Despite Brazil’s steady progress in terms of human development, the socioeconomic situation of the population living in the suburbs of the larger cities remains extremely precarious. Young people from struggling families are particularly vulnerable, and both parents and children need support.
What we do in Brasilia
SOS Children’s Villages began its work in Brasilia in 1968. Today, our social centre here provides a family strengthening programme, which aims to alleviate hardship in the community in a holistic and sustainable manner. Its services include a day-care centre where over 1,000 children can be looked after during the day, allowing single mothers or working parents to leave their children in safe hands while they are out making a living.
For children in Brasília who are no longer able to live with their parents, five SOS families can provide a loving home. In each family, the children live with their brothers and sisters, affectionately cared for by their SOS mothers.
There is also an SOS Hermann Gmeiner primary school here, which is now under the administration of the local municipality. Children from the local community also attend the school, thus ensuring that children from the SOS Children’s Village are integrated into the local community from a young age.
When young people from the village feel ready to move out of the family home in order to pursue further education or vocational training, the SOS Youth Programme makes shared accommodation available to them. With the support of qualified counsellors, the young people live together and learn to take responsibility, plan their future and prepare for independent adult life.
In this planned city, accommodation for the poorer sectors of society was not part of the grand design
Brasília is the capital of Brazil and has a population of about 2.5 million, making it the fourth largest city in Brazil. Brasilia is a planned city built just over 50 years ago by the architect Oscar Niemeyer in the remote central-west region of the country in a tropical savannah climate. Its isolation caused problems for the city from the start, e.g. high rates of corruption at all levels took place there, far from the public eye. The construction workers who built the city came mainly from poor north-eastern regions of Brazil, and they stayed on in Brasilia after building work was completed, living in makeshift settlements on the peripheries of the city. Today, millions of people live in these satellite towns – more than in the capital itself.
To this day, inequality in Brasilia remains extremely pronounced
The central area of the city is impressive due to its unique architecture and grand government buildings, but life in the Brasilia metropolitan area is a completely different story. In the satellite towns living conditions are often very poor. Houses are built from inadequate materials, are often illegally occupied and, to make matters worse, they are small and overcrowded, leading to conflict within the family.
In many households, it is the norm that the father goes out to work while the mother stays at home and cares for the children. This single income is often not sufficient, but due to the limited availability of early childhood care in the area, it is impossible for mothers to contribute to the family’s income, even by working part-time.
Rates of alcoholism or drug abuse amongst parents are high, as are incidents of domestic violence, which often creates a vicious cycle where children and young people fall into substance abuse too, as a way of dealing with their difficult family situation. This, in turn, makes them incredibly vulnerable to sexual exploitation or child labour. In the worst cases, these children may be abandoned by their parents entirely, or may even flee their home and choose a life on the streets instead.