SOS Children in Bolivia
Overview of Bolivia
Landlocked in the centre of South America between Chile, Peru and Brazil, Bolivia is dominated by the Andes Mountains which make vast areas of the country inaccessible. Bolivia is one of the poorest and least developed countries in Latin America; 60% of its 9.7 million people live below the poverty line (around $1 day). Reduced agricultural and industrial production, rising unemployment, high inflation and massive foreign debts are characteristic of the economic situation in the country.
Since early colonial times, mining for precious minerals and metal ores has been an important part of Bolivia's economy. However, the collapse of tin prices in 1985 had a devastating effect on the economy and the lives of the people, while the growth in the production and trade of illicit drugs heightened social tension and violence. Around 40% of the population still live in rural areas and are employed in the agricultural sector. Farmers lack the funds to modernise their methods and inadequate transportation prevents effective distribution. Health conditions in the country are also poor. Infant mortality rates are among the highest in South America; one in 16 children will not live to the age of five. Malaria, dysentery and TB are common. Medical services and hospitals are inadequate, particularly in rural areas.
Our Work in Bolivia
SOS Children provide orphaned and abandoned children in Bolivia with a mother, a family and a home where they can stay until they are ready for independent life. We began our work in the country in 1975 and currently care for more than 1,000 children at our nine purpose-built SOS Children's Villages, and a further 400 youths at our nine youth houses, where young adults go to learn how to become independent whilst they undertake vocational courses or go on to higher education.
To counteract the high rate of illiteracy in the country, three SOS Schools and four SOS Vocational Training Centres have been established, all of which are open to children and young people from both SOS Children's Villages and local communities. The centre at La Paz has sewing and embroidery workshops, a cabinet-maker's shop and electrical, mechanical and printing workshops.
In 2002 we began to operate Family Strengthening Programmes (FSPs) in Bolivia, with the aim to stop child abandonment and to keep families together. The programmes offer working couples and single mothers day-care facilities. This supports parents to enter employment and improve their families’ standard of living. Families also have access to medical assistance including paediatric, dental and gynaecological treatment, as well as emergency first aid and counselling.
In total, through all of our programmes, we are providing help and support to more than 13,600 Bolivians.
SOS Children's Village Cochabamba-Jordan was the first SOS Children’s Village in Bolivia, and is located on the outskirts of Cochabamba, Bolivia’s third-largest city. The SOS Children's Village began life as an orphanage run by an order of nuns until it was converted in 1968 into an SOS Children's Village. It now has 10 family houses providing a home for 130 children. The Village also has an SOS Youth Home where 95 young people can prepare for independence. There is a Vocational Training Centre, which offers training including cookery courses for young people. The students sell their produce at the “Lactobar”, a small coffee shop next door.
As the SOS Children's Village Cochabamba-Jordan soon filled up, it was decided to build the second SOS Children's Village, Cochabamba-Tiquipaya, on the outskirts of Cochabamba. The Village has 13 family houses and an SOS Youth Home on a plot of 12 hectares of land. There is a playground and a field where the children can learn to play various sports. There are also two SOS Vocational Training Centres. The first provides training for mothers and staff, whilst the other teaches farming and agriculture to young people. There are also two SOS Social Centres providing day-care and health facilities to those living in the Village and in the local community.
SOS Children's Village Mallasa is also on the outskirts of La Paz. The Village is located in a southern suburb of the capital Mallasa, approximately 20 minutes from the city centre by car. The Village was opened in 1983 and has 12 family houses and an SOS Youth Home. It also has an SOS Nursery and an SOS Primary School, providing an education to 620 children from both the Village and the neighbouring community. There is a Vocational Training Centre located close to the Village, providing courses in graphics and design, joinery, printing, tailoring, electrical training and mechanics for up to 50 trainees. There is an additional training centre, the “Centro de Formación Profesional CENFOPRO Mallasa”. This centre is specifically designed to support and train girls, and since 2002, has offered training on office work and IT for up to 170 children.
SOS Children's Village Oruro is located approximately 2 miles from the city of Oruro, and about 140 miles south of La Paz. The Village, opened in 1988, is located in what was once a prosperous mining area but now an area of great poverty and family problems. Families frequently separate and children are abandoned. The Village consists of 14 family houses and an SOS Youth Home. Two SOS Social Centres offer day-care for up to 140 children and a small health centre. The community centres are also available to the public, making an important contribution towards improving living conditions in the neighbourhood.
SOS Children's Village Santa Cruz is in the eastern central plains of Bolivia and has important road and rail links with both Brazil and Argentina. Due to improved infrastructure and the discovery of oil, natural gas and iron ore, Santa Cruz has developed into a large city with a population of 600,000, which has contributed to an increase in social problems such as poverty and unemployment. Opened in 1992 to help affected children, the Village consists of 14 family houses and an SOS Youth Home. The Village runs an SOS Primary School with 17 classrooms for 760 pupils and two SOS Social Centres provide day-care and medical facilities. Four SOS Youth Homes in urban Santa Cruz house up to 36 adolescents from the Village for the duration of their secondary education and/or vocational training, helping them to gradually become independent.
In 2012, we began Santa Cruz Plan 4000, helping families living in the deprived “twelfth district” for the first time. Seven out of every ten children are poor, and many living in overcrowded conditions with no access to essential services. Spiralling population growth means that for many people, access to basic amenities including proper housing and healthcare is unavailable.
In 1996, we opened SOS Children's Village Sucre. Sucre is the official capital of Bolivia and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991 because of its history and its architecture. The SOS Children's Village has 14 family homes for 115 children, an SOS Youth Home and two SOS Social Centres. The Village also has a sports ground where the children can play and a multi-purpose hall used for ceremonies and community events.
SOS Children’s Village Tarija is in the south of the country, near the border with Argentina. Tarija is at the centre of the Bolivian wine trade. The SOS Children's Village, built in 1992, is located in a green area approximately 3.5kms from the centre of Tarija. It has 14 family homes and an SOS Youth Home. The SOS Primary School in the Village provides an education for 800 pupils in its 16 classrooms. The two SOS Social Centres offer health advice and medical assistance. The centres also offer vocational support for the neighbouring community, providing training for mothers to set up small businesses. This enables mothers to support their families, helping to prevent poverty and child abandonment.
SOS Children's Village Potosi is about 340 miles south of La Paz. The Village is situated in the area named after the hill "La Chaca" at the foot of the city, easily reached by bus or by car. Potosi is over 13,000 feet above sea level, making it one of the highest cities in the world. It was once among the richest cities in the world, its fortune based on silver mining, but is now an area of high unemployment and poverty; child labour and children begging in the streets are a part of everyday life. Opened in 2000, the Village has 14 family houses with the capacity for 120 children. There is a SOS Youth Home where, with the support of qualified youth workers, young people develop realistic perspectives for their future, learn to shoulder responsibility and increasingly make their own decisions. Public schools, markets and a hospital are located next to the SOS Children's Village. An SOS Social Centre opened in January 2003, consisting of a medical centre and day-care facilities for 120 children, enabling parents to enter paid employment to support their families.
SOS Children's Village El Alto was opened in 2003. This is the most recent Village constructed in Bolivia. It is situated on the outskirts of La Paz, the administrative capital of Bolivia. El Alto has the most pronounced demographic growth of any Bolivian town, with more than 50% of its population younger than 19 years old. More than 70% of El Alto's families live in poverty. The SOS Children's Village has 12 family houses with a capacity for 108 children, and an SOS Youth Home. Two SOS Social Centres in the Village offer various services such as day-care to families in the local community to help to keep them together. Counselling and medical assistance are given to approximately 260 people. Vocational training courses are offered to parents to improve their employment prospects.
Following the earthquake which struck Bolivia in 1998, SOS Children established an Emergency Relief Programme providing food, medical care and shelter to those in need. We also established temporary accommodation for over 500 children separated from their families in the disaster. We provided emergency relief again in both 2007 and 2008 when heavy floods devastated parts of the country.
Life in SOS Children's Villages Bolivia: Cristina’s story
Cristina, 24, remembers the hard times of grief after the death of her parents. At the age of 11 she came to SOS Children’s Village Sucre where she was welcomed by SOS mother Adriana and her family.
Adapting to the new life at the village was not easy. She missed her mother. However, constant care and support by Adriana helped, and she soon found a way out of the sadness. Adriana says that ever since she was a child Cristina was always interested in music and dance and that her talents made her famous at the village.
When it was time to take up a career, Cristina chose to study pre-school education in the city of Cochabamba in Bolivia. After a few years of studying she worked at different pre-school centres where she was renowned for her dedication and patience teaching children.
When she received her professional diploma three years later, Cristina worked as a teacher at a prestigious educational centre in Cochabamba. During one of her regular visits home to her SOS family she came across the Cultural Formation Centre Pachamama in Sucre. Today she works at the prestigious centre which includes a nursery.
“I feel like this job is what I was looking for. It is bringing out the best in me” Cristina says. She believes that it is never too late to try to achieve your dreams. Her future plans include completing university studies in child education. She believes that having a great family in the SOS Children's Village encouraged her to achieve success. She also knows that her family will her support her always, no matter what path she takes.
Aldeas Infantiles SOS Bolivia
Calle Miguel de Cervantes 2806
Postal address: Casilla 14322
Tel: +591/2 2411334, +591/2 2412343, +591/2 2413412
Fax: +591/2 241 4581