Children living in urban slums grow up with little hope for a brighter future

Contagious smiles! (photo: K. Snozzi )

The city of Cebu in the Visayas region is one of the largest towns in the Philippines. Cebu city is a well-developed industrial centre. Its large commercial port plays a central role in domestic shipping. In recent years the service sector has become increasingly important; IT businesses and call centres are opening up offices in the city and the tourism industry continues to expand and attract visitors to the beautiful historic and natural sites.

The city's success attracts people to come to live here. In a need to escape grinding poverty in the rural areas, many move to Cebu in search of a better life. However, most end up joining the thousands of urban poor and living in slum-like conditions. This housing is often located in unused land, under bridges or near river-banks. There is no clean water, sewerage systems or electricity and access to other social services such as health care is lacking. The residents live under the constant threat of being forced out of their homes, without being offered alternative shelter.

Families living in these conditions struggle to make a living and look after their children. As parents go out to look for work, the children are often left alone at home. Very often children are also forced to go out to work. Some children scavenge for rubbish in the city's garbage tips, others beg or sell small goods on the streets. As they spend time out on the streets, they are exposed to exploitation, violence and the false promises of human traffickers.

We work hard to protect the rights of children in the city

SOS Children's Villages has been present in Cebu for over three decades. During this time we have become well-known and respected advocates for children. We work closely with other organisations responsible for protecting the rights of children. In Cebu, we are based near Talambam, one of the areas with urban slums.

What we do in Cebu

An SOS family has fun cooking together (photo:B.Neeleman)

SOS Children's Villages provides different kinds of support to the local population. The family strengthening programme provides assistance to families who are at risk of abandoning their children. SOS Children's Villages therefore works with the local authorities to assist families and enable them to take good care of their children. We give nutritional, educational and health support. We provide counselling and improve people's parenting skills. The SOS Social Centre also administers essential medical treatment.

Children who have lost parental care can find a loving home in one of the twelve SOS families where up to 120 children can be looked after. The children grow up with their sisters and brothers in a familial environment full of love, respect and security.

The SOS Kindergarten can care for up to 210 children from the SOS families and from the neighbourhood. The provision of day care is particularly valued by those parents who go to work or receive training – they know their children are being cared for by professionals.

The children from the SOS families attend the local schools, as well as lots of events organised by the local community, and the activities we host are also open to neighbouring families. The children in our care are offered special support according to their needs, be it with their school work or with therapy.

As the children grow up, they can take part in our SOS Youth Programmes. With the support of qualified professionals they are guided through this new stage of their lives, as they start vocational training courses, attend higher education and look for work. The young people are encouraged to develop perspectives for their future, learn to shoulder responsibility and increasingly make their own decisions.