Home to 30,000, the coastal town of Mahrès is situated on the eastern coast of central Tunisia.
With an economy predominantly based on fishing and agriculture, income is largely seasonal, leaving many people vulnerable to poverty.
A seasonal economy leaves families on the ropes
As well as fishing, olive and almond tree cultivation make up a large part of the economy. Because these industries are seasonal, austerity bites during much of the year for many people. State programmes offer housing to the poorest, but are oversubscribed. Many families make ends meet by working as live-in caretakers for the affluent, often living in crowded conditions.
Mahrès also attracts unemployed people from the wider region looking to find work in the town's industries. Single mothers are amongst these groups, looking for a better life for their children. Despite their hopes for skilled work, these people often end up working in the unskilled sector, leaving them unable to provide security for their families. As well as financial strain, many other problems make life difficult for struggling families. Disease and poor mental health are just some of the issues which often go untreated in Mahrès.
What is SOS Children doing to help?
We began work in Mahrès in 2000. With vulnerable families on the increase, our role is more vital than ever.
Helping the most vulnerable in the community
Today, our support goes out especially to single mothers. Women left alone by divorce or bereavement are often disadvantaged by illiteracy or a lack of skills and therefore excluded from the job market. With the support of the local authority and other agencies, we work to identify and help the neediest families.
We help them take advantage of existing support networks and welfare, offer training to help improve their employment prospects, and provide counselling and psychological support. Our SOS social centre is open to disadvantaged families throughout the community, providing healthcare and education for children who would otherwise go without.
Caring for children with no one else
Children who cannot live with their parents are welcomed into an SOS family, where they grow up in the care of an SOS mother. Surrounded by their SOS brothers and sisters, children grow up in a safe, stable environment and benefit from all the opportunities they need to get the best start in life.
Children attend schools in the community, before going on to the SOS youth home, where our youth counsellors provide a support and guidance as youngsters make the challenging transition to adulthood. Through workshops on topics such as conflict resolution and social skills, we help them prepare for independent life.
A seasonal economy and a shortage of jobs make life tough for families in Mahrès. By supporting families, providing education and offering care where its needed, we ensure children start life with the best chances. You can help by sponsoring a child.