One of the poorest regions of the Philippines Happy to be on their way to school (photo: B. Neeleman) The city of Calbayog, on the western coast of the island of Samar, is the third location where SOS Children's Villages became active in the Philippines. Calbayog is one of the bigger cities of Western Samar and is a commercial centre in the region. Traditionally the people have lived off agriculture and fishing, but there is also some industry. Samar is one of the poorest regions in the Philippines. Life, especially for those living in rural areas, is full of hardships. Many people do not have adequate housing, and they live in either makeshift shelters or in informal settlements. Very often there is no safe drinking water or proper sanitation facilities. The mortality rate in the region is high, in part due to the prevalence of malnutrition but also due to the lack of health care. The illiteracy rate is also above the national average. Families living in these conditions struggle daily to put food on the table and look after their children. As parents go out to look for work, the children are often left alone at home. These children rarely go to school as their parents cannot afford the costs. Very often they are also forced to contribute to the family's income, for example by selling small goods or begging. As they spend time on the streets, they are exposed to exploitation, violence and the false promises of human traffickers. Supporting vulnerable families for over four decades SOS Children's Villages has been present in Calbayog for over four decades. In this time we have become well-known and respected among the local population. We also work closely with other organisations responsible for protecting the rights of children. Our family strengthening programmes assist families by giving them food, and granting children scholarships so that they can go to school. What we do in Calbayog A young woman learning how to sew at the SOS Social Centre (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 day-care, counselling and guidance on parenting skills. The SOS Social Centre also assists the community by linking families with existing support networks or by forming new ones if necessary. Children who have lost parental care can find a loving home in one of the twelve SOS families. The children grow up with their sisters and brothers in a familial environment full of love, respect and security. The children from the SOS families attend the local schools and lots of events organised by the local community. The children in our care are offered special support according to their needs, be it with their school work or with therapy. The SOS Kindergarten provides pre-school education for young children. The provision of day care and early-years education are particularly valued by those parents who go to work or attend training - they know their children are being cared for by professionals. As the children grow up, they can move into 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. The SOS Vocational Training Centre can train up to 126 young people and adults so that they can generate an income.