Like so many Latin American cities, Quito is divided: a thriving, modern financial district with a growing middle class on the one hand. On the other hand, large sectors of society who remain marginalised, living in dire conditions on the outskirts of the city, with little hope of improving their situation in the near future.
What we do in Quito
SOS Children’s Villages has been working in Quito since 1963. Today, our social centres here offer family strengthening programmes that aim to alleviate hardship in the community in a sustainable and holistic manner. The centres offer childminding programmes and day-care, which allow working parents and single mothers to leave their children in safe hands while they are out making a living.
For children in Quito who have lost parental care, twelve SOS families can provide a loving home for up to 108 children. In each family, they live with their brothers and sisters and are affectionately cared for by their SOS mother.
When young people from the SOS Children’s Village are ready to leave their family in order to complete their secondary education or vocational training, the SOS Youth Programme provides shared accommodation in town. In a nurturing environment and with the support of qualified counsellors, the young people can plan their future, increasingly take responsibility and prepare for independent adult life.
Internal migration, heavy urbanisation, and lack of infrastructure affect thousands
Situated in a valley at 2,850 metres above sea level, Quito is the capital of Ecuador and has a population of approximately 2.2 million. Its historic centre boasts many well-preserved colonial buildings and churches. North of the centre lie the financial district and the most affluent and modern residential areas. The area to the south is rapidly expanding and very densely populated, as it is here that most internal migrants who move to Quito settle. This area is bustling with commercial activity, often of the informal kind. Quito is thus very much a divided city.
The reasons for its intensive urbanisation are the same in Quito as elsewhere. Rural migrants come to the city in search of work and a better life, they settle in neighbourhoods on the peripheries where infrastructure, such as running water, electricity or sanitation is often lacking. They have left their rural lives behind, but in many cases what they find in the city does not mean an improvement of their situation.
Destitution affects entire neighbourhoods of Quito – and the future of the children who live there
Both on the extreme northern and southern peripheries of Quito, there are neighbourhoods where up to 99 per cent of the population live in poverty. Government statistics show that over 50 per cent of Quito’s inhabitants have no formal jobs but engage in informal labour such as selling merchandise on the streets. The biggest section of unemployed people is the group between the ages of 18 and 29 – precisely the time in life where young people want to start off their careers.
Child labour remains a serious and highly-visible problem in Quito, including in the historic town centre and on the Avenidas of the northern neighbourhoods. Children get caught up in the vicious cycle of having to contribute to the family income, missing out on education, and hence being unable to find formal work later in life. SOS Children’s Villages aims to provide support to parents in Quito so that their children can stay in education and look into their future with confidence.