Picnic lunch on school vacation - Luang Prabang, Laos…
SOS Children's Village Luang Prabang
Picnic lunch on school vacation - Luang Prabang, Laos
SOS Children's Village Luang Prabang
SOS Kinderdorf International started its work in Laos in February 1993, when an agreement was signed with the Ministry of Social Welfare and Labour to build SOS Children's Villages in the country. By then, the political situation had calmed down after decades of fighting and destruction, which had brought the country to an economic standstill. A year later, the foundation stone of the first SOS Children's Village in Laos was laid in the capital city of Vientiane. The new SOS Children's Village was officially opened in December 1995. The country's first SOS Hermann Gmeiner School was built in Vientiane as well. Soon after the opening of the first SOS Children's Village, construction of the second one started in the town of Pakse, in the south of the country. Another SOS Hermann Gmeiner School was built there, too. Over the years, more SOS Facilities, such as SOS Youth Houses, SOS Kindergartens and new SOS Children's Villages have been established in several parts of the country. In order to provide training for its employees, SOS Children's Villages set up an SOS Mother and Staff Training Centre in Vientiane in 1997.
The foundation stone of the fourth SOS Children's Village in the country was laid in February 2000. By June 2001, construction of SOS Children's Village Luang Prabang and its SOS Kindergarten had been completed and the first families could move in. Luang Prabang is the ancient capital of the former Laotian kingdom of Lan Xang. It is situated on the river Mekong. The town's main attractions are the King's Palace (now a national museum) and numerous temples. In 1995, Luang Prabang was declared part of the World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.
The people of Luang Prabang live mainly on tourism and cloth trade. On the outskirts of the town, there are farms and paddy fields. Many orphaned children from the hill tribes living in the area come to Luang Prabang in search of a better life. These children usually only speak their tribal dialects and have not learned the Laotian language.
SOS Children's Village Luang Prabang is situated about four kilometres outside the town, near the village of Ban Pong, on the main road to Muang Khai. It consists of fourteen family homes, the village director's house, staff accommodation and the necessary administrative buildings. The site, which was provided to SOS Children's Villages by the local authorities, includes a paddy field and a pond.
There is an SOS Kindergarten with five group rooms and a playground, where up to 100 children both from the SOS Children's Village and the neighbourhood can be taught. Next to the SOS Children's Village, an SOS Hermann Gmeiner School has been constructed. The school consists of twelve classrooms, laboratories, a service and administration area and a canteen. It provides primary and secondary education to up to 650 pupils.
Older boys from the SOS Children's Village normally move to the SOS Youth Facility when they start a vocational training course or go on to higher education. With the support of qualified youth workers, they develop realistic perspectives for their future, learn to shoulder responsibility and increasingly make their own decisions. They are encouraged to develop team spirit and build up contacts with relatives and friends, as well as with the relevant authorities and potential employers.
In 2002, SOS Children's Villages Laos launched its family strengthening programmes. These programmes are intended to support families at risk of abandoning their children and to encourage families to stay together. SOS Children's Villages therefore works with local authorities and other service providers to support families and enable them to take good care of their children. In Luang Prabang, the family strengthening programme focuses on primary health care and sanitation for people of all ages from the neighbourhood of the SOS Children's Village. A room of the SOS Kindergarten building has been set apart for the family strengthening programme.
Portrait of a two girls - CV São Bernardo do Campo, Brazil
Looking at Family Strengthening Programs in Brazil
Why is it important to invest in family strengthening? "The family is a solid base on which children can construct their lives," answers the social assistant Márcia Fernandes, the person coordinating programs of child abandonment prevention in the different regions of Brazil.
Although the family is the foundation for the development of a child, poverty in Brazil is the quiet weapon that, for many years, has disintegrated and destroyed thousands of families in the country. So, how are families to be strengthened when poverty continues to destroy families? The answer is: Let's help to contribute to break the cycle of poverty in the country.
In this context, the variety of SOS Social Centers operating in the country congregate contents, methodologies and resources which meet the communities' necessities. Children, youth, and parents are helped to gain knowledge and information so as to raise awareness about threat subjects and to awake their creativity, responsibility, cooperation, and autonomy.
In sum, family strengthening programs in Brazil seek to contribute to the prevention of child and youth abandonment, stimulating the socio-economic and cultural development of the communities in which they live. The specific objectives are:
1. To promote partnerships with the communities in need to develop qualifications of youth and women for income generation 2. To stimulate and guide innovative initiatives/actions 3. To carry out activities of school graduation, cultural development, and recreational development for children, youth, women and adults of peripheral communities 4. To implement "SOS Communal Houses" in order to support families with low income, and 5. To employ social agents and communitarian leadership.
Some important results
In Juiz De Fora (Minas Gerais), in 2005, 120 families were supported with home visits, lectures, meetings, and interviews, while the program in Jacarepaguá, in Rio de Janeiro, benefited over 340 families. Among the lectures oriented to raise the participants' self-esteem were: women's rights, statutes of the child and adolescent, aesthetics and beauty, practical family relations, personal hygiene, and good manners. Similarly, in Santa Maria (Rio Grande do Sul), a service of social support was implemented thanks to a partnership with the Centro Universitário Franciscano.
Many families also participated in a variety of workshops and courses on income generation and professional qualification in areas such as education, gardening, computer science, day-care center management, clerical assistance and child education. 265 people benefited in this way.
Another example is São Bernardo do Campo, in Great Sao Paulo, where a family strengthening program supported 119 families in need. They were provided with information regarding health care, family development, adaptation between parents and children at school, women's health, domestic economy, family income, gastronomy, hairdressing, manicure, and others.
The organization gives special attention to cities in which an important number of vulnerable children are identified. Presently there are 13 programs of child abandonment prevention operating in different cities of the country, in which thousands of children, youth, and families of the community are benefited. They are located in the regions of Manaus (AM), Lauro de Freitas (BA), Engenho do Meio (PE), Jacarepaguá and Pedra Bonita (RJ), Juiz de Fora (MG), João Pessoa (PB), Caicó (RN), Santa Maria (RS) and Rio Bonito, Poá and São Bernardo do Campo.
Family oriented actions
Although poverty is one of the most important factors that cause child abandonment, the component "family" is the car-wheel of all actions at SOS Children's Villages Brazil. "Our approach is to work with families and communities so that we can help them develop the skills and positive attitudes of their children within a good family atmosphere. This is our strategy," concludes Márcia.