The nationwide welfare programs of recent years are steadily improving the situation of Bolivians overall, but progress is slow. Although Santa Cruz is one of Bolivia's richest and most modern towns, the district where SOS Children's Villages works is amongst the poorest.
What we do in Santa Cruz
SOS Children's Villages in this district of Santa Cruz supports families and children in the neighbourhood. We work closely with the local authorities and communities to ensure that the rights of children and adolescents are protected and that they can go to school and receive medical care.
Children are offered support within the district so that they can remain in a familiar environment and in touch with friends. The SOS Family Strengthening Programme helps families at risk of breaking down. We work directly with families and communities so that they can protect and care for their children. We ensure that families have access to education and medical help, and that they can attend training and counselling to improve their chances of making a living.
Children who can no longer stay with their families can find a loving home in one of the SOS families. Up to 56 children can grow up with their brothers and sisters under the care of their SOS mother. The children attend the local schools alongside children from the neighbourhood and this way they continue to be part of the community.
Infrastructure is still lacking in this part of Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz is the capital of the eastern Bolivian province of the same name and is located at an altitude of 440 metres on the banks of the River Piray.
Due to the discovery of oil, natural gas and iron ore, Santa Cruz has become the country’s wealthiest and most modern city. Many migrants from the surrounding highlands have moved to the town.
Today, Santa Cruz is a large city with a population of 1.6 million, while just three decades ago only around 260,000 people lived here. This rapid urbanisation has contributed to an increase in social problems such as poverty, unemployment and lack of infrastructure.
The divide between the rich and the poor is particularly stark in this comparatively well-off region. Although the overall poverty rate is lower in Santa Cruz than in the rest of Bolivia, an estimated 500,000 people still live in extreme poverty.
SOS Children's Village Santa Cruz Plan 4000 is based in the twelfth district, one of the most deprived areas of Santa Cruz. Most people who live here arrived recently. They hoped for jobs and better futures. Instead, they have ended up working in the informal economy as builders, mechanics or tailors. All of these jobs are unstable and badly paid.
Children grow up in very difficult circumstances. Due to the lack of childcare, many parents have no choice but to leave their children home alone during the day. There is also a shortage of schools. In addition, children here are often forced to go to work in order to contribute to the family income.
We support families in a deprived area of Santa Cruz
SOS Children's Villages has been active in Santa Cruz since 1994 and our work in the twelfth district began in 2012. The district is one of the youngest and poorest within the city: 70 per cent of children are poor, living in overcrowded conditions with a lack of basic services. The demand for adequate housing, schools and medical services is constantly increasing due to the steep population growth.