Despite Brazil’s steady progress in terms of human development, the socioeconomic situation of the population in the poor neighbourhoods of Juiz de Fora and rural regions of Minas Gerais state is extremely insecure and often unsafe. Young people from struggling families are particularly vulnerable, and both parents and children need support.
What we do in Juiz de Fora
SOS Children’s Villages began its work in Juiz de Fora in 1980. 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 and childminding programme where over 1,000 children can be cared for. This allows working parents and single mothers to leave their children in safe hands while they are out making a living.
The social centre includes a dentist’s surgery, which is open to the community. Our efforts also address the needs of parents, providing support and training to over 1,000 adults.
For children from the area who are no longer able to live with their parents, ten SOS families can provide a loving home. In each family, the children live with their brothers and sisters and are affectionately cared for by their SOS mother.
Both children from the village and from the local community can attend the SOS Children's Villages primary school in Juiz del Fora, which is now run by the municipality. This ensures that children from the SOS Children’s Village are integrated into the 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.
A large informal sector means a precarious life for thousands of families
Juiz de Fora is a city of over 570,000 inhabitants located in the state of Minas Gerais in south-eastern Brazil. It is an important industrial centre in the region, with large steel mills, automotive and textile factories. The service industry is at the heart of the city’s economy, employing approximately 150,000 people.
However, many of these jobs are informal in nature and therefore lack security. Low or unpredictable incomes, in turn, exclude people from owning their own home or land, forcing them to live in the neighbourhoods of the “landless”, where most of the housing is improvised and makeshift. Over 40,000 people in the city live on less than one USD a day and an estimated 1,400 homes are built in precarious areas that lack basic infrastructure.
Parents, and single mothers especially, need support in raising their children
Life is very difficult for people living in such precarious conditions and children suffer most of all. While in other parts of the city, child malnutrition is relatively low, at around four per cent, in the poor neighbourhoods it is often more common, because many parents are unable to afford an adequate diet for their family.
Around 15 per cent of babies here are born to mothers between the ages of 10 and 19. For these young girls, especially when they are from a poor family themselves, providing for their child can be extremely difficult.
Although literacy in Juiz del Fora, at 95.6 per cent, is higher than elsewhere in the Minas Gerais state, this still leaves almost 90,000 people unable to read and write and therefore excluded from political and economic processes.
The work of SOS Children’s Villages in Juiz de Fora aims to provide support to families to help them stay together and care for their children, as well as to offer a loving home to children who have lost parental care.