In one of Chile’s poorest regions, the aftermath of the massive earthquake of 2010 continues to affect the lives of hundreds of families. The homes and livelihoods of countless people were destroyed. The infrastructure is gradually being rebuilt, but overcoming the trauma will take a while yet.
The transition from emergency relief to sustainable community programmes
Children sleeping in tents after the earthquake (photo: SOS archives)
SOS Children’s Village Malleco is located near the town of Angol in the Araucanía region in the Malleco province of Chile. Angol has over 50,000 inhabitants and its economy is based predominantly on agricultural activity and increasingly also forestry. However, many people from this region commute to larger towns up to 100 km away, meaning that children are often left on their own all day. Often, they end up spending time outside on the streets, where they are exposed to drugs and crime.
The Malleco province is one of the poorest in the country, with an estimated 55,000 households living below the national poverty line. What made matters far worse for much of the local population was the massive earthquake that hit Chile in 2010. It measured 8.8 on the moment magnitude scale and an estimated nine per cent of the Chilean population lost their homes due to the earthquake and the ensuing tsunami.
Angol was also severely affected: the majority of its shops, as well as its hospital were completely destroyed. More than 600 houses were very badly damaged and 400 of them had to be demolished as they were unsalvageable. SOS Children’s Villages provided emergency relief, such as food, clothing, and basic hygiene products, to around 280 families, as well as offering emotional support. These emergency programmes were then gradually turned into self-sustainable development programmes run by the community itself.
Rebuilding does not just refer to infrastructure
Hundreds of small farmers and business owners lost everything in the 2010 earthquake. Animals were killed, harvests destroyed, and forest fires demolished thousands of hectares. Migration to other parts of the country often seemed like the only option, but in many cases people’s lives did not actually improve once they had relocated. Often, infrastructure was not in place or they were unable to find work.
What we do in Malleco
A young woman who grew up in SOS Children's Village Malleco is now proud to work as a teacher (photo: F. Espinoza).
SOS Children’s Villages has been working in Malleco since 1981.
For children in the Malleco region who are no longer able to live with their parents, 15 SOS families can provide a loving home for up to 126 children. In each family, the children live with their brothers and sisters and are affectionately cared for by their SOS mother.
When young people from the children’s village are ready to leave their family in order to pursue further education or vocational training, the SOS Youth Programme provides shared accommodation. The young people live together here and, with the support of qualified counsellors, they can learn to take responsibility, plan their future and prepare for independent adult life.