SOS Children's Village Coyanco

Biobío is a calm, agricultural region, but the aftereffects of the massive earthquake of 2010 continue to affect the lives of hundreds of families. Many lost their homes, their jobs, and many left the region because their livelihoods had been destroyed. The infrastructure is being rebuilt, but overcoming the trauma will take a while yet.

What we do in Coyanco

SOS Children’s Villages has been working in Coyanco since 1975. After the recent earthquake, our emergency relief programme provided support in the nearby small fishing town of Tumbes. Meanwhile, this has become one of our family strengthening programmes, which aims to alleviate hardship in the community in the long-term, in a holistic and sustainable manner. It focuses on parents, particularly the mothers, offering them educational courses so that they can increase their incomes and, most importantly, their self-esteem.

For children in the Coyanco region who are no longer able to live with their parents, twelve SOS families can provide a loving home for up to 108 children. In each family, the children live with their brothers and sisters and are affectionately cared for by their SOS mother.

When young people from the children’s village are ready to leave their family in order to pursue further education or vocational training, the SOS Youth Programme provides shared accommodation for over 60 young people from the Children's Villages Bulnes, Concepción, Chaimávida, Coyanco and Puerto Varas. The young people come and live together here and, with the support of qualified counsellors, they can learn to take responsibility, plan their future and prepare for independent adult life.

The transition from emergency relief to sustainable community programmes

The SOS Children’s Village Coyanco is located in Quillón, a small town of 15,000 inhabitants, in the Ñuble Province in the Biobío region of Chile. Around 20 km from here in the city of Bulnes there is another Children’s Village. The region is of predominantly rural character with an economy based on agriculture, forestry, cattle breeding and increasingly also tourism.

In 2010, a massive earthquake measuring 8.8 on the moment magnitude scale hit Chile. Its epicentre was only 34 km off the coast of the Ñuble Province. An estimated nine per cent of the Chilean population, and over 17 per cent of the population in the Ñuble region, lost their homes due to the earthquake and the ensuing tsunami. SOS Children’s Villages provided emergency relief, such as food, clothing, and basic hygiene products, to around 280 families, as well as offering emotional support. These emergency programmes were then gradually turned into self-sustainable development programmes run by the community itself.

Rebuilding does not just refer to infrastructure

The earthquake did great damage to the region’s infrastructure and the consequences are far-reaching. The destruction of innumerable shops and companies meant that many employees were laid off – and some no longer even had a home to return to. This led to a big migratory flux to other cities. Several small towns were abandoned entirely, with residents fleeing to the hills in fear of further tsunamis.

Hundreds of small farmers and business owners lost everything in 2010. Animals were killed, harvests destroyed, and forest fires demolished thousands of hectares. The regional government of Ñuble has created an emergency fund to help people get back on their feet, but hundreds of families remain in a desperate situation. Migration to a larger city may seem like the only option to them, but there is no guarantee that their lives will improve once they arrive there. Infrastructure may not be in place, or they may not be able to find work.

SOS Children’s Villages supports families in rebuilding their livelihoods in the area so that they do not have to leave their homes behind and their children can grow up in a stable family.