Vulnerable families are suffering from the recent cuts in public spending

Children playing outside (photo: SOS archives)

Köszeg is a small rural town with approximately 11,800 inhabitants situated in western Hungary, very close to the border with Austria.

Traditionally, people in the area lived off agriculture and forestry as well as cattle rearing, but these activities decreased in the decades after Hungary became independent from the Soviet Union. At present, wine-making and tourism are the main sources of income and employment. Köszeg is an ancient town which has preserved its historical heritage and this attracts tourists to the area – visitors can also enjoy the nearby nature and health resorts. 

Hungary's recent economic crisis has led to a cut in social welfare programmes, and this has affected the lives of many children in the region. Children who are particularly at risk of living in poverty include those living in single-parent families or in households with three or more children. Many of the children from these disadvantaged families drop out of school, thus making it hard for them to make a living in the future.

Children without parental care face discrimination, especially those who grow up in state institutions. At present all young people are struggling to make an independent start in life due to the high unemployment rate and the shortage of affordable housing. However, if they have grown up in a state institution and have not been provided with support, finding their first job and somewhere to live can seem like an overwhelming task to tackle.

Providing family-based care for children and support to young people

Hungary has undergone many changes since SOS Children's Villages started working in the country. Throughout these decades we have adapted our activities to meet the needs of the population. At a time of economic crisis and cuts in the welfare system, our work with vulnerable children and young adults who have lost parental care is as important today as when we started working here in 1990. We cooperate very closely with the local authorities and communities.

What we do in Köszeg

Dressing up party in the village (photo: SOS archives).

Care in families: Children who have lost parental care can find a loving home in SOS foster families, where brothers and sisters can grow up together. All families are selected and trained by SOS Children's Villages to ensure that the children are cared for to the highest standards set by SOS Children's Villages. We provide continuous social and emotional support to all families.

The families are fully integrated into the community. The children attend the public kindergarten and local schools, and thus have many friends in the neighbourhood, and become part of the wider community. After school the children attend different clubs where they learn crafts or practise their musical and folk dancing skills.

The families often spend the summers relaxing at summer camps. Older children travel to the international SOS summer camp in Caldonazzo in Italy.

Support for young people: As the children grow up and are ready to move out of the SOS families they can move into the SOS Youth Programme in Szombathely, which is the capital of the county. Here they can live while they attend further education, receive training or start their working lives. With the help of professionals the young people are encouraged to develop realistic perspectives for their future, learn to shoulder responsibility and increasingly make their own decisions.