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.
An area with grim prospects for the future
Brothers and sisters playing in SOS Children's Village Rafah (photo: SOS archives).
SOS Children's Villages is situated about 15 km from the town of Rafah in a village called Deir Sultan in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. The area is densely populated and the town of Rafah is estimated to have around 71,000 inhabitants. Most of the population are Palestinian refugees.
The people of Rafah suffer many hardships due to the political and economic situation. The blockades have meant that there are shortages of food, medicines and other basic supplies such as fuel. The children of Rafah have experienced a deterioration in the quality of the health care and a fall in educational achievement.
The economic development of the area is limited by the current political situation and the insecurity and violence it entails. The unemployment rate is high, with young people being particularly affected. Poverty is also widespread, and many families are unable to care for their children.
International aid has played an important role in meeting the needs of the local community. As well as providing food, international organisations have also offered mental health assistance to families, young children and young people who have been affected by the fighting.
Support to families and children in the community
The distressing living conditions in the area around Rafah make the work of SOS Children's Villages particularly important. The SOS Hermann Gmeiner School was opened in 2001 because of the scarcity of educational facilities in the surrounding areas. The organisation aims to improve the lives of the local community, and tries to ensure that children's needs are met.
What we do in Rafah
Getting ready for a game of football (photo: SOS archives).
SOS Children's Villages provides different kinds of assistance to local families and children: support to families so that they can stay together, day-care for young children, primary schooling and a youth programme.
SOS Children's Villages runs a family-strengthening programme which enables children who are at risk of losing the care of their family to grow within a loving family environment. When children can no longer live with their families, they can find a home in one of the 12 SOS families, where up to 120 children can be cared for.
Young children from the SOS families and from the neighbouring areas can go to the SOS Kindergarten. Parents welcome the existence of quality day-care, where they know their children will be looked after by professionals while they go to work or receive training. Primary-school-aged children can attend the SOS Hermann Gmeiner School, which provides primary education to up to 190 pupils; most of the children at the school come from local families.
As the children grow older, they can move to our youth programme. At present, up to 14 girls and 12 boys 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.