The city of Bogotá has seen vast improvements in terms of security, infrastructure and poverty reduction over recent years. Nonetheless, in the poorer parts of Colombia's capital, tens of thousands find themselves on the bottom rungs of the socioeconomic ladder. In the city's numerous shantytowns, many families do not have access to decent housing, medical services and electricity.
A city marked by social inequality
Young woman growing up at SOS Children's Village Bogotá (photo: N.Ruud)
Bogotá is the capital and largest city of Colombia. It is also one of the biggest cities in Latin America, both in terms of population and land area. Although Bogotá has seen significant improvements concerning security, infrastructure and poverty reduction over the last decade, tens of thousands of families in this modern metropolis are still affected by unemployment, poverty and a lack of access to public services.
Social inequality is high in Colombia's capital: around 40 per cent of the total income is controlled by only seven per cent of the city's population. Although the city's under-five-mortality rate has dropped noticeably over the last twenty years, it is still higher than in other developed cities in Latin America. Whether children grow up with or without parental care significantly affects their educational career. Children who grow up without parental care are less likely to attend school. Children who for various reasons end up living without parental care and support are usually exposed to poverty, discrimination and exclusion, factors which in turn increase their risk of suffering abuse and exploitation. Because of poverty and parental neglect, around 2,000 children in Bogotá live on the streets.
Instead of attending school, many children are involved in labour activities
Vulnerable children in Colombia's capital engage in labour activities at a very early age. Most of them are involved in the informal sector, and often drop out of school. The link between child labour and poverty is undeniably strong in Bogotá. In most cases, parents depend on the extra income generated by their children and thus take their children out of school. Without a decent education, a child from a poor family background has little chance to break the cycle of poverty.
What we do in Bogotá
This young man arrived in the village when he was seven years old. Here he poses with his SOS mother, a source of love and support (photo: SOS archives)
In 1971, SOS Children's Villages started working with children and young people in Bogotá.
Strengthen Families: Through our SOS Family Strengthening Programmes we do everything we can to keep families together and reduce the risk of a child ending up on the street. For example, we help families gain access to essential services such as education, nutrition and health. In addition, our organisation offers counselling and psychological advice, and mothers can leave the children in our day-care centres so that they can go to work.
Care in families: SOS Children's Village Bogotá consists of SOS families where up to 171 children are cared for by loving SOS parents. Some children grow up in foster families. Some families live in homes in the local community – they receive the same support from SOS Children’s Villages.
Wherever possible, we work closely with the children’s family of origin, so that they can return to live with the families. Whenever this happens, we work towards supporting them during the period of change and adjustment.
Support young people: With the help of qualified staff, young people develop perspectives for their future and learn to shoulder responsibility. They are encouraged to develop a sense of team spirit and build contacts with relatives and friends as well as with possible employers.