Salvador de Bahia
Though among the top ten richest countries in the world, Brazil still is a country of contrasts with very rich people making the economy what it is, yet millions living on less than $1 a day.
Salvador de Bahia, in one of the poorest states in the country, is no exception.
Salvador de Bahia: capital of happiness?
With a population of 2.6 million, Salvador de Bahia is the capital of the state of Bahia. Its economy relies on tourism, an oil refinery and port, and agriculture. It is known as the 'capital of happiness' because of its residents' reputation of friendliness. However, not everyone has a lot to be happy about.
Global agricultural chemicals company Monsanto opened a petrochemicals plant in Salvador de Bahia in 2001 which makes the herbicide Roundup. This has boosted the economy in the area considerably, improving employment opportunities across the city.
Despite the recent rapid economic development in the area, Bahia remains one of the poorest states in Brazil. In some towns over 50% of the population live in poverty. Bahia has the highest rate of extreme poverty in Brazil with an estimated 2.4 million living on less than $1 a day.
Children - victims of the cycle of poverty
Due to the privations of life in poverty, many children are severely impacted by their economic situation. While the numbers of adults breaking out of poverty has increased in the state, the number of young people falling into poverty has increased as well.
Malnutrition impacts on children's development but a number of other factors have altered many young people's psychological development. Having to work on the informal economy, drug use, sexual abuse, discrimination and physical abuse all contribute to a child's emotional issues. A recent study indicated that 20% of children in Bahia between the ages of five and 14 have emotional problems, a far higher rate than is normal in most countries at the top table of the world's economy.
What do we do in Salvador de Bahia?
SOS Children's Villages set up the SOS Children's Village in Salvador de Bahia in 1980. We have a social centre there, which offers a range of services to the community, as well as housing a healthcare facility and SOS families for children who can no longer live with their parents.
The social centre has a holistic family strengthening programme which aims to ensure family cohesion and reduces the risk of children having to look after themselves alone. The social centre also has a day care unit which enables parents to go to work in the knowledge their children will be looked after. While the children are in safe hands, so the parents can improve the family income. In adding a family income with perhaps both parents working, so children have a better home environment with a lower risk of having to look after themselves at an early age, or having to work to support the family instead of attending school.
There is a healthcare centre in the Children's Village which is open to the whole community and provides basic medical care to those who couldn't otherwise access it in the city.
Orphans given a new family
Children who cannot live with their families are offered a place among our SOS families in the Children's Village, which provide a loving and supportive environment. They live with their SOS Mother, brothers and sisters.
As children grow up and wish to pursue further education or training, we have an SOS youth programme of shared, supported accommodation to guide them into early years of adulthood. Qualified counsellors offer support as they learn the ropes and responsibilities of adulthood.