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.
Many families struggle to meet their basic needs
A girl with her little brother at the village (photo: B. Neeleman)
Hai Phong is one of Vietnam's largest cities and is located about 100 km east of Hanoi. Its proximity to Hanoi and its location on the coast makes Hai Phong an important commercial port in the North Central Coast Region.
Although Hai Phong's economy is improving, there is a growing wealth disparity. Many people in the region continue to live in poverty. People in the North Central Coast Region live mostly off agriculture (60 per cent) and services (15 per cent), but industry, construction and trade are also important.
Rural to urban migration in Vietnam is increasing as people move to cities in search of new opportunities. In 2000, an estimated 18 million Vietnamese lived in cities, but this figure is expected to increase to 46 million by 2020. Hai Phong is no exception, but like many other cities across Vietnam, the urban infrastructure has been unable to keep up with this growth in population. Migrants arriving in the city end up living in makeshift houses; in the majority of cases they have no access to electricity, clean drinking water or sanitation facilities. In Hai Phong many such families live on dilapidated boats on polluted waterways.
Families living in these informal settlements struggle to survive. Adults often work in the informal sector, doing unskilled, low-income and unstable jobs. According to one study carried out in the area, around 75 per cent of households had to borrow money on a monthly basis in order to cover basic needs.
Parents often find it hard to meet the physical and emotional needs of their children Due to the harsh economic situation, many children do not go to school - it is estimated that about five per cent have never been to school and 20 per cent drop out after primary school. The children work in the household or can be seen on the streets of the city, selling small goods or begging.
Providing support to vulnerable children and young people
SOS Children's Village Hai Phong is situated in the town centre, near a market and a hospital. The social and economic conditions in the area make the work of our organisation particularly important. The provision of day-care, education and training for children and young people has continued to improve the lives of many in the local area.
What we do in Hai Phong
Playing at the SOS kindergarten (photo: B. Neeleman)
If children can no longer live with their families they can find a loving home with one of the SOS mothers; there are 14 SOS families who can care for up to 140 children.
Young children from the neighbourhood can attend the SOS Kindergarten. Qualified staff at the kindergarten can look after up to 180 children. The provision of day-care is particularly valued by those parents who go to work because they know their children are being cared for by professionals.
Older children can go to the SOS Hermann Gmeiner School which caters for over 1,100 pupils at both primary and secondary level. There is also a canteen where children can eat, thus ensuring they have at least one nutritious meal a day. The teachers at the school work very hard to ensure that children are given the best possible education, and children receive special support in subjects where they are struggling.
Through the SOS Youth Programme, young people are given professional support while they attend further education or start a vocational training course. The young adults are encouraged to develop perspectives for their future, learn to shoulder responsibilities and increasingly make their own decisions.