The capital of the department of Tolima, Ibagué is about 125 miles west of the country's capital, Bogota. With half a million residents, the city is an important commercial centre due to its central location between Bogota and Cali.
The area benefits from being an important producer of coffee and rice, and has become a major player in the nation's textile industry. While the north of the city has all the trappings of a middle class city, the south is populated with what are termed 'popular neighbourhoods' where poverty is the norm.
Uneven benefits as Colombia reduces poverty
Colombia is well on the way to reach its Millennium Development Goals for poverty but large sectors of the population have not benefited from this progress. Children from poorer families remain some of the most vulnerable in the country.
Unemployment sits at around 18% and the proportion of people without formal work is also very high. Government programmes to help people start micro-enterprises have helped the situation somewhat but there is some way to go before everyone benefits. Informal work in times of financial crisis impacts on the lives of marginalised families
Working children miss out on a good education
It is estimated that one in ten children work in the city, labouring in agriculture, as street vendors and domestic servants. Much of this is poverty related as children help their families to make ends meet. However, there is a cultural phenomenon of parents sending their children to work because it is viewed as 'formative'.
Children often work in dangerous environments and this endangers their health and education. Some are at risk of sexual exploitation. Armed guerrilla insurgent groups recruit children to fight for their cause. The best way to protect such children is to ensure they remain in education and learn a trade or profession. Parents often need guidance to ensure this is borne out.
Our work in Ibague
We began work in Ibagué in 1985 when a volcanic eruption destroyed the city of Armero. The Children's Village is just over 30 miles south of the disaster area.
Today, we work from our SOS social centre to alleviate poverty in the community and intervene in families where children are at risk of losing parental care. We offer daycare facilities so parents can go to work, assured their children are in a safe, nurturing environment.
We run an SOS school in Ibagué that serves up to 475 students through primary and secondary education.
For children who cannot live with their parents, SOS families offer the love and care of an SOS mother. Children from the SOS Village attend the SOS school, forging and maintaining links with the local community.
As children grow up and require more independence they are offered places in the SOS youth home outside the Children's Village. Living in shared, supported accommodation they are able to pursue further education or vocational training while under the care and support of qualified youth counsellors.
Children in Ibagué face numerous problems. We work to alleviate the worst of these and provide children with the chance of a successful life. Please help. Sponsor a child.