SOS Children's Villages has been present in India since 1963, our work developed rapidly all over the country and we started our activities in Tirupati in 2010 when we initiated our family strengthening programme to help vulnerable families stay together. Since late 2011, we have also been providing family-based care for children who have lost the care of their parents.
The high rate of child labour is a problem in the province
Siblings have fun outside the family home (photo: SOS archives)
The city of Tirupati is situated in the Chitoor district in the province of Andhra Pradesh. Tirupati is a holy city, with many pilgrims visiting the Temple of Lord Venkateshwara which is located nearby. The city's economy is growing: infrastructure is improving and there is an increase in industry.
The province of Andhra Pradesh is home to over 84 million people of which 30 million are children. The poverty levels are high and it is estimated that over 14 million children live in absolute poverty. Around 1.3 million children have lost parental care.
Children from poor families in the vicinity of the SOS Children's Village face many difficulties. We support families in the nearby villages of Durgiperi, Nacheneri and Nagampalli which are inhabited by poor agricultural labourers and other vulnerable families. Child labour is a problem. Many of the children who live here do not go to school, or have dropped out of school, because they have to work in order to help support their families. Others are left behind by parents who migrate to other places for better job opportunities.
The lives of girls and women are particularly difficult, as they continue to be discriminated against. Girls are more likely than boys to be abandoned by parents, and a higher percentage drop out of school at an early age. For these reasons we at SOS Children's Villages pay particular attention to the education of girls and women.
Working closely with the community, aiming for self-sufficiency
SOS Children's Village Tirupati is located outside the village of Yerpedu, which is about 20 km from the town centre of Tirupati. The land was donated by a private individual who was concerned about the plight of local children. SOS Children's Villages conducted a study on the vulnerability of children in the area and found that there were more than half a million children living in vulnerable situations in Chittoor district alone. The local community has been very supportive of our work. We work in close partnership with the local authorities, universities and community-based organisations in order to identify families who are in need of support from our family-strengthening programme.
What we do in Tirupati
Children playing outside (photo: SOS archives)
A central part of the work that SOS Children's Villages carries out in Tirupati is focused on supporting children and families near where our organisation is based. Our SOS Social Centres run a family strengthening programme which offers a comprehensive package of services to enable families to stay together and take good care of their children. In addition to providing day-care, we aim to raise awareness of hygiene, HIV/AIDS, and child rights, and we give guidance on parenting skills. We provide families with food, as well as educational support and medical advice, vaccinations and treatment. In order for families to generate income, we offer them vocational training, career counselling and advice. If self-help groups do not exist, we enable their creation. Families we have been working with are now able to generate an income through small enterprises that make clothes, handicrafts and paper plates.
If children can no longer stay with their families, they can find a loving home with one of the seven SOS families, where they grow up with their sisters and brothers and are cared for by an SOS mother. The children attend the SOS Kindergarten and the local schools alongside children from neighbouring families, thus integrating into the community. The provision of day-care is particularly valued by those local parents who receive training or go to work - they know that their children are being cared for by professionals.