Children in Peru

Arequipa is a beautiful city with scenic attractions, culturally significant sites and fine examples of colonial architecture. More than one million tourists visit the city each year, but most do not see the whole picture.

Families that have migrated from rural areas in search of a better life often face struggle to find employment and take up illegal work. Child labour is commonplace and accepted, and education is needed to change traditional attitudes.

Internal migrants face a reality

Arequipa is a city of almost 900,000 inhabitants located approximately 800 kilometres from the country’s capital, Lima. Arequipa is one of Peru’s industrial and commercial centres and its primary industries include manufacturing and wool exports.

The city is known for its impressive historic centre, which is a 332-hectare UNESCO World Heritage Site. Arequipa’s scenic and cultural sites and its colonial architecture attract around 1.3 million visitors to the city each year.

Due to limited opportunities for employment in the poorer highland areas, many families migrate to urban areas to seek work. Unemployment is common among those who have migrated, and many turn to illegal work, such as street vending, to survive. When families migrate, their support network is no longer around them, and parents are often forced to leave children alone while they go out to work. Children learn to fend for themselves from a very young age.

Education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty

The Peruvian government is making progress in its efforts to eradicate child labour, however it is not uncommon for children to take up informal employment in the streets. Children may perform tasks such as shining shoes or selling merchandise, and this is often done in dangerous areas and sometimes late at night. Children in rural areas often work in very high-risk environments, such as the region’s pumice stone mines, endangering their health and psychological wellbeing.

It is widely accepted in Peruvian culture that children should make contributions to the family’s overall income, and this is usually achieved by taking up some form of employment. These traditional attitudes must be challenged before any true change can be made to improve the futures of children in Arequipa. Education and training are the keys to breaking the cycle of poverty that has existed in Peru for generations. If parents are supported, they are more likely to be in a position to allow their children to pursue an education.

Our work in Arequipa

The SOS Children’s Village was established in Arequipa in 1984 to give support to local families and vulnerable children through a family strengthening programme. Today, the SOS Social Centre in Arequipa provides medical and dental care for members of the local community who might otherwise be unable to afford such services.

The social centre offers day care for young children, allowing parents to work or search for employment while their children are in a safe and happy environment. Short courses in dress making, carpentry and other trades are on offer for adults, while activities are regularly organised for children.

SOS Children's Village

Children from Arequipa, Peru

In our Children's Village, thirteen SOS families provide stable and loving homes for up to 100 children who are no longer able to live with their parents. Children grow up alongside their SOS brothers and sisters under the care of an affectionate SOS mother.

The SOS Youth Programme provides shared, semi-independent accommodation to older children when they are ready to leave the family home. Qualified counsellors support these young adults as they complete their education or vocational training and begin to plan for their futures.

We offer children in Arequipa with nothing and no-one a happy family life in our Children's Village. Child sponsors ensure they receive all they need to flourish. Will you sponsor a child today?


SOS Children has been working for Africa's children to help orphans since 1971.