With a population of 540,000 Asunción – full name “Nuestra Señora Santa Maria de la Asunción” – is Paraguay's largest city and capital. It is situated in the west of the country near the border with Argentina and sits on the River Paraguay.
As with most capital cities, Asunción is the economic and administrative heart of the country and its financial sector has seen particular growth over recent years. It also has an extraordinarily young population, with more than half of the residents being under the age of 30.
The wrong side of the river
Asunción is an incredibly divided city and the make up of different neighbourhoods varies dramatically. For example, on one river bank relatively wealthy families live in large houses with well-kept gardens, while on the other, their counterparts live in makeshift houses prone to flooding.
The people who live in these poor areas are often rural migrants who increasingly migrate to the city to find work. Work pays very poorly, so people often have to work incredibly long hours in order to make ends meet.
Since only 1 in 10 people are able to find reliable work, families' incomes are often precarious and they rely on any money that they can get. This often means that even the youngest members of a family need to work and bring in some additional money.
Labour exposes them to direct health hazards, since they often work in dangerous and dirty trades, and leaves them vulnerable to violence and sexual exploitation. Additionally, these children will often struggle to fulfil their full potential, since work prevents them from receiving an education that would help them get ahead in later life.
What we do in Asunción
Our work in Asunción began in 1982 and we have continuously expanded the services that we offer children and their families.
Providing children with a supportive upbringing
Nowadays, our SOS social centre provides help and support to around 1,200 people in the local area. We take a holistic approach to alleviating the hardships of poor families in Asunción, and our main goal is to ensure that all children get the benefit of a supportive upbringing.
Primarily, we offer counselling and advice for parents who are struggling to cope with the challenging situations that poverty creates. We also offer services, like our day care centre, that help parents to cope with the everyday challenges they are faced with.
The right start in life
When children can no longer stay with their parents, this can often cause problems for them long into their adult lives. Our SOS families help to prevent this by giving children a permanent home with a loving SOS mother.
From a very young age, they have the chance to mix and make friends with others in the wider community whilst attending the SOS nursery with 112 of their peers. When they are old enough, the SOS youth programme offers them shared accommodation and the support of qualified counsellors as they plan for an independent future.
Asunción is also the home of our training centre in Paraguay and this is where all of our staff and SOS mothers in the country are trained.
Asunción offers great opportunities for some but for many brings only hardship. We are there to care for the most vulnerable children.