SOS Children's Village Kecskemét SOS Children's Villages started working in Kecskemét in 1990. This was the second Hungarian location where we became active. Since then our organisation has given a home to more than 200 children, some of whom are now grown up and have children of their own. Life is hard for children and young people without parental care Mother and children playing in the sunshine (photo: M: Mägi) Kecskemét is a small town approximately 80 kilometres south-east of Budapest. It is home to around 113,000 people. The area is sometimes called "The garden of Hungary" because of its production and processing of fruit, vegetables and meat. Many of these activities suffered in the 1990s as a result of the political changes which introduced a free market economy. Most recently, Mercedes Benz has opened a factory in the area, thus creating many new jobs for the local population. However, the economic difficulties of Hungary have meant a cut in social welfare programmes, and this has affected the lives of many children in the region. Children who are particularly at risk of living in poverty include those living in single-parent families or in households with three or more children. Many of the children from these disadvantaged families drop out of school, thus making it hard for them to obtain a qualification and break the cycle of poverty. Children without parental care face discrimination, especially those who have grown up in state institutions. At present all young people are struggling to make an independent start in life due to the high unemployment rate and the shortage of affordable housing. However, if they have grown up in a state institution and have not been provided with support, finding their first job and somewhere to live can seem like an overwhelming task to tackle. Increasing support to vulnerable children Hungary has undergone many changes since SOS Children's Villages started working in the country. Throughout the decades we have adapted our activities to meet the needs of the population. We have been working in close collaboration with the local authorities and advocating the rights of children, especially those who have lost parental care. One result of our work is that many of the children who were previously in the care of the state are now looked after in nurturing SOS families. The local population also supports many of the cultural and educational activities which we organise. What we do in Kecskemét Feeling secure in a loving embrace (photo: M. Mägi) Care in families: Children who have lost parental care can find a loving home in families, where brothers and sisters can grow up together. Some children live together in SOS families on the grounds of SOS Children’s Village Kecskemét, while others are integrated into the community and are cared for by SOS foster families. All families are selected and trained by SOS Children's Villages to ensure that the children are cared for to the highest standards set by SOS Children's Villages. We provide continuous social and emotional support to all families. The children attend public kindergartens and local schools, and thus have many friends in the neighbourhood and become part of the wider community. After school the children attend different clubs where they learn crafts or practise their folk dancing. Emergency care: In addition there are two SOS Social Centres which provide temporary accommodation to young people and children in critical situations. In such cases children in need can stay in the SOS family home for up to one year, while a more permanent solution is sought. Support for young people: As the children grow up and are ready to move out of the SOS families, they can move into the SOS Youth Programme in Lajosmizse which is about 17 kilometres away. They can live here while they attend further education, receive training or start their working lives. With the help of professionals the young people are encouraged to develop perspectives for their future, learn to shoulder responsibility and increasingly make their own decisions. In addition to the children who grew up in the SOS families, there is an increasing number of young people who are entering care at an older age. In these cases, and when young people need to be given professional help they first live in special accommodation until they are ready to join the SOS Youth Programme.