Poverty and violence affect vulnerable families

SOS brothers posing for the camera (photo: SOS archives)
Children who have lost parental care can find a new home in an SOS family in Children's Village Igarassu (photo: SOS archives).

Igarassu is a town in Brazil's state of Pernambuco, located around 32 kilometres from Recife, the fourth largest city in Brazil..

Most people live off agriculture, fishing and tourism. This work, mostly in rural areas, is seasonal and not well paid. As a result, many families end up moving to the cities in search of a better life. However, they often end up living in unsafe and overcrowded settlements on the edges of town.

Poverty continues to mark the lives of tens of thousands in the area: they are without medical assistance, sanitation and decent housing. Because of economic hardship, many children are forced to go out to work to contribute to the family income. In many cases, they also drop out of school.

Families and children living in the area are also exposed to violence. Homicide rates in Brazil are traditionally higher than in most other Latin American countries, in particular among young males between 15 and 19 years of age with little or no educational background. Walking the streets of nearby Recife after dusk can be extremely dangerous: the city has one of the highest murder rates in the country.

SOS Children's Village provides support to families in need

The north-eastern part of Brazil has not yet benefitted much from the economic boom that the country has experienced. Many people from all over the region move to Recife and its suburbs in search of work and a better life. However not all of them find employment, and with the unemployment rate being so high, tens of thousands have to earn their money in the informal sector where protection and workers' rights are often nothing but wishful thinking. Due to the precarious situation they face, many parents struggle to care for their children. In order to support these families, SOS Children's Villages decided to start working in Igarassu.

What we do in Igarassu

We provide shelter and support to refugee families who have fled Venezuela  (photo: SOS archives)

We provide shelter and support to refugee families who have fled Venezuela (photo: SOS archives)

SOS Children's Villages has been working in Igarassu since 2007.

Strengthening families: Our family strengthening programmes aim to strengthen existing family ties so that children can grow up in their own loving family. We have been supporting families and their communities by strengthening their economic autonomy and self-reliance, and trying to prevent family break-ups. Our activities focus on building self-esteem, improving gender relations and preventing domestic violence. Furthermore, counselling and psychological support is offered.

Care in families: When children can no longer stay with their families of origin, they can find a loving home in SOS families. The SOS parents provide the children with a loving, stable and supportive environment. Some families live in houses integrated into the neighbourhood, and all children attend the local schools and this way they are part of the community.

While children are in our care, and wherever possible, we make sure they are in regular contact with their family of origin. When a child can go back to live with their family, we continue to support them.

Support for young people: Qualified counsellors support young people while they pursue further education or vocational training, some of which is delivered by SOS Children’s Villages. Young people learn to take responsibility, plan their future and prepare for independent adult life.

Support to refugees: The Emergency Programme assists Venezuelan refugees who have arrived in Brazil. We give families a range of assistance that can include temporary shelter at the village. At the same time, we make sure that they have food, water and sanitation. We also ensure that they have access to health care, and that children can go to school.