León is Nicaragua's second largest city, with a population of around 190,000. It is also commonly considered the country's intellectual and cultural heart, and is home to one of Latin America's oldest cathedrals, the Basílica Catedral de la Asunción.
The city, situated in the west of Nicaragua, is also an important agricultural and commercial centre. However, past wars and natural disasters severely disrupted the lives of people throughout the region, and this continues to affect the chances of children growing up in León.
Living in the wake of Hurricane Mitch
In 1998 Hurricane Mitch struck Nicaragua, along with many other countries in Central America. After Honduras, Nicaragua was the worst affected country in the region, with the disaster claiming at least 3,800 lives and causing $1 billion worth of damage.
Severe flooding, displaced some 368,000 people, and destroyed around 340 schools. This devastated the lives of all who were affected, but it impacted particularly on children who missed out on educational opportunities that would help them flourish in later life.
Estimates suggest that around 20% of children in León grow up without parental care. At very young ages, many children are forced to become heads of their households and take responsibility for younger siblings. These children have few opportunities to get the education that they deserve.
This early experience will continue to affect them throughout their adult lives, and often means they struggle to fulfil their potential. Ensuring that every child gets the chance for a full and happy childhood is not just important for those involved, but for all of society as well.
What is SOS Children's Villages doing in León?
Our work in León originally began in response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Mitch in 1998. Following the crisis, we began to work on a more permanent basis in order to help the children of the region grow up happy and successful.
A family home
Many children in León live without parental support, which can have a negative impact on their life chances. Our SOS families provide a loving home for these children, where they can grow up with all the benefits of family life.
They are cared for by their SOS mother and are helped to overcome the challenges that they have already had to face. The bonds they develop with their SOS mother and SOS brothers and sisters will stay with them throughout their lives, and they will always be part of their SOS family.
Building strong families
Limited economic opportunities put enormous strain on parents, since they struggle to care for their children whilst also making ends meet. Helping them to deal with this stress is an essential part of our SOS family strengthening programme in León.
We provide counselling and support to help them handle the strain that poverty creates. We also offer services, such as a day care centre that gives them a safe place to leave their children whilst they work as well as a range of medical advice and treatment. Helping create strong families now ultimately helps their children build a prosperous future for León.
One in five children in León grows up without parental care. We are there to care for the most vulnerable. Please help us and sponsor a child.