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.
SOS Children's Village has been working in Vietnam since the end of the 1960s. Due to the social and economic conditions in this central province, the local authorities asked us to support vulnerable children here.
Children's lives are becoming harder due to economic and social changes
Children having lunch in their SOS family home (photo: SOS archives)
Pleiku is the capital city of the Gia Lai province in the central highlands of Vietnam. The province has an ethnically mixed population of around 1.3 million people.
Gia Lai province is amongst the poorest in the country. Most of the population lives in rural areas. People who live here cultivate tea, coffee and rubber or work in the forestry industry.
However, as with other rural areas of Vietnam, many struggle to make a decent living. Natural disasters often hit the area thus causing suffering to the local population. People with limited income and resources are badly affected by these natural disasters and it is hard for them to recover from the destruction.
Many people do not have a steady income, and some have no choice but to move elsewhere in search of regular work which will provide for their families. When a parent moves away, children are most typically left in the care of grandparents or other family members. When relatives are not able to provide them with the care they need, the children's emotional and physical development suffer.
There is a growing concern over children who drop out of school in order to go to work. The number of children living on the streets has also increased. They are particularly vulnerable; they have no one to protect them from exploitation at the hands of criminal gangs who often traffic them to work in sweatshops or in the sex industry.
HIV/AIDS rates are rising in the area. People with HIV/AIDS often face discrimination and are excluded from the community. Many decide to hide their illness, but this means that they are unable to access the treatment they need.
A clear need to provide loving care to children without parental care
In spite of community efforts and governmental support, a growing number of children in the province need support. The economic circumstances have made it difficult for the government to provide care for all children in need.
SOS Children's Villages is well established in Vietnam, and for this reason we decided to start working with vulnerable children in Pleiku. The authorities donated a piece of land to SOS Children's Villages where family homes and a kindergarten were built.
What we do in Pleiku
After attending the local school, a little boy in our care does his homework (photo: SOS archives)
If children can no longer live with their families, they can find a loving home with their SOS brothers and sisters and their SOS mother. There are 12 SOS families who can care for up to 120 children. Every child has an individual "Child Development Plan" which is prepared in consultation with the SOS mother. The children attend the local schools and this helps them become part of the community.
Young children from the SOS Children's Village and from local families 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 - they know their children are being cared for by professionals. The children benefit from receiving a good pre-school education.