Located around 180 miles south-west of the capital Tashkent, Samarkand is Uzbekistan's second-largest city.
Thanks to its situation on the Silk Road between east and west, it is a cultural melting pot and in 2011 became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Changing economic times hits vulnerable families
The city has a predominantly industrial and agriculture economy. However, more and more people are moving abroad, and today, remittances from migrants also form part of the economic mix. The changing economy is having a profound impact on families. Often, children are left in the care of extended families which sometimes do not have the wherewithal to meey their basic needs.
Whether with their parents or wider family, many children grow up in poverty. For these children, childhood is often spent in squalid conditions, often in very basic housing lacking essentials such as heating, gas, electricity and even running water. Education is often sacrificed because children have to work on the streets to stay alive.
Children miss opportunities and face exploitation
Some groups face even greater disadvantages. Discrimination against women in the employment market means that children raised by single mothers are more likely to miss out on education, healthcare and other important early opportunities.
Children in Samarkand are at a heightened risk of trafficking. The region is one of Uzbekistan's main sources of trafficked children, and children from disadvantaged backgrounds are particularly vulnerable to exploitation. Many trafficked children are forced to work, often as child prostitutes.
What SOS Children is doing to help
Building a stronger community
Since 2006, we have worked to ensure vulnerable children in Samarkand get the best start in life. First, we aim to ensure that, wherever possible, children are able to grow up with their own families. We help parents cope with financial pressure by introducing them to welfare opportunities, helping them improve their skillset to find work, and providing education and healthcare for children.
In particular, we work with single mothers to ensure their children are able to attend good schools and benefit from primary healthcare. We help them understand their entitlement to housing and state welfare. We also work with schools and nurseries to ensure education in disadvantaged areas is of the highest quality. We do this by providing teacher training and offering additional tuition to struggling children.
Providing a home for children with no one
Some children cannot live with their families. For orphans, abandoned children and those from families at breaking point, we provide a home in an SOS family. In the care of an SOS mother, each child is raised within a nurturing environment alongside their SOS brothers and sisters.
Children from the Village attend nurseries and schools in the local area, many of which we work with to ensure the highest standard of education. We encourage them to attend after-school clubs and societies, from sport to music, and work to ensure they grow up as part of their community.
When they finish school, young people are welcomed to our SOS youth home, where they benefit from pastoral support as they prepare for jobs and independent life. Guided by the SOS team, youngsters attend workshops in vital areas such as social skills and conflict resolution. At the same time, they embark on vocational training or higher education, and when they are ready to leave, we help them manage the transition to independence.
Many children growing up in Samarkand face significant disadvantages. We provide a stable start in life and the best opportunities for future success. You can help by sponsoring a child.