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 poorest regions of the country
Children playing in the grounds of SOS Children's Village Thanh Hoa (photo: SOS archives)
The city of Thanh Hoa is located near to the coast, some 140 km south of the capital city of Hanoi.
People in the region live mostly off agriculture (60 per cent) and services (15 per cent) but due to its proximity to Hanoi and the good transportation network between the two cities, industry, construction and trade are growing sources of income and employment.
However, many people in the region continue to struggle to make a living; the province is the second poorest in the country, and the gross domestic product is about half the national average. People in rural areas face particular hardships: due to the poor infrastructure, their remote location means that social welfare measures often don't reach those in need. The region has a high rate of migration; people move from rural to urban areas within the province, but also further afield to other provinces or abroad.
Parents often find it hard to meet the basic physical and emotional needs of their children. According to official estimates, there are about 10,000 children who have lost parental care in Thanh Hoa province. The actual number is probably even higher. These children depend on their relatives or the authorities for support. From early childhood on, they have to contribute towards earning their living. In rural areas, they usually take care of the animals, pick grass or look after their relatives' younger children. In the cities, they work in restaurants, polish shoes or sell newspapers. These children have neither enough time nor the means to attend school; it is estimated that about five per cent have never been to school and 20 per cent drop out after primary school.
Providing support to families in need and loving care to children
The local authorities approached SOS Children's Villages for help for the large number of children in need in the area, and the provincial government provided a piece of land for a new SOS Children's Village here. The social and economic conditions in the area make the work of our organisation particularly important. The provision of education and training for children and young people has continued to improve the life of many in the local area.
What we do in Thanh Hoa
Children playing shop in the SOS Kindergarten (photo: SOS archives)
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 looks after the children, the majority of whom come from local families. 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. The kindergarten and school provide an important service to the community.
When the children are ready to leave their SOS family, they move into special accommodation with other young people. They continue to receive our professional support while they develop perspectives for their future, learn to shoulder responsibilities and increasingly make their own decisions.