Many families in El Salvador lack the necessary support to better their situation and ensure that their children will be able to escape the cycle of poverty as they become adults. The safety, health and education of children must be ensured in order to achieve long-term improvement.
What we do in San Miguel
SOS Children’s Villages began its work in San Miguel in 1995. Today, our social centres here provide 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 a childminding programme where babies, infants and pre-school 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 centres also provide counselling and psychological support, as well as training workshops for parents so that they can gain skills and improve their income.
For children from the area who are no longer able to live with their parents, 16 SOS families can provide a loving home for up to 144 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 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.
Lack of formal employment and reliance on remittances make for a life of insecurity
San Miguel is a municipality located in eastern El Salvador and has a population of roughly 220,000 inhabitants.
It is an important economic centre in the region both in terms of agriculture and industry, and has a growing service sector.
Another important economic pillar are the remittances sent to El Salvador by the thousands of migrants who now live abroad, primarily in the United States. In fact, these remittances made up around 17 per cent of El Salvador’s GDP in 2011, with around one third of households in the country receiving financial contributions from family members living abroad.
Although poverty has steadily been on the decline in El Salvador in recent decades, today it is still at shockingly high levels, with about 37.8 per cent (2009 est.) of households living below the national poverty line. This means they live off a per capita income that is between the equivalent of 45 US dollars and 90 US dollars per month.
There are various reasons for these consistently high levels of poverty, but they include declining remittances due to the global financial crisis, stagnation of the economy, lacking access to basic infrastructure, low education levels, and inadequate housing conditions, amongst others. When accumulated, these factors can make it impossible for people to escape the poverty trap.
Children from struggling families need support in order to escape the poverty trap
Children are most severely affected by these conditions. Often, they are expected to work in order to help the family survive. Many children from poor families go to work as domestic employees for better-off families; this is very common in socioeconomically divided regions like San Miguel. Only around 30 per cent of these children go to school, and usually only very irregularly.
SOS Children’s Villages aims to support families in San Miguel by providing parents with opportunities to improve their situation, e.g. workshops and training that will help them attain formal employment. This, in turn, will improve their children’s situation.