Children living in urban slums grow up with little hope for a brighter future
Children at the SOS Social Centre (photo: A. Gabriel)
The city of Lipa is situated in the province of Batangas, about 80 km south of the capital Manila. Lipa is an important commercial town in the province. Traditionally the town's inhabitants lived off agriculture and fishing, but more recently the town has become home to many businesses and industries. The town is growing fast, at an estimated 2.5 per cent a year. As more land is taken up for the city's industrial and residential expansion, less land is available for farming.
In order to escape grinding poverty in rural areas, many move to Lipa in search of a better life. However, most end up joining the thousands of urban poor. The city's economic development has not reached everyone - around ten per cent of the population is unemployed. Families living in these conditions struggle daily to put food on the table and look after their children. Children often suffer from malnutrition or ill health. The municipal authorities have therefore instigated a strategy to improve the lives of children. For example with regards to health, projects to improve the health of mothers and children have been initiated.
Access to education is a further concern. Although schooling is provided free of charge, many parents cannot afford the extra costs of sending their children to school, and they can only do so with the help of scholarships.
We work hard to protect the rights of children in the city
SOS Children's Villages has been present in Lipa for over four decades. In this time we have become well-known and respected advocates of children. We work closely with other organisations responsible for protecting the rights of children - for example, they often refer children into our care. The support we provide vulnerable children with is as critical today as it was when we started working in the region.
What we do in Lipa
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SOS Children's Villages provides different kinds of support to the local population. The family strengthening programme provides assistance to families who are at risk of abandoning their children. SOS Children's Villages therefore works with local authorities to assist families and enable them to take good care of their children. We give nutritional, educational and health support. We provide counselling and guidance on parenting skills. The SOS Centre also administers medical treatment.
Children who have lost parental care can find a loving home in one of the twelve SOS families where up to 120 children can be looked after. The children grow up with their sisters and brothers in a familial environment full of love, respect and security. The children from the SOS families attend the local schools and lots of events organised by the local community, and the activities we hold are also open to neighbouring families. The children in our care are offered special support according to their needs, be it with their school work or with therapy.
The SOS Kindergarten can care for children from the SOS families and from the neighbourhood. The provision of day care is particularly valued by those parents who go to work or receive training - they know their children are being cared for by professionals. They are provided with a stimulating educational experience which promotes each child's social, emotional, physical and cognitive development.
As the children grow up, they can move into our SOS 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 look for work. The young people are encouraged to develop perspectives for their future, learn to shoulder responsibility and increasingly make their own decisions.