When children grow up in disadvantaged conditions, not only is their healthy physical and psychological development threatened, but also their education and prospects for the future. These children and their families need support to better their situation sustainably.
For thousands, life is a daily battle
Thanks to SOS Children's Villages, children are growing up in loving homes and attending school (photo: J. Honoré).
Nairobi is the capital of Kenya and has a population of around four million. The city is an important commercial and financial hub and is home to major international companies. Nevertheless, the living conditions of a large proportion of the local population are extremely poor. Up to 50 per cent of the city’s inhabitants are estimated to live in over 100 slums, where basic facilities such as safe water and sanitation are missing. Conditions in the slums are overcrowded, unsanitary and often unsafe. The people here have no land rights and no access to the formal employment market.
Despite recent government initiatives to improve living conditions, such as the Kenya Slum Upgrading Programme, progress is slow and much work remains to be done. Kibera, for example, is Nairobi’s largest slum in which up to 700,000 people are estimated to live. Although initial improvements have been achieved, its transformation will undoubtedly take time. The population in these areas is hit the hardest by rising global food prices, leading to high rates of malnutrition. The lack of clean drinking water can lead to a number of life-threatening infectious diseases. Diarrhoeal disease kills around 1.5 million children worldwide each year, the large majority of them in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Holistic and sustainable support for the community
SOS Children’s Villages began its work in Nairobi in 1973 to help vulnerable children. In 2003, we began running a family strengthening programme here due to the great need for support within the local community. Especially those living in slums face enormous difficulties, such as low income and unemployment, few schools and overcrowded classes, a lack of effective health facilities, environmental pollution with overflowing garbage, flooding due to poor drainage, poor infrastructure and no recreational facilities. The SOS Social Centre focuses on raising awareness of HIV/AIDS, facilitating support groups for those affected, and providing nutrition and education bursaries for children. Our efforts also address the issue of street children. Where possible, we try to reunite them with their families, as well as integrate them into the formal school system. Around 2400 people benefit from the programme today.
In addition, the SOS Medical Centre in Nairobi provides basic health services to the local community. It also includes an HIV/AIDS clinic, which offers voluntary counselling and testing as well as anti-retroviral therapy.
What we do in Nairobi
Children from the local community and from the SOS families attend the SOS Kindergarten together (photo: J. Honoré).
For children from the region who can no longer live with their parents, 16 SOS families can provide a loving home for up to 160 children. In each family, the children live with their brothers and sisters, affectionately cared for by their SOS mother. Each family house also includes a small garden for growing fruit and vegetables and keeping goats, cows and geese. This makes a valuable contribution towards the self-sufficiency of the village.
The children attend the SOS Kindergarten together with children from the neighbourhood. This ensures that children from SOS families make friends and are integrated into the local community from a young age. The children then go on to complete their primary education at the SOS Hermann Gmeiner School in Nairobi, which is attended by over 240 pupils from the children’s village and the neighbourhood.
When young people from the SOS Children’s Village feel ready to move out of the family home in order to pursue further education or vocational training, the SOS Youth Programme makes shared accommodation available. The young people live together and, with the support of a qualified counsellor, they learn to take responsibility, plan for their future and prepare for independent adult life.
There are also two SOS Vocational Training Centres here in Nairobi. One offers courses in carpentry & joinery, metalwork, electrical installation, food & beverage, fashion & design, tailoring & dressmaking to up to 176 students. The other training centre educates future SOS mothers and co-workers and prepares them for the important roles they will be taking on.