The city of Cochin has around 280 slums

Children in our care can grow up in a secure and loving home (photo: Picture Alliance Frank May).
Aluva, which was formerly known as Alwaye, is a suburb of the city of Cochin in the southern Indian province of Kerala. Tourism and industry are important sources of income and employment, and the remittances from people who have migrated to the Arab Gulf countries also account for a significant percentage of the province's gross domestic product. However, agriculture continues to be the main source of income for the local population.

Thanks to various government interventions, life in Kerala has improved over the past few decades. Kerala's literacy and life expectancy rates are among the highest in the country. However, many babies are born with a low birth weight and illnesses such as diarrhoea, dysentery and hepatitis spread easily due to the shortage of sanitation facilities and clean water. 

Cochin is one of the fastest-growing cities in India, but the infrastructure has been unable to keep up with this development. There is a lack of affordable housing, adequate sanitation and safe drinking water. In addition, the unemployment rate is high.

In spite of government initiatives to improve the living conditions of the urban poor, there are an estimated 280 slums in Cochin. The people living here have no access to basic infrastructure or services. Children living in these conditions have a high incidence of sickness and malnutrition. Many do not go to school, or have dropped out of school, because they have to work in order to support their families. These children can be found begging or selling small goods on the streets. While some street children return to their families at the end of the day, others have lost parental care, living and surviving alone on the streets of the city. These children are especially vulnerable as they struggle to keep safe, healthy and well-nourished.

Working closely with the community, aiming for self-sufficiency

SOS Children's Village Alwaye-Cochin received the 1999 annual National Award of India for outstanding performance in the field of child development and welfare. We work in close partnership with the local authorities and community-based organisations in order to identify families who are in need of support from our family-strengthening programme.

What we do in Alwaye-Cochin

An SOS family posing for the camera (photo: SOS archives).
Our SOS Social Centres run a family strengthening programme which offers a comprehensive package of services to enable families to stay together and take good care of their children. In addition to providing day-care, we aim to raise awareness of hygiene, HIV/AIDS, women and children's rights and give guidance on parenting skills. We provide families with food, as well as educational support, medical advice, vaccinations and treatment. In order for families to generate income, we offer them vocational training, career counselling and advice. If self-help groups do not exist, we enable their creation. Families we have been working with are now able to generate an income through tailoring and making jewellery, candles and bamboo products. 

If children can no longer stay with their families, they find a loving home with one of the 15 SOS families, where they grow up with their sisters and brothers and are cared for by an SOS mother. Behind each house, there is a small garden where vegetables and flowers are grown. The children play and exercise in the playground and sports field on the premises of the SOS Children's Village. When needed, the SOS Kindergarten can also provide day care for young children. Older children attend the local schools alongside children from neighbouring families, thus integrating into the community.

As the children grow older they join the SOS Youth Programme. With the support of qualified professionals, the young people develop perspectives for their future, learn to shoulder responsibility and increasingly make their own decisions.