SOS Children's Villages has been present in Palestine since 1968, and began working with children and families in Bethlehem shortly after. The work of SOS Children's Villages has adapted to meet the needs of the local population. Alongside local agencies, our organisation has been working directly with families and communities so that they can care for their children and young people.
Children facing an uncertain future
Children without parental care can grow up in a stable environment in SOS Children's Villages (photo: SOS archivesl).
SOS Children's Village Bethlehem is situated near the historical Shepherd's Field in the West Bank. In addition to the political instability and violence, the area suffers from a high unemployment rate (18 per cent), and around 18 per cent of the population lives under the nationally-established poverty line.
There are 30,000 people living in Bethlehem, and the town's economy is based on tourism and related industries. However, in spite of international aid, the progress towards the eradication of poverty and hunger remains stalled due to the current situation, which constrains social and economic development.
The children of Bethlehem have been directly affected by the unstable situation, which has had a harmful effect on their psychological well-being. Many children have seen their friends or family-members killed or injured. They have few places where, and opportunities when, they can play freely. The trends in school enrolment rates are worrying - around 22 per cent of young adults were not enrolled in secondary education (2011 est.). The main reasons are early marriage, poor educational achievement and the fact that families need children to go out to work to earn extra income.
Support to families and children in the community
The distressing living conditions in the area around Bethlehem make the work of SOS Children's Villages particularly important. The organisation aims to improve the lives of those in the local community, and tries to ensure that the needs of families are met so that the children do not lose parental care.
What we do in Bethlehem
SOS Children's Village Bethlehem celebrates together (photo: SOS archives).
Strengthen families: SOS Children's Villages works closely with local agencies to set up common strategies around key issues. Our organisation has been running a family strengthening programme which enables children who are at risk of losing the care of their family to stay with their families.
In some cases, we provide supplies such as food or fuel; other families have more complex needs, for example micro projects are provided for single parents so that they can set up a business. We also aim to develop the community so that families can support each other.
Care in SOS families: When children can no longer live with their families, they can find a loving home in one of the SOS families, where up to 126 children can be cared for by the SOS mothers. Some of the families live integrated in the community.
Support for young people: As the children grow older, they can move to our youth programme. Young people can live in these special houses while they receive further training or education. With the support of qualified professionals, the young people are encouraged to make their own decisions and shoulder responsibilities.