Despite experiencing strong economic growth over the past few decades, Brazil remains a country blighted by inequality and poverty. Igarassu, a town in the east of the country, struggles with a high poverty rate and it is the town's youngest residents who suffer the most. We've been helping these vulnerable children and their families in Igarassu since 2007.
Poverty in the region
Igarassu is just over 30km from the fourth largest city in Brazil, Recife in the north east of the country. Recife is a tough place to grow up. Poverty is a mjor issue and the city lays claim to the second highest murder rate in Brazil. 25% of the population are under 15 years old.
A third of the population live on less than half Brazil's minimum wage. The impact on families and children is devastating. As a result, many children are lured into the comercial sex industry in Recife.
Child prostitution in Igarassu
Child prostiution is becoming an increasing problem in north-eastern Brazil. Children who have lost the care of their parents are particularly at risk as they often end up living on the streets. There they are vulnerable to drug gangs who force them to sell their bodies to pay for the drugs they often end up taking.
Education is a ticket out of poverty but street children frequently do not get this opportunity. One third of Recife's street children have never attended school. Without the education they need to get out of poverty, they often never break out of the cycle of poverty, drugs and prostitution.
How we're helping the children of Igarassu
SOS Children's Villages has been working in Igarassu since 2007. We are well integrated into the local community, thanks in part to the two social centres we run. These centres run a range of programmes and activities aimed at keeping families together and alleviating poverty in the community.
Our family strengthening programmes work hard to keep as many children as possible with their families. We offer advice on improving income and slef-reliance. We also offer counselling to help children and their parents overcome emotional issues, as well as workshops dedicated to improving self-esteem, gender relations and preventing domestic violence.
SOS Children's Villages also run day care centres so families can leave their children in a safe, nurturing environment while they go out to work.
SOS Children's Village Igarassu
For children who can no longer live with their parents or who have been orphaned or abandoned, our Children's Village offers them a new, loving home. There are several families in the Village all headed by SOS mothers. The children in our Villages get to grow up with SOS brothers and sisters, go to school and experience childhood in a safe, caring environment.
As children grow up they transition to our SOS youth programme which enables young people to live in semi-independence in shared accommodation, and aids them as they go into further education or vocational training. Qualified counsellors give advice and support as they make the decisions that must come with adulthood.