospitality trade.
At a nearby village called Anangpur, in addition to the primary school, we also operate an SOS Medical Centre and an SOS Nursing School. The medical centre provides a wide range of health programmes, including a mother-and-child clinic. The nursing school offers training to girls and also provides accommodation for some of the students.