The road that needs to be traversed in order to reach Chiloé from Puerto Montt on the mainland is often referred to as “the road of death” due to the many accidents that happen here. This is just one small anecdotal example of the isolation the population of Chiloé live in.
The beautiful natural landscape of the Chiloé archipelago stands in stark contrast to the precarious living conditions of many families here
Dancing the "cueca"- Chile's national dance - in the village (photo: A. Gabriel)
The Chiloé archipelago is located in the south of Chile and consists of one main island with a population of just over 150,000 in total. The town of Ancud, where the SOS Children’s Village is, is located in the far north of the island and has around 27,000 inhabitants.
The nearest important town on the mainland is the harbour town Puerto Montt, about 60 kilometres away. The remoteness of the island makes communication and contact with mainland Chile difficult for the inhabitants and there are very few opportunities to get a sound education. Getting to the mainland involves a 40-minute, sometimes very risky (and costly) trip by ferry. There had been plans to build a bridge between the island and the mainland since the 1970s, but in 2006 this plan was abandoned.
High levels of poverty, unemployment, alcoholism and homelessness
Salmon fishing is a main source of income in this area, but it can be a very fragile business. When in 2007 a virus infected thousands of fish, it caused a major social and economic crisis and left 20,000 people suddenly unemployed.
While poverty rates have been successfully reduced in Chile overall in recent years, in Chiloé they have been on the rise. On some parts of the island, poverty rates are as high as 25.5 per cent. Sources of income are very limited here and, other than relying on government social programmes, many have no option but to attempt making some money by informal means.
These precarious living conditions can lead to a multitude of social problems, such as increased levels of alcoholism, violence in the family, or homelessness. When parents face such difficult circumstances day in, day out, sometimes they are no longer able to provide their children with the care they need, and in the worst cases children are abandoned.
What we do in Chiloé
Learning to make sweets at a workshop (photo: SOS archives )
The southernmost SOS Children's Village in the world lies on the Chilean Island of Chiloé in the Pacific Ocean. SOS Children’s Villages began its work here in 2003 aiming to give a new home to orphans or children who are no longer able to live with their parents, as well as improving the standard of living for the local community.
Twelve SOS families in Chiloé provide a loving home for up to 108 children. In each family, the children live with their brothers and sisters and are affectionately cared for by their SOS mother.