SOS Children in Paraguay
Overview of Paraguay
Paraguay is in the centre of South America. With no significant mineral or natural resources, the economy is largely agricultural. The economic problems in neighbouring Argentina have also affected Paraguay and over 60 per cent of the population live below the poverty line. According to UNICEF, more than 30 per cent of children fail to finish elementary schooling, often because they do not have an adequate command of Spanish, which is the language of tuition.
In the streets of the capital, Asunción, an estimated 30,000 children work as shoe-blacks or newspaper vendors, often to supplement the family income. Most of them are completely neglected and suffer from malnutrition, parasites and anaemia.
Our Work in Paraguay
We began working in Paraguay in 1970. Today there are six SOS Children's Villages, one of which is specifically for handicapped children, as well as numerous supplementary social welfare and medical facilities which also benefit the wider community.
SOS Children's Village Hohenau, the first Village built in Paraguay, is 400 km from Asunción in an area of virgin forest gradually being cleared by settlers. It is home to over 180 children in its 16 family houses and one SOS Youth Home, and there is a farm catering for the Village's needs and providing vocational training opportunities. Because of the lack of medical facilities in the area, an SOS Medical Centre was established in 1978 which provides basic medical care and maternity services for the local population.
SOS Children Asunción was built in 1982 and now has 16 family houses and two SOS Youth Homes which are home to over 160 children and young people. In response to local needs, there is an SOS Nursery and an SOS School providing primary and secondary education. An SOS Vocational Training Centre teaches hairdressing skills. Social welfare facilities include a daycare centre and a community outreach programme supporting local families through various projects, including a soya milk production scheme.
We opened our third community in Paraguay in 1989. SOS Children's Village San Ignacio is 225 km from Asunción in a poor rural area that has suffered extensively from disastrous droughts. It has ten family houses and two SOS Youth Homes. There is also an SOS Nursery which is open to children from the neighbourhood. After nursery, the SOS children attend the local schools. The SOS Mother & Child Clinic at San Ignacio provides valuable medical care and maternity services for the local population in an area where health services are virtually non-existent, handling over 25,000 patients a year.
Close to San Ignacio is SOS Children's Panambi community for children with special needs, where there are eight family houses for up to 60 handicapped children who come from all over Paraguay, particularly the rural areas. As it is so close to San Ignacio, the children can be integrated and medical care is also available. Rehabilitation rooms, workshops, a nursery, school and a swimming pool ensure that the children at Panambi are cared for according to their special needs and that their development is furthered in every possible way. An SOS School of Nursing is also part of the project at Panambi.
In 1997 we opened our fifth SOS Children's Village in a residential working class area in the town of Luque, about 10 km from Asunción. SOS Children's Village Luque has 12 family houses, an SOS Nursery and an SOS School providing primary and secondary level education for the local community. An SOS Vocational Training Centre, established in 2000, provides courses in IT, English, accounting, hairdressing, massage techniques and cooking for over 300 students.
SOS Children's Village Belén opened in 2002. It has 12 family houses which are home to 110 children. Other facilities include an agricultural SOS Vocational Training Centre and an SOS Medical Centre providing maternity services and treatment for around 25,000 mothers and children a year.
Life in SOS Children’s Village Paraguay: A fulfilled SOS mother
For a long time, Elvira Imas del Puerto had been devoting herself to management and accounting; however, nothing could silence this woman's inner calling but the work of SOS Children's Villages.
One day, Elvira went through a life-changing experience. This happened when she discovered the work of SOS Children's Villages in Hohenau and the work of many women dedicating all their love and care to children in need of a family. It was then she felt that this 'demonstration of love' could give a new meaning to her life and to many children.
Elvira is fifty-five years old and has been an SOS mother for nineteen years. She has raised a total of twenty-one children, nine of whom are former SOS children already. She loves them all and supports them. She has helped them become active and committed members of their families and communities.
'I currently have twelve children ranging from 9 to 28 at the village... The most wonderful experience I ever had was to become an SOS mother and, particularly, to become a mother of some special children. I have a deaf-mute child in my family, so I learned sign language. It was hard to learn it, but being able to communicate with my son was certainly more important than the struggle. It is extremely important to communicate with people who are so special. He is a special kid, but this was not an excuse for giving up studying. He is in a bilingual 9th grade now. I am trying to get some hearing aid for him. This is what he needs... The whole family has actually learned sign language. Therefore, he can easily communicate with all of us. Patience is a quality in all of us, so being a big family is not a problem at all. We are a really big one.
'I have another 28-year-old daughter with special needs. She is very autonomous and helpful at home. I also have a girl who suffers from celiac disease. She is doing excellent now, because she joined FUPACEL, the Paraguayan Celiac Disease Association. I attend monthly meetings there and learn about her condition. I ask many questions to have questions answered about how to help her with this disease.
'We are like any other family, with children who are a bit more special than others. In the end, all of them are my children. I know it is not easy, but I feel great with them. I feel fulfilled as an SOS mother.'
Oficina Nacional SOS Paraguay
Cerro Corá 115c/ Brasil Asunción
Postal address: Casilla 2366
Tel: +595/21/227 345
Fax: +595/21/22 73 45