SOS Children's Village Vientiane SOS Children's Villages has been working in Laos since 1993 - decades of fighting and destruction have brought the country to an economic standstill, resulting in a growing number of children and families in need of support. The capital of Laos, on the border with Thailand Happy children at play in the SOS Children's Village (photo: SOS archives). The capital city of Vientiane is home to around 800,000 people. It is located on the river Mekong, opposite the Thai border town of Nongkhai. SOS Children's Villages is based about six kilometres from the centre of the city, near a market and several primary schools. After the construction of the First Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge across the Mekong in the 1990s, Vientiane benefited from its proximity to the prosperous economic climate in Thailand. Unfortunately the Asian financial crisis of 1997-1998 badly affected the development of both Laos and Thailand. Although the economy has improved in recent years, over a quarter of the population continues to live in poverty, with international organisations implementing sustainable development plans to improve the lives of poor and vulnerable people. Many children have lost parental care due to the changing social and economic conditions which often result in poverty. Some parents have moved to neighbouring countries in search of work. The children are left behind with relatives, who are often not able to care for them. Children can be seen working on the streets of Vientiane. Many do not attend school but spend their days making a living by scavenging, begging, or selling on the streets. Providing support to children in need SOS Children's Villages is committed to preventing child abandonment in the city of Vientiane. Due to the catastrophic post-war social conditions, the local population was in desperate need of support. Through the provision of loving families, and good quality day-care and education we aim to give hundreds of children a better start in life. What we do in Vientiane Two boys doing their homework together (photo: SOS archives). SOS Children's Villages provides support to the local population of Vientiane through a holistic and integral package of services: day-care for young children, primary and secondary schooling, a youth programme as well as family-based care for children who can no longer live with their birth families. Children can attend the SOS Kindergarten, where qualified staff can look after up to 100 children. The provision of day-care is particularly valued by those parents who receive training or go to work - they know that their children are being cared for by professionals. As the children grow older, they can attend the SOS Hermann Gmeiner School which can educate up to 470 children at both primary and secondary level. Children who have lost parental care can find a loving home in one of the 14 SOS families where up to 140 children can be looked after by the SOS mothers. The children grow up with their sisters and brothers in a familial environment full of love, respect and security. As the children grow into young adults, they can move into our youth programmes. With the support of qualified professionals they are guided through this new stage of their lives, as they start vocational training courses, attend higher education and start looking for work. The youths are encouraged to develop perspectives for their future, learn to shoulder responsibility and increasingly make their own decisions Due to the fact that our organisation is very active in Laos, we decided to open a training centre for SOS mothers and co-workers in Vientiane.