Callao is Peru’s most important port town but the majority of its residents are living in poverty and struggling to make ends meet. Children are often left unsupervised as their parents go out to work, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation and crime.
SOS Children's Villages is working in Callao to support families, providing basic services to help keep children safe.
Child labour and a lack of education
The city of Callao is just 12 kilometres from Peru’s capital city, Lima, and is home to almost 900,000 inhabitants. It is the country’s chief seaport and has several islands close to shore on the Pacific Ocean where sea lions and sea birds live in an environment almost untouched by man.
The majority of Callao’s population is living in poverty and most struggle to survive on a daily basis. Housing quality is poor and a large proportion of people live in overcrowded conditions. Basic services such as health care and education are limited, and formal employment can be hard to find. There have been some improvements in the last decade, but residents still face serious challenges in a country where 60% of children are living in poverty.
It is not uncommon for children to be left alone from a young age while parents go out to work. This situation leaves children vulnerable to exploitation through child labour, getting involved in criminal activity, or simply missing out on education. Despite government efforts to combat child labour, it is still commonplace, and children take up informal work in Callao, washing car windscreens, shining shoes or selling merchandise.
Callao’s children face serious health hazards
Callao is home to Peru’s most important port, which brings both benefits and problems to the community there. Large mineral deposits are exported through the port, which exposes local residents to lead contamination. This is most serious in children, who are vulnerable to toxins and who have limited access to health care.
Callao’s port is also a point of entry for international immigrants, which has been a positive influence on the city – for instance, the introduction of salsa music to Peru – but is also a social challenge due to race issues that have arisen. Afro-Peruvian residents are a minority in Callao, and face social exclusion and prejudice. Their children are more likely to drop out of school and need the support of basic social services to allow them to continue their education and improve their prospects for the future.
What we do in Callao
SOS Children's Villages has working in Callao since 2004, supporting local families and vulnerable children by providing access to basic services such as health care and education.
Today, the SOS Social Centre works with families to combat malnutrition, provides childcare for parents so they are able to go out to work, and offers development courses including self-esteem, leadership, women’s rights and gender equality. Education in the areas of reproductive and other health issues is also on offer.
The social centre’s family strengthening programme is operated by members of the community, and aims to alleviate the burdens of everyday life so that parents can focus on supporting and raising their families.
A new loving home for orphaned children
Over 100 children who are no longer able to live with their parents can find a stable and loving home with one of 12 SOS families in Callao. Children grow up alongside their SOS brothers and sisters under the care of an affectionate SOS mother.
The SOS Youth Programme enables young adults who are ready to move away from their SOS family. Youngsters live with others in semi-independent accommodation where children continue on to higher education or skills training under the guidance of a counsellor.
From nursery up to adolescence, we provide holistic care for children who have lost their families. When you sponsor a child, you can make a difference to a vulnerable child in Callao.