An increase in the number of people living in poverty

Children grow up together with their brothers and sisters (photo: M.Mägi).
Children grow up together with their brothers and sisters (photo: M.Mägi).

Valmiera has about 30,000 inhabitants and is the centre of the Vidzeme region in northern Latvia. It is located about 100 km from the capital city of Riga and about 50 km south of the border with Estonia.

Valmiera’s industries include food processing and the production of furniture. Recent investment in the town and its surrounding area has focused on improving the infrastructure to increase investment in the region.

The population of the area is growing older. Many young people are moving away in search of employment and the province has a low birth rate. The global financial crisis of the late 2000s shook the Latvian economy, causing a rise in unemployment and poverty, and Valmiera suffered in the same way.

The official unemployment rate in Valmiera is ten per cent. Unemployment can lead to a number of other problems which adversely affect the lives of children. People without a job are often dependent on social welfare, but due to the recent financial crisis there have been cuts in social programmes. Some parents lack the necessary skills to care for their children, and because there is no regular contact with social workers, these families are often not identified or supported in time. In more extreme cases, children lose parental care due to alcoholism or abuse.

Vulnerable families in the area need our support

The local authorities are very supportive of SOS Children’s Villages’ work in the city, even donating the plot of land from which our activities are based. A recent survey amongst vulnerable families in the area found that, in addition to material aid, families asked for psychological support and more specific support with their parenting skills to enable them to take care of their children. The SOS Family Strengthening Programme aims to meet these needs. In addition, the majority of children who lose parental care continue to be placed in institutions. In our SOS families we provide an alternative form of care, which is family-based and where siblings can grow up together.

What we do in Valmiera

Happy to be part of a stable SOS family (photo: M.Mägi).
Happy to be part of a stable SOS family (photo: M.Mägi).

Strengthening families: SOS Children's Villages works closely with the local community. We offer family strengthening programmes which, in collaboration with local agencies, aim to ensure that children have access to essential educational, health and nutritional services. We also provide parents with legal information, counselling and psychological support, with advice on parenting skills and help them to seek employment.

Care in SOS families: If children can no longer live with their families, they can find a loving home in one of the twelve SOS families, which provide a stable and loving home for children who have lost the care of their parents. Some families live in houses in the community. The children are fully integrated into the surrounding community as they attend the local kindergarten and schools alongside children from the area. The children in our care are offered support according to their needs, be it with their school work or with therapy.