João Pessoa, Paraiba

A mother and daughter from Joao Pessoa, Paraiba, Brazil

Paraiba is one the poorest states of Brazil. Its capital João Pessoa's economy primarily being in the service sector, most of the work there is informal and precarious. Poverty is extremely high in the region, and illiteracy is a major issue.

João Pessoa is the capital of Paraiba in eastern Brazil. With 733,000 inhabitants, it is a medium sized city. Unlike many other cities in Brazil, its commerce is primarily in the service sector.

Informal and low paid employment

Much of the work to be found in this area of the economy is informal and low paid. Low and unpredictable incomes prevent people from owning their own home or land, forcing them to live in neighbourhoods of the 'landless', where most of the housing is low quality and infrastructure such as sewerage and fresh water, are uncommon in most streets.

Illiteracy among young people

Paraiba is historically one of the poorest states in the country. In the 1990's 70% of its inhabitants lived in poverty. Though the economic situation has improved right across Brazil and Paraiba is no exception, half of the population of Paraiba still live on less than half of the minimum income required to meet their basic needs.

Being able to read and write is an essential first step towards education and a way out of poverty. Paraiba's illiteracy rates are very high compared to the normal in Brazil, at almost 17% in people aged 15 and over. In João Pessoa, it is estimated that 2700 young people are illiterate. Functional illiteracy is a concept where someone is unable to read or write beyond a very basic level, and statistics for functional illiteracy in Paraiba suggest that 33%, or one third of the population will not be able to do things like office jobs which require a fairly good level of literacy. This impacts on their prospects.

There is a racial divide in literacy too – Afro Brazilians are far less likely to be able to be able to read or write than people of European descent, which shows how deep seated race issues are in Brazilian society.

SOS Children's Villages in João Pessoa

SOS Children's Villages set up its Paraiba Children's Village in 1987. We have a social centre there which offers a range of services to the community. We offer a holistic family strengthening programme, designed to keep families together and children living with their parents.

Schemes in Brazil require families to ensure children see the benefits of aidOur social centre offers daycare, allowing parents to go to work to support their families. We support parents with things like parenting skills and vocational training, to enable them to improve their employability in the workplace - this tackles poverty at root by improving opportunity. Teaching parents to read and write to a level that they can use at work, for instance, will give them a step up in opportunities available to them. In being able to earn more for their families, so all involved will benefit.

SOS Children's Villages set up a primary school in João Pessoa which is now run by the municipality. Children from SOS families in the Children's Village and the community attend it together, helping with community cohesion.

SOS Children's Village João Pessoa

For children who can no longer live with their parents, we have several SOS families, providing children with a family environment and the care of an SOS mother. SOS families live in homes throughout the neighbourhood, allowing children to grow up as part of their community.

At the moment, we are only able to accept regular donations and Village sponsorships for our work in Brazil, because all of our children are fully sponsored.

If you would like to sponsor a child, you may do so in other Central and South America countries and other continents around the world.


Did you know? SOS Children has been working for children in the Americas since the 1960’s, providing charity care to children and families.