Urban poverty makes families vulnerable and susceptible to many risks
Children at the SOS Children's Villages school in Vontovorona (photo: SOS archives).
SOS Children’s Village Vontovorona is located in a suburb of Madagascar’s capital city, Antananarivo, which has a population approaching two million in its metropolitan area, making it the biggest city on the island. Since the political turmoil in 2009 that plunged the country into a socioeconomic crisis, poverty has been on the rise, as has child labour, especially here in the capital.Many young boys and girls come to Antananarivo from rural areas in search of work. Many girls end up working as domestic servants. Far from their families, they are extremely vulnerable to abuse and exploitation and often have no one to turn to for help.
The rise of child labour also means that more and more children and young people are deprived of an education, which seriously jeopardises their chances of escaping the vicious cycle of poverty once they become adults. However, the immediate needs of the family are in many cases far more pressing than any long-term hopes and dreams for their children; when parents struggle to put food on the table, education becomes merely a secondary concern.
The hazardous effects some work environments have on children’s health are also a great worry. To make matters worse, many poor families lack access to health care and do not have sufficient knowledge of health and hygiene. Living conditions in the capital are extremely tough for thousands of families: many live in slums, their houses are mere shacks, right next to open sewers, without running water or electricity. For children and young adults, the future often seems bleak.
SOS Social Centres for holistic and sustainable progress in the community
SOS Children’s Villages began its work in Vontovorona in 1989. Today, our SOS Social Centre in Antananarivo provides a family strengthening programme to the local community with the aim of empowering families to improve their situation in the long-term. We offer day-care for the children of working parents, and we also offer workshops in carpentry and dressmaking. We provide guidance on income generation to parents, thus ensuring that children do not have to work and can grow up in a stable and secure home environment.
The SOS Medical Centre here provides an important service to the local community as it allows everyone to seek medical attention, even those who could not otherwise afford it. We offer medical assistance to pregnant women and to babies, medical check-ups, vaccination programmes as well as preventive measures.
What we do in Vontovorona
We support young people until they are able to live independently (photo: SOS archives).
For children from the region who are no longer able to live with their parents, 15 SOS families can provide a loving home for up to 150 children. In each family, the children live with their brothers and sisters, affectionately cared for by their SOS mother. Each family keeps poultry and sheep, and the village also has its own orchard, vegetable patches, beehives and rabbit hutches.
The children attend the SOS Kindergarten together with children from the neighbourhood, which ensures that they are integrated into the local community from a young age. The children then go on to complete their primary and secondary education at the SOS schools, which are attended by around 400 pupils.
When young people who grew up in an SOS family feel ready to move out of the family home in order to pursue further education or vocational training, our SOS Youth Programme continues to support them as they make the transition into adulthood. The young people live together, supervised by an SOS educator who provides guidance and assistance.
We also run an SOS Vocational Training Centre in Vontovorona, located on the SOS Farm. Young people receive training here in growing and harvesting fruit and vegetables, cultivating plants and flowers, and breeding livestock. Their vocational training should enable them to apply modern farming methods and ensure their livelihoods as adults.