Mineral rich Potosí was one of the richest cities in the world - 400 years ago. With the collapse in mineral and ore prices many of the mines have closed down, and over two thirds of the department's residents are now in extreme poverty.
SOS Children's Villages intervenes where possible, alleviating the worst poverty among the city's children.
A profile of Potosí
4000 metres above sea level and in an extremely mineral rich area, Potosí was the boom town of the Spanish Conquest, being renowned as one of the richest cities in the world in the 1540's. Due to its height, agriculture is very difficult in the region so when ore and mineral prices forced mines to close, there was nothing left for the bulk of the population.
Potosí is the capital of the region of the same name. The extreme poverty rate among the city's residents is much lower than the rural areas in the region but even so 67% of the residents live on less than $1 a day. In the rural areas, this can be as high as 9 in 10 people. Rivers being heavily polluted from the mines, there is little in the way of fresh water or sanitation for residents of this once great city.
With the city's decline, thousands of people are migrating to bigger cities in the centre of the country such as Santa Cruz for a better life. Potosí's decline continues.
Children face hardships
One in ten children die before their first birthday in the city due to the poor environment and polluted water. In 2003, malnutrition rates among children were estimated at 38%, and this figure is believed to be much higher now.
Growing up in such circumstances can have a significant impact on a child's future. Extreme disadvantage as a youngster will often impact on a child's life well into the future. Working from an early age, many are illiterate into adulthood, impacting on their ability to get formal employment. They are trapped for the rest of their lives by events that took place as they grew up.
SOS Children's Villages in Potosí
We arrived in Potosí in 1998 with the aim of improving the lives of residents in the city. We have three programmes aimed at helping families and children in the city - a social centre, SOS families, and an SOS youth programme.
SOS social centres help fight family breakup which would ordinarily severely impact on a child's development. With two wage earners in the family, so children can get an education and not have to work to support the family from an early age. We provide a day-care centre to enable both parents to work while their young children are cared for in a safe environment.
A loving family home
For children unable to live with their parents, they can move into our SOS Children's Village and live in an SOS families. Looking after over 100 children, these families enable kids to get a better chance in life than they may have in the streets. Children attend school in the community, making friends and participating in city life.
As children grow up we offer them the chance to live with the SOS youth programme, which gives them shared accommodation and the guidance as they pursue further education of vocational training. Trained youth counsellors give them the best advice possible for getting ahead in life.
Families of Potosí are supported to stick together, while children who have been orphaned find a new caring family in our Children's Village. Will you sponsor one of these children today, and give them hope for the future?