Colón is the capital of the province of the same name. It is called home by 233,000 people and is commonly considered Panama's second city. The city is situated on the Caribbean coast of the country near to the Panama canal.
Its location makes it a major centre of trade in the region and its importance is further cemented by being home to the world's second largest free trade zone. The almost $16 billion worth of trade that is conducted in Colón every year seems to have brought wealth to the region, but the reality for many people is very different.
Many critics actually argue that the free trade zone has exacerbated the existing inequality in Colón. In Panama as a whole the disparity between the richest and poorest is huge, with the bottom 20% only receiving 3.6% of the countries income.
Despite some government efforts to mitigate the effects of poverty, those with little money continue to face enormous challenges every day of their lives. In Colón this affects 43% of the population. Crime rates are especially high in the city and young people from impoverished families are affected particularly badly, since they are often recruited into gangs.
Rural population affects 96%
People from the country's indigenous populations and those who live in rural areas are particularly poor, with 96% of indigenous people living below the poverty line. Though many of these people travel to find work in cities like Colón, they often continue to struggle once they reach their new urban homes.
This is largely because of the high illiteracy levels amongst these groups, which makes it difficult for them to find steady work and support their sons and daughters. Combating these issues will require support for families in need and for all children to get a proper education, which will help open doors later in life.
What are we doing to help?
In Colón we focus on giving children who have lost parental care the best possible start in life. We initially started our work here in 1998, as a transit home that could care for children aged up to 12. In 2009 we converted the site into a full Children's Village and now offer more permanent solutions.
A family upbringing
Those children who can no longer live with their parents are able to find a new home with one of our special SOS families. Here, they are looked after by their loving SOS mother, who is trained to help them overcome the specific challenges they will face.
By sending them to nearby schools, we ensure that all these children are fully integrated into the local community. This integration will help them throughout their lives, particularly as they make the transition to independent living as an adult.
Colón may be a national hub, but poverty has left nearly half the city's population, and even more in the surrounding countryside. We are there to give the most vulnerable a second chance. Please help by sponsoring a child.