Luque is a small town situated in the west of the country and is just 6 miles from Asunción, Paraguay's capital city. With a population of 540,000 people, Asunción is the cultural, political and economic heart of the region and of the country in general.
Asunción has been the main driver of growth in Paraguay, and its economy is becoming increasingly oriented towards the financial sector. It also has a very young population with over half of the people who live here being under 30.
Whilst unemployment in the capital city remains relatively low, at about 7%, underemployment is almost three times as high. A majority of the population are forced to work more than 45 hours a week in multiple jobs, just to make ends meet. By contrast the rich have been able to increase their wealth significantly.
Nowhere is this divide more apparent than in Asunción, where poverty and wealth are just a river apart. Whilst well off families are able to afford respectable homes on one bank of the River Paraguay, on the other side poor families are struggling in shanty towns of makeshift houses.
For children living on the wrong side of the river, life is hard. Many of them come from families that moved from the area around Asunción, including Luque, but the conditions they now live in are dirty and flooding is a common danger.
Worst of all, many children have to labour in order to help support their family, with 14% working an average of 35 hours every week. Not only does this put them at risk of violence and sexual exploitation, but it also means that they are unable to get the education that would help them to escape poverty in the future.
How are we helping children here?
SOS Children's Village Luque was the second in the region, with the first being in Asunción itself. We opened it in 1997 in response to the high demand for our services in the area and we continue to be committed to ensuring that all children get the right start in life.
Though it is now run by the local authorities, the school in Luque was originally opened by SOS Children's Villages. It now serves about 500 pupils and gives them the opportunity to receive a quality primary and secondary education.
We also run an SOS nursery that provides pre-school education for approximately 50 children, ensuring that they have the basic knowledge and skills they need to succeed. It also gives working mothers a safe place to leave their children, making it easier for them to provide for their family.
Providing loving families
SOS families in the Children's Village provide a loving and supportive home to over 100 children who could not remain with their biological parents. They are able to live with their brothers and sisters, and their trained SOS mother is always on hand to give them the support and attention they need to flourish.
When they get to the age where they are ready to begin taking their first independent steps, the SOS youth programme is on hand to help them navigate this tricky time. These young people are provided with accommodation and the advice of qualified counsellors, which helps them to prepare for their futures.
Asunción is a city divided, where those on the wrong side of town grow up in poverty with little hope of a prosperous future. We are there to ensure they can benefit from the same opportunities as their wealthier counterparts.