San Pedro Sula
San Pedro Sula is Honduras’ second largest city, with more than 1.2 million people living in the urban and surrounding areas. The city is a dangerous place, with gang violence and abject poverty posing serious threats to the development of local children.
SOS Children’s Villages established a presence here in 1974 to protect and support the city’s most vulnerable residents – its children.
Poverty and gang violence are a threat to children
The city of San Pedro Sula is located in the northwest of Honduras and has an urban population of more than 873,000 and over 1.2 million in its metro area.
San Pedro Sula has the dubious honour of having the highest murder rate per capita of any city in the world. The homicide rate has been attributed to rivalry between brutal street gangs and is being combated by officials through Operation Lightning, which involves saturating violent areas with soldiers and police officers.
Natural disaster has gravely affected the lives of the majority of residents in San Pedro Sula, beginning with Hurricane Fifi in 1974, and more recently, powerful Hurricane Mitch in 1998. The city is still feeling the effects of Mitch and has had difficulty rebuilding its banana and manufacturing industries.
The SOS Children’s Village in San Pedro Sula was founded after the devastation of Hurricane Fifi, which left 5,000 dead, more than 60,000 homeless and many children orphaned.
Large numbers of orphans
The population of Honduras is very young, with nearly 40% of residents under the age of 15. These children often face great difficulties in their childhood including gang violence, family dysfunction, poor housing and lack of access to basic social facilities including medical care. Many of the children of San Pedro Sula are also affected by HIV/AIDS and a strong link has been found between the large numbers of orphans and the region’s high prevalence of HIV/AIDS.
Child labour remains a concern in all regions of Honduras. Each year, thousands of young girls leave their families to take up domestic work, making them vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse in their employers’ homes. Many families are desperate for extra income and children from very poor backgrounds seek work in agriculture, selling merchandise or shining shoes and some resort to begging. Child labour deprives these children of the opportunity to get an education and change their futures.
Crippling poverty drives children to life on the streets
Poverty is a serious social challenge in San Pedro Sula and crippling hardship is a part of daily life for thousands of local families. Many children abandon their homes because of the conditions of abject poverty and after the capital, Tegucigalpa; San Pedro Sula has the highest rate of children leaving the family home.
In San Pedro Sula it is not unusual for children to be the head of a household at a young age, caring and providing for their siblings. These children a denied the opportunity to get an education and instead must work to support their brothers and sisters.
How are SOS Children helping in San Pedro Sula?
The SOS Children’s Village in San Pedro Sula offers a safe environment to many vulnerable children, providing medical treatment and educational support. For children who are no longer able to live with their parents, our Children's Village provides a stable and loving home, where these children can experience moments of carefree childhood. Our SOS Children grow up alongside their SOS brothers and sisters under the care of an affectionate SOS Mother.
SOS Children attend the local schools with children from families living in the area. This enables the children to make connections and friendships in the wider community from an early age.
When SOS children are ready to move out of the family home, they are supported by the SOS Youth Programme as they continue their higher education or vocational training. Semi-independent girls’ and boys’ accommodation is provided, and the young people live under the guidance of qualified youth workers. They stay in close contact with their SOS Mother and siblings as they make the transition to adulthood.
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