Waterfalls is a suburb of the Zimbabwean capital, Harare. A city of more than 1.6 million people, Harare is located high up on the Highveld plateau, at an altitude of nearly 5,000 feet.
An important centre for trade and manufacturing, Harare was hit hard by the recent economic crisis, with economic output falling by nearly half over a nine-year period following 1999.
Crippling inflation leads to unemployment and political unrest
Few were spared the ravages of the crisis. Even the most affluent parts of Harare were hit by electricity and water shortages. In 2006, the rate of inflation reached 1,000%. Two years later, it had reached a staggering 231 million per cent, and by the beginning of the following year, the exchequer had issued a 100 trillion dollar note.
The poor suffered the most. More than 700,000 people were left homeless in 2005, when the government demolished a number of the city's urban slums. Unemployment reached 80% at the height of the crisis Unsurprisingly, this time of extreme economic hardship has given rise to political unrest and violence. And despite some signs of recovery, deprivation is still widespread.
A world turned upside down
The economic crisis has devastated Harare, and slow recovery has done little to stem the tide. Infrastructure falls short of the city's needs. Healthcare is inadequate. Schools are failing. In 2012, a wave of cholera and typhoid swept over the city when Harare's overburdened sewerage system failed and waste flooded back into people's homes. Even now, clean drinking water is severely limited.
With money tight, thousands of young people have been forced to leave school and work to support their families. Today, one in five children in Harare are working. Whole families have disintegrated under the crippling financial pressure; made worse by the country's ongoing HIV/AIDS crisis. For the many children forced to become caregivers, the world has been turned upside down. It is these children whose life chances are most severely impaired.
Our work in Waterfalls
This is no way to grow up, and we had to help. Long before the economic crisis, in 1989, we opened our Children's Village in Waterfalls.
Caring for the most vulnerable
The mainstay of our work is the provision of care to those children who have no one else. Without our help, many would be homeless, or forced into caregiving roles. We give them a new home as part of a loving SOS family, providing quality education and healthcare so that they can grow up with the security that every child deserves.
Visit the Children's Village
What a privilege – these children from the SOS Village have invited you into their home! While mum is in the garden, the eldest daughter shows you round a typical SOS family home – with help from her brothers and sisters, of course...
Supporting fragile families
Many families would really struggle without our help. Since we came to Waterfalls, we have worked with the community to provide the basics which many children would go without. Decent healthcare, a good education – these are the things that every child should be able to take for granted, and we provide them to all the families we support.
We also help families learn more about good parenting through workshops, courses and ongoing guidance. We also help families spearhead ways of helping themselves through income generation initiatives. Starting a business can be hard, but we provide the key ingredients so families can start to earn, from the material basics to support and guidance.
Children from the Village and the surrounding community benefit from the fantastic education we offer. Children start out together at our SOS nursery, before going on to our primary school, where more than 800 pupils continue their academic journey in an exemplary learning environment.
In all, more than 3,500 families benefit from the support we offer.
Without our help, many of the families we support would have nothing. We are committed to providing every child with the best opportunities and the best childhood.