Uruguay has been hailed as South America's wealthiest and most developed country. Although poverty levels are certainly lower than in most other states in the region, many Uruguayans, particularly in rural areas, continue to live in precarious socioeconomic conditions.
High levels of poverty in rural Uruguay
Brothers and sisters at the SOS Children’s Village (photo: A. Heimann)
Florida is a small town which is located roughly 100km north of Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. Although Uruguay remains one of the wealthiest and most developed countries in Latin America, rural areas continue to be marked by fairly high levels of poverty and social exclusion. In rural Uruguay, one in every four children is poor.
Many families in the area continue to be without permanent access to running water, electricity and adequate housing. Around 24 per cent of all children in the Florida Department grow up in poverty. Quite often children drop out of school at an early age because their families depend on the additional income their children can generate. In total, an estimated 32,000 young children in Uruguay participate in labour activities.
Many orphaned and abandoned children in and around Florida lead a life under extremely difficult circumstances. Over recent years, child prostitution has turned into a major problem in Florida. It used to be an issue in Montevideo only but has now spread to the interior of Uruguay as well.
Florida's families depend on our support
SOS Children's Villages has been supporting orphaned and abandoned Uruguayan children since the 1960s. SOS Children's Village Florida is the country's largest; our work has been growing constantly, as have the number of services we offer to meet the needs of the local population. Taking into account that poverty levels in the area remain high, the work of SOS Children's Villages is of great importance.
What we do in Florida
SOS Children's Villages has been working in Florida since 1989. Our work is known and appreciated by the local community for the holistic support it is giving people in the area. These services include family strengthening programmes through which we aim to prevent family break-ups, loving homes for children who grow up without parental care, an SOS Youth Programme, vocational training opportunities, medical treatment as well as counselling and psychological support.
Playing together in SOS Children’s Village Florida (photo: A. Heimann)
The SOS Family Strengthening Programmes represent a holistic and comprehensive concept aiming to enable children who are at risk of losing parental care to grow up within their own family. Many young mothers have sought our support and they are now able to go to work and earn a living while their children are being looked after at our day-care centres. Through the SOS Social Centres we also offer counselling, psychological support and basic medical support to the surrounding community and all children in our care. Additionally, basic courses on human rights are being offered so that mothers feel encouraged to claim these rights for their children and for themselves.
At SOS Children's Village Florida, around 128 children who have lost parental care can be looked after in loving homes with an SOS mother. In 2014 some families moved into housing in the different districts throughout the town. Children are well integrated into the community as they go to the local schools and take part in neighbourhood activities.
When children are ready to move out of the family homes, they can join the SOS Youth Programme where they will continue to receive our support. With the guidance of our qualified staff, young people develop perspectives for their future, learn to deal with responsibility and increasingly make their own decisions.