San Ignacio Guazu, in southern Paraguay, has a population of just over 50,000 people. Like many other rural areas in the country, this region has been left behind by relatively rapid economic growth.
The area's 30% poverty rate is above the national average and this is largely because of a shift away from a traditionally agricultural economy. Most people are now employed in the service sector, often within small family businesses, and this provides little security, especially during financial crises.
Poverty and insecure livelihoods mean that any family member who can is expected to work and bring home money, including children. These hard conditions also mean that parents are often under enormous strain and find it hard to provide adequate care for their children.
In the worst cases, though these account for 61%, this can lead to the psychological or physical abuse of children ,which only becomes more likely as family size increases. In order to tackle abuse it is vital that parents are given the support they need to care and provide for their children.
Access to health care in and around San Ignacio Guazu is poor and the majority of children have none at all. This is extremely detrimental to everyone, but it affects children under four the worst, putting them at serious risk.
Added to this is the widely held belief that the use of pesticides on GM soya plantations is causing a high number of nervous or respiratory system diseases. These crops have already led to a decline in small farming and they could now be effecting health even more directly.
What are we doing in the area
Thirteen homes in the Children's Village provide a place for over 100 children who are no longer able to remain with their parents. They are given all the love and affection they need to grow up healthily and achieve everything they are capable of.
The proximity of the two Children's Villages also offers an opportunity for children in both to build strong and important relationships with each other. Over recent years this integration has only increased and now all the children live side by side in the same families.
When children from SOS families are old enough they are able to find a place in the SOS youth programme. Here, they live in shared accommodation whilst they undertake secondary education or vocational training and are supported by qualified counsellors as they embark on their adult lives.
Though it is now run by local authorities, we established a full equipped medical centre in San Ignacio that focuses on serving mothers and children. It is a vital service in the local community and treats up to 25,000 patients a year.
Children in San Ignacio are supported to flourish in our Village. With the love and support of SOS families and child sponsors, these children have hope for the future. Will you do something amazing, and sponsor a child in Panama today?