Poa, São Paulo
São Paulo is the biggest city in South America. An industrial centre with a huge economy, like the rest of Brazil it is deeply divided with millions living in shanty towns thrown up alongside expensive apartments. Those at the bottom are stigmatised and shunned by the middle classes.
The main city of São Paulo is estimated to have 11 million inhabitants, making it the largest city in South America. Due to the city's sprawl it has swallowed up other conurbations and between them has as many as 29 million residents, putting the city among the very biggest in the world.
A massive social divide
As with all other cities in Brazil, there are the very wealthy and the very poor, and a massive social divide between. Though millions live in comfort with all they need to survive and more, many thousands of residents of the city live in extreme poverty.
Around a million inhabitants of São Paulo live in 'favela' settlements, which are shanty towns that have sprung up with no planning at minimal cost to their residents. Many people also live in 'vertical favelas', old apartment blocks which are squatted in by large numbers of people in very difficult conditions.
Class war makes it hard to escape poverty
There is an element of class war in São Paulo too, with the middle classes suspicious of those in the poorest segment of society. As such, social mobility from the favelas is heavily restricted due to stigma and discrimination by the fearful middle classes. Children growing up in these circumstances have their opportunities limited in life as much by their lack of education and training, as where they were born and grew up.
SOS Children's Villages in Poá
SOS Children's Villages built its Children's Village in Poá, São Paulo in 1968. We have a social centre and families for children unable to live with their parents.
The social centre runs family strengthening programmes, designed to keep children living with their parents. The centre also runs a child minding service and day care centre facilities, enabling parents to go to work while their children are looked after in a safe, nurturing environment. We also provide training to parents in vocational and parenting skills, which help alleviate social problems of the whole community.
SOS Children's Villages also set up an SOS Primary School in São Paulo, which is now run by the municipality. This is open to children from across the community but also children who live among SOS families in the Children's Village, enabling them to mingle and network among the community.
A new family for children with no one
For children unable to live with their parents there are several SOS families in our Children's Village. Children grow up in a family environment led by an SOS Mother and go to school with their peers in the community.
As children get older and need more independence they are offered places in supported, shared accommodation where they can pursue vocational training and further education. Qualified counsellors guide them into adulthood.