The western half of the China's territory is home to one quarter of its population and Chengdu is situated in the middle of Sichuan Province. Chengdu, the provincial capital, with a population of more than 14m, is China’s fourth largest city and one of the world’s fastest growing metropolises; it is seen very much as having a role as the hub of the west of the nation.
Since 2000, the government has made a concerted effort to develop the region into a magnet for both domestic and foreign investment. As of December 2012, 233 “Fortune 500” companies had a presence in Chengdu. Very few cities on Earth have experienced such radical social, economic and environmental changes in so short a period of time and, by 2030, more than 18m people are expected to live within its borders.
A “floating population”
But with rapid urbanization and modernization have come problems such as unemployment and poverty. During the 1990s, a ‘floating population’ emerged, whereby inhabitants in areas on the fringe of the city fell into the low-income group of the community and were mostly living in slums.
This floating population tends to live on the outskirts of the city either by renting their accommodation from farmers or by constructing sheds and shacks on uncontrolled or unused land. A small percentage is homeless, choosing to sleep in the inner city, bedding down in public places such as bus and train stations.
A slippery slope
Slum dwellers include those without income, those who cannot work – due to illness, injury or disability – and the low-paid employees with profound family burdens, each having little financial security. In addition, between 20 and 30 per cent of the population living in slums have a criminal record and are seen as social outcasts..
Despite the city government’s recent successes in trying to eradicate poverty and slum dwelling, the continuing rapid rate of urbanisation means presents new challenges and there is still much work to be done to ensure that the basic needs of the people in areas of urban poverty are met; there is still a risk that the affected areas are not transformed into slums.
What is SOS Children doing?
Our Children’s Village Chengdu opened in 1997 and, with the help of local government, focuses on helping families on the brink of collapse.
A safe and loving home
In the Village, each SOS family provides a safe and loving home for children who can no longer live with their own families.
Primary school children attend the local Huazhao School, where teachers have a deep understanding of the needs of children from a tough background. Secondary school pupils benefit greatly thanks to the local authority's commitment to a reduced tuition charge for students from the Village.
During leisure time, children participate in activities such as sports, language lessons, dancing, music and traditional Chinese painting.
The path to independence
Our SOS Youth Programme provides older children with help from qualified professionals. Young people develop knowledge and experience to prepare them for their future. As young adults, they learn about the need to take responsibility and make their own decisions. An emphasis on the importance of team spirit and interaction with others is delivered through a holistic approach - relationships and contacts with relatives and friends are as important and relevant as those with authorities and potential employers.
SOS Children gives children who have no one else a second chance in life. Through education and long-term support, we enable children from Chengdu to flourish and grow into successful adults.