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.
Life is full of hardships for those living in poverty
Children playing outside the family homes (photo: SOS archives)
With an estimated 7.4 million inhabitants, Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam, and it is also one of the most densely populated.
The city plays an important role in the Vietnamese economy. About half of the population is involved in services, which includes working in banking and tourism. Although the city is one of the richest in the country, there is a growing wealth disparity. Life here is very harsh for the many people who continue to live below the poverty line. People who are most likely to be poor include those with low levels of education or few skills, those who are ill or have a disability, families with many children, and those who have recently moved to the city.
Families living in poverty often live in precarious locations, such as on the streets, in slums, or on boats. As they build their shelters in unrecognised sites they constantly face the threat of relocation. In the majority of cases they have no electricity and no source of clean drinking water.
People living in these conditions often have no official residence rights, and are therefore excluded from governmental services. Migrants who have moved to the city are also socially isolated which makes it harder for them to find work or seek support in times of need. Children are often forced to drop out of school because parents cannot afford the fees, or they need to work and earn some money to contribute to the family income. These children can be seen on the streets scavenging for discarded vegetables and other rubbish to sell on, or selling small goods such as newspapers or lottery tickets.
Providing loving care to children and a future for young people
The social and economic conditions in Vietnam's largest city make the work of our organisation particularly important. The provision of family-based care, education, and support into adulthood has continued to improve the lives 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 Ho Chi Minh
Playing football with friends (photo: SOS archives)
Care for children who cannot live with their families: If children can no longer live with their families, they can find a loving home in one of the SOS families where they grow up with their sisters and brothers. Every child has a "Child Development Plan" which is prepared in consultation with the child and the SOS parent.
Education: Young children from the neighbourhood 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 over 1,000 children at both primary and secondary level. 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.
Support for young people: We give young people 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.