In spite of improving conditions, poverty continues to affect many

Brothers and sisters grow up together in loving homes (photo: SOS archives).
The city of Trichur is one of the largest cities in the southern Indian province of Kerala. It is a cultural, educational and economic centre. Tourism is an important source 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. But about half of the population continues to depend on agriculture and fishing for its income.

Thanks to various government interventions, life in Kerala has improved over the past few decades. Kerala's literacy rates and life expectancy rates are among the highest in the country. However not all is picture-perfect; 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.

Trichur has seen a rise in the number of urban poor living within the limits of the city. In spite of governmental attempts to improve the living conditions of the urban poor, there are an estimated 133 slums in and around Trichur city. People living in poverty are most likely to inhabit dilapidated houses with no safe drinking water or sanitary latrines. Women are at a particularly high risk of living in poverty, especially if they are widows, divorced or have been abandoned by their husband.

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 are very vulnerable as they struggle to keep safe, healthy and well-nourished.

Working closely with the community, aiming for self-sufficiency

The SOS Children's Village is located about 15 km outside the city of Trichur on a piece of land which was donated to our organisation by the city's archbishop. The local community has always been very supporting of our efforts. 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 Trichur

Young people in our care add the finishing touches to their Pookalam – a floral carpet created as part of the Onam celebrations (photo: SOS archives).
A central part of the work that SOS Children's Villages carries out in Trichur concerns supporting children and families near where our organisation is based. 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 we give guidance on parenting skills. We provide families with food, as well as educational support and 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. For example, people we have been working with are now able to generate an income through tailoring and textile printing or by keeping poultry.

If children can no longer stay with their families, they can find a loving home with one of the 17 SOS families, where they grow up with their sisters and brothers and are cared for by an SOS mother. The children attend the SOS Kindergarten and the local schools alongside children from neighbouring families, thus integrating into the community. The provision of day-care is particularly valued by those local parents who receive training or go to work – they know that their children are being cared for by professionals.

As the children grow older they can 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. They are encouraged to develop team spirit and build up contacts with the relevant authorities and potential employers.