Despite Brazil’s steady progress in terms of human development, the socioeconomic situation of the population in one of Brazil’s poorest states continues to be extremely insecure and often unsafe. Young people from struggling families are particularly vulnerable, and both parents and children need support.
What we do in Caicó
SOS Children’s Village Rio Grande do Norte began its work in Caicó in 1978. 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 1,630 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. Our efforts also address the needs of parents, providing support and training to over 1,630 adults.
For children from the area who are no longer able to live with their parents, eleven 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 Hermann Gmeiner primary school in Caicó, 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.
Life is improving in one of Brazil’s poorest states, but progress is slow
The SOS Children’s Village Rio Grande do Norte is located in Caicó, a municipality of around 63,000 inhabitants in the Rio Grande do Norte state in north-eastern Brazil.
The climate of the region is very hot and dry with frequent periods of drought. Commerce and the service industry make up the bulk of the economy. In Rio Grande do Norte state, subsistence farming is the main agricultural activity in rural areas. With 410 km of beaches, tourism is also an important pillar of the economy.
Rio Grande do Norte has historically been one of the poorest regions of Brazil. The “Bolsa Familia” family aid package introduced by the Lula government has contributed to alleviating hardship here: some 2.2 million people in the state now receive some form of assistance. However, 44.2 per cent of the population continue to live below the national poverty line, 400,000 of them in conditions of extreme poverty, meaning they are unable to meet basic needs such as food or sanitation.
Young mothers and children who have lost parental care need support
As is often the case, children are most severely affected by these precarious conditions. In Brazil, 50.3 per cent of children under the age of 17 are poor, but here in Rio Grande do Norte, it is a shocking 66.4 per cent. This means that thousands of children grow up in an environment where their safety and their healthy physical and psychological development cannot be guaranteed. In the worst cases, a family’s difficult socioeconomic situation can lead to children being abandoned.
Here in the north-east 25.1 per cent of babies are born to teenage mothers. When these young girls come from a disadvantaged background, they may lack education and opportunities to generate income and hence be unable to provide for their child. Often, it is hard for single mothers to find work as they have no one to look after their children. Less than half of children under the age of six attend some form of preschool or day-care.