Despite turning itself around significantly, many children in Rionegro struggle in poverty
Just under 30 miles from the city of Medellin, Rionegro is has a population of around 110,000.
It has a rather dark history. The province of Antioquia was once infamous for being home of the Medellin drugs cartel, and Medellin was described as one of the most dangerous cities in the world.
A swamped city struggles to cope
Things have largely changed for the residents of the city, but life is hard for many. Although the department of Antioquia has made great progress from a crime ridden danger zone to one of cultural and economic importance, not everyone has benefitted from the economic improvement.
People once moved from Medellin to Rionegro for safety and a better life. Now it lacks the public amenities to meet the demands of its population. For example, 30% of homes in the city lack proper sewerage.
Dangers remain despite improvements
Medellin isn't only home to migrants. Large numbers of internally displaced people have settled here as well. These people have been forced out of their homes due to conflict between paramilitary groups, left-wing guerrillas and the Colombian military. Around 44% of the population are classed as poor.
Though the government offers temporary humanitarian aid to support the displaced, life for them is very challenging. Children do not go to school and parents cannot make financial ends meet.
Though the murder rate has fallen significantly in the city, it is estimated that 6% of Rionegreros have left the city because they have been threatened with murder. Children in such families and those who work on the streets often end up in a world of crime and drugs.
Our work in Rionegro
We have been working in Rionegro since 1996, offering support to families and supporting those who cannot live with their parents. We work to ensure cohesion in families under pressure; helping them uphold the means to care for their children. This includes childminding facilities for working and single parents, but also vocational training packages to help parents earn more money.
For children who can no longer live with their parents, we offer places in SOS families under the care of an SOS Mother. The children in our care attend local schools and are encouraged to make and maintain bonds with the community, and with their extended family where possible.
As children grow up they are offered places at our SOS youth home. Living in shared, supported housing, they benefit from advice and support by qualified youth counsellors while attending vocational training or higher education. We also have a scholarship programme so that academically gifted children can attend university.
Against a tough backdrop, we provide a better family life for some of the city's most vulnerable children. You can help us by sponsoring a child.