SOS Children's Village Ben Tre SOS Children's Villages has been working in Vietnam since the end of the 1960s and in Ben Tre since 1999. At first we provided family-based care for children who had lost parental care, after which we increased our support to include the provision of day-care and schooling for children and vocational training for young adults. Life is full of hardships for children living in poverty Children from the village playing sports (photo: SOS archives) The city of Ben Tre is located on the Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam, about 80 km south-west of Ho Chi Minh City. It is home to 1.4 million. People in the area have traditionally lived off agriculture, forestry and rice farming. An important present-day economic activity revolves around fishing and aquaculture, especially of shrimps, and the cultivation of coconuts. The local government is trying to increase the contribution of industry and services to the region's economy. Although some progress has been made in terms of poverty reduction, the province remains one of the poorest in the region. Women, people with little education and those households who have little or no land to cultivate are most likely to be affected by poverty. When taking into account factors such as the social inclusion and protection of children, the water and sanitation infrastructure, the education and housing situation, child labour rates, social inclusion and protection of children, the Mekong Delta has one of the highest child poverty rates in the country. The availability and quality of education remains poor, and many children are forced to leave school because they cannot afford the cost, and they have to work to raise the family income. In rural areas of the province they are found working in the fields, while in urban areas they beg or sell small goods on the streets of the city. Providing a future for vulnerable children The social and economic conditions in the Mekong Delta make the work of our organisation particularly important. The provision of the family strengthening programme, family-based care, education, and support into adulthood has continued to improve the lives of people who lack even the most basic means to earn a living or to ensure their children can receive an education. What we do in Ben Tre Children have the chance to play and have fun again (photo: SOS archives) An important part of SOS Children's Villages’ work in Ben Tre focuses on supporting children and families in the area. Through the SOS Family Strengthening Programme we support vulnerable families so that they can stay together. We give financial support to poor children and help cover their nutritional, educational and medical needs. If children can no longer live with their families, they can find a loving home in one of the twelve SOS families. Young children from the neighbourhood attend the SOS Kindergarten, which can look after up to 190 children. The kindergarten has an excellent reputation and the provision of day-care is particularly valued by those parents who go to work - they know their children are being cared for by professionals. Older children can go to the SOS Hermann Gmeiner School, which caters for 980 pupils at both primary and secondary level. The teachers at the school work very hard to ensure that children are given the best possible education, and children receive special support in subjects where they are struggling. Children also participate in a wide range of after-school sports and cultural activities. The SOS Youth Programme gives young people professional support while they attend further education or start a vocational training course. The young adults are encouraged to develop perspectives for their future, learn to shoulder responsibilities and increasingly make their own decisions. Some of the young people have gone to university, while others have trained as tailors, electricians, mechanics and cooks.