In 2010, our newest Children's Village in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was opened in Kinshasa by footballer and SOS ambassador, Vincent Kompany. The capital of the DRC, it is also the largest city in the country.
Located on the Congo River, Kinshasa is home to thousands of vulnerable children, many of whom live on the street. Life is a daily struggle for these children, who have no-one to care for them.
A city scarred by the past
Kinshaha has grown from a fishing village to a bustling city in little more than 100 years. With a population of ten million people, the city is the cultural and industrial centre of the DRC. Yet years of corrupt governments and civil war have left the city underdeveloped and its people in poverty.
Many have moved to Kinshasa when seeking refuge from conflict in other parts of the country. This influx of refugees has added pressure on the urban area, with social problems such as overcrowding and a lack of infrastructure common.
20,000 street children
Extreme poverty has caused many children in the DRC to lose parental care, either directly or indirectly. This has led to the streets of Kinshara being full of children. It is estimated that there are as many as 20,000 street children, or 'shegues', living in Kinshasa. A life on the streets is dangerous and tough for these children who are orphaned or abandoned due to a troubled family background.
Street children survive through petty crime, begging, child labour or prostitution. Worryingly years of war and armed conflict have brought guns and violence to the streets, with some street children coerced into becoming child soldiers.
Children have little chance of escaping the vicious cycle of poverty when they have no education opportunities or access to healthcare. Until the underlying factors of poverty are addressed, family stability and cohesion will be threatened by unemployment and illness, leading more children to end up alone and on the streets.
How we help children in Kinshasa
In the capital of Kinshasa, we help vulnerable families to stay together, and offer a loving home for children with no-one else.
In 2010 we began supporting families in need from an SOS Social Centre. We strengthen families through a range of services and help them to stay together. We also provide basic services to children in the community, including schooling and medical treatment.
SOS Children's Village
When children cannot live with their own family, we offer a new home at our Children's Village in Kinshara. Up to 150 children live in SOS families, where they are cared for by an affectionate SOS mother and live with SOS brothers and sisters.
Young children go to the SOS Nursery with children from local families. Here they receive daycare and pre-school education. Parents are able to leave their children at the Nursery while they go to work. Similarly the SOS Primary School gives children from SOS families and local children access to quality education, opening up opportunities in the future.
SOS Medical Centre
Medical care is lacking in Kinshara, so we opened up an SOS Medical Centre to care for local families. Treatment at our facility can mean the difference between life and death, due to the great distances people have to travel to access affordable medicines. Cholera, among other diseases, is common due to poor sanitation and crowded living facilities. We offer medical care to children and their families, thereby helping them to stay together. We also have a HIV/AIDS awareness campaign in Kinshara to reduce the spread of the disease.
In Kinshara we take children off the harsh streets and give them a happy childhood in a loving SOS family. To make this possible, will you sponsor a child in the DRC today?