At present there are thirteen SOS Children's Villages, ten SOS Youth Facilities, eleven SOS Hermann Gmeiner Schools, twelve SOS Kindergartens, two SOS Vocational Training Centres, five SOS Social Centres (Family Strengthening Programmes) and one SOS Medical Centre.
Vietnam was one of the very first countries outside of Europe where SOS Children's Villages started supporting children, young people and families in 1967.
Although the organisation had to stop working in the country in 1976, after years of negotiations, its activities could once again be continued in 1987. The lack of support and suitable accommodation for the large number of children without parental care led to a significant growth in the organisation.
One of the highest child poverty rates of the country
Children without parental care grow up together in SOS families (photo: SOS archives)
Ca Mau is situated in the very south of Vietnam in the Mekong river delta. The population of the city is estimated to be around 205,000 people. The majority of the population is ethnic Vietnamese, but there are also members of the Khmer Krom and Hoa minorities present.
People in the area have traditionally lived off agriculture, forestry and rice farming. An important present-day economic activity revolves around fishing, especially the farming of shrimps and prawns. This industry has grown in recent years, and the general level of poverty has dropped, although there has been an increase in the gap between the rich and the poor. Due to the different labour needs, some groups, such as the Khmer ethnic minority and women, have been disadvantaged by this change in production. There are some concerns about the long-term sustainability of this type of aquafarming, and therefore the effects that the loss of such income could have on the local population.
When taking into account factors such as the social inclusion and protection of children, the water sanitation infrastructure, the education and housing situation, child labour rates, the Mekong Delta has one of the highest child poverty rates in the country. The availability and quality of education remains poor, and many children are forced to leave school because their families cannot afford the cost, and the children have to work to raise the family income.
Providing support to families in need and loving care to children
The social and economic conditions in the area make the work of our organisation particularly important. The provision of support and training for families, young people and children has continued to improve the life of people who lack even the most basic means to earn a living or to ensure their children can receive an education.
What we do in Ca Mau
Children from an SOS family colouring in together (photo: SOS archives)
An important part of SOS Children's Villages' work in Ca Mau is related to supporting children and families in the area. Our organisation is based in the town centre and therefore easily accessible. Through the SOS Family Strengthening Programme we support vulnerable families. We give financial support to poor children to cover their basic needs, such as food, clothing and school expenses. We also provide health and psychological counselling. Parents can attend training so that they can improve their ability to earn an income.
When children can no longer live with their families, they can find a loving home in one of the 14 SOS families, who can care for up to 140 children.
Young children from the neighbourhood can attend the SOS Kindergarten, which can look after up to 190 children. The provision of day-care is particularly valued by those parents who go to work - they know their children are being cared for by professionals.
Older children can go to the SOS Hermann Gmeiner School, which caters for up to 980 children at both primary and secondary level. There is also a canteen where children can eat, thus ensuring that they receive one square meal a day.
The youth programme was started in 2002. They are given professional support while they attend further education or start a vocational training course. The young people are encouraged to develop perspectives for their future, learn to shoulder responsibilities and increasingly make their own decisions.