Tarija is one of the richest and best developed regions of Bolivia. It has a very strong agricultural economy, producing things such as wine and sugarcane.
Like the rest of Bolivia however, there is a high rate of poverty, which affects many children and their families.
Families living in poverty
Next to the border with Argentina, Tarija has 200,000 inhabitants. Due to its altitude and topography it has a strong agricultural economy, amongst other things producing some of the best wine in the region. City dwellers work in its food processing businesses, and there is a sizeable middle class in Tarija.
As with the rest of the country, just because some have wealth and comfort, this is by no means all. It is reckoned that 30% of the region's population live in extreme poverty, defined as having an income of less than $1 a day.
Children of Tarija
Statistics on children's welfare in Tarija are poor relative to the rest of Latin America. 16% of its children under three years old are chronically malnourished, and 30% of children in the department do not complete primary school - 10,000 do not attend school at all.
As with many agrarian economies in the region, children make up a sizeable number of the workforce, with 1300 known to be working full-time. Half of these do not attend school at all, though on the positive side some do attend school and work.
For those who work and attend school, the work impacts on their education. Lack of sleep affects their ability to concentrate or do homework. Many of those who do both school and work give up education without achieving any qualifications.
Parents and children need support to enable children to focus on their school work. In being allowed to do so, they are able to break their way out of the cycle of poverty.
What we do in Tarija
SOS Children's Villages intervene in children's and families' lives in a number of ways in Tarija. We run social centres that work on family cohesion and help parents find ways of enabling their children to go to school full time as opposed to work. We offer vocational training to enable parents to improve their incomes. The centres offer day-care and child minding facilities so parents can go to work while their youngsters are looked after in a safe and nurturing environment.
There is also an SOS primary school which gives kids opportunities they may otherwise be denied, while again allowing their parents to go to work. This has a capacity for 800 students.
For children who cannot live with their parents, there is an SOS Children's Village with several SOS families catering for over 100 children. Living under the care of their SOS Mother, they are able to attend school and play a positive role in their communities. As they grow up, these children engage with the SOS youth programme so they can pursue further education or vocational training. Supplanting parenting, trained youth counsellors guide them and give the best advice they can in helping their charges into adulthood.
Children and families in Tarija are supported by SOS Children's Villages to pursue happy and healthy futures. When you become a child sponsor, you will be joining their journey towards a better life.