Life is improving in one of Brazil’s poorest states, but progress is slow
Children having fun on an outing (photo: SOS archives)
The SOS Children’s Village Rio Grande do Norte is located in Caicó, a municipality of around 66.000 inhabitants in the Rio Grande do Norte state in north-eastern Brazil. The climate of the region is very hot and dry with frequent periods of drought. Commerce and the service industry make up the bulk of the economy. In Rio Grande do Norte state, subsistence farming is the main agricultural activity in rural areas. With 410 km of beaches, tourism is also an important pillar of the economy.
Rio Grande do Norte has historically been one of the poorest regions of Brazil. The “Bolsa Familia” family aid package introduced by the Lula government has contributed to alleviating hardship here: some 2.2 million people in the state now receive some form of assistance. However, 44.2 per cent of the population continue to live below the national poverty line, 400,000 of them in conditions of extreme poverty, meaning they are unable to meet basic needs such as food or sanitation.
Young mothers and children who have lost parental care need support
As is often the case, children are most severely affected by these precarious conditions. In Brazil, 50.3 per cent of children under the age of 17 are poor, but here in Rio Grande do Norte, it is a shocking 66.4 per cent. This means that thousands of children grow up in an environment where their safety and their healthy physical and psychological development cannot be guaranteed. In the worst cases, a family’s difficult socioeconomic situation can lead to children being abandoned.
Here in the north-east 25.1 per cent of babies are born to teenage mothers. When these young girls come from a disadvantaged background, they may lack education and opportunities to generate income and hence be unable to provide for their child. Often, it is hard for single mothers to find work as they have no one to look after their children. Less than half of children under the age of six attend some form of preschool or day-care.
What we do in Caicó
Local children at the SOS Social Centre (photo: SOS archives)
SOS Children’s Village Rio Grande do Norte began its work in Caicó in 1978.
Strengthening families: The SOS Family Strengthening Programme provides much needed support to families who are at risk of breaking down. We aim to reach out to those who are especially vulnerable. We ensure that they have access to services and that children go to school. We also run a community centre which offers day care for children, training (for parents to make some income) and activities (such as sport lessons).
Care in families: For children from the area who are no longer able to live with their parents, SOS families can provide a loving home. In each family, the children live with their brothers and sisters and are affectionately cared for by their SOS mother. Some families live in houses integrated into the neighbourhood, and all children attend the local schools and this way they are part of the community. When the children grow older, we give them training and advice so that they can find a job.