Two million tourists bring wealth to Cuzco each year, and in spite of this prosperity, many people are living in extreme poverty in slum housing on the outskirts of the city.
SOS Children's Villages has been supporting vulnerable children in Cuzco for more than a decade, providing basic social services including access to health care and education.
Many of Cuzco’s people live in severe poverty
The city of Cuzco is Peru’s most famous tourist destination and attracts more than two million visitors each year. The city has a population of approximately 600,000 inhabitants and is located in the country’s southeast, nearly 1,000 kilometres from the capital city, Lima.
Cuzco has been named the Historical Capital of Peru by the country’s Constitution, and was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. The city and its surrounds are built on the historic capital of the Inca Empire. Visitors come to admire the city’s beautiful colonial buildings and it is the starting point for many tourists taking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
Families living in slums
Cuzco’s population has increased rapidly over recent decades as internal migrants flock to the city in search of opportunity, including many indigenous families who give up their homes and their traditional way of life. Migrants do not always find life is better in urban areas, and intensive migration has led to rapid expansion of the slums located on the city’s outskirts.
These informal settlements are overcrowded, and an absence of sanitation and running water are a constant health hazard to residents. Settlements are also located in areas that are at constant risk of earthquakes or flooding following torrential rains. Inhabitants live in serious poverty and along with daily hardship, they face serious environmental and health hazards.
Indigenous population excluded from economic processes
More than 80% of Peru’s population speaks Spanish, and minorities who speak native languages are often marginalised and unable to take part in formal education or employment. Most members of these minorities take up informal work in order to survive, and their children suffer as a result of this precarious life. It is a commonly held belief that children are expected to work and make a contribution to make sure the survival of the family.
Children involved in child labour are vulnerable to exploitation and violence on the streets, and they miss the opportunity to experience a carefree childhood and improve themselves through education.
In spite of the city’s wealth due to tourism, Cuzco’s poverty levels continue to rise. Sadly, more than 30% of children under the age of 16 are living in extreme poverty, or suffer chronic malnourishment.
Helping vulnerable children in Cuzco
SOS Children's Villages has been supporting vulnerable children and their families in Cuzco for a decade. The SOS Social Centre’s primary focus is its family strengthening programme, which works to alleviate hardship and provide basic services, allowing parents to keep their families together. The programme is organised and run by members of the community, with SOS Children's Villages acting as a training resource.
The SOS Social Centre’s services also include a childcare centre, which provides a safe and happy environment for young children while their parents go out to work.
A loving home for orphaned children
Over 100 children who are no longer able to live with their parents are welcomed into one of 12 SOS families in Cuzco. Children grow up in a loving and stable environment alongside their SOS brothers and sisters under the care of an affectionate SOS mother.
The SOS Youth Programme supports older children when they are ready to leave the family home. The programme provides shared, semi-independent accommodation, and a qualified counsellor. With this support, young people complete their education or vocational training.
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