SOS Children's Village Belén

SOS Children's Village Belén is located in the province of Concepción, one of the poorest regions of Paraguay. Almost 50% of the province's population is less than 14 years old, only 30% of the population has access to primary schools and 38% do not have access to medical treatment. It was against this social backdrop that SOS-Kinderdorf International decided also to take action in the fields of public health and basic education; they built an SOS Medical Centre and an SOS Vocational Training Centre (which takes the form of a training farm) in addition to the SOS Children's Village.

SOS Children's Village Belén is situated along the asphalted road from the capital of the province, Concepción, to the city of Horqueta and is only 5 km from Belén itself. Concepción and Horqueta are about 20 km from the SOS Children's Village.

SOS Children's Village Belén was built on a plot of 66 hectares and comprises altogether 12 family houses (with a capacity of up to 110 children), an administration building, the house of the village director and another one for the village master as well as a community building with workshops, a garage and a storeroom.

Behind every SOS family house, there is a garden of about 800m² at the family's disposal where SOS mothers can grow vegetables and breed small animals like hens, ducks or rabbits in order to contribute to self-sufficiency.

The SOS children go to local schools and have a sports field with soccer pitch and basketball court which gives enough space for physical exercise.

Once a week, the SOS children help on the fields of the SOS Training Farm and learn from the very beginning how to grow vegetables and fruit for their own needs. On the SOS Children's Village's grounds there are plenty of old trees which were intentionally not cut down during construction, these provide shade in the hot season.

Two dozen citrus fruit-trees and innumerable lapacho trees blossoming luxuriantly in all shades of pink round off the park. Traditionally, a new lapacho tree - which in Paraguay is a symbol for joy and strength - is being planted whenever a new child is admitted to the SOS Children's Village.

There is also an SOS Medical Centre on the SOS Children's Village site and this is run as a mother and child clinic. Every day, up to 130 mothers and children from the surrounding area are treated.

The SOS Medical Centre is used primarily as a maternity ward but older children suffering from diseases are sometimes also hospitalised. The SOS Medical Centre consists of three examination rooms, a delivery room, two wards for in-patients, a ward for premature babies, two waiting rooms, a social room for nurses, a pharmacy, a laboratory, two houses for doctors, another house for nurses and a service and administration centre. The medical centre concentrates on reducing mother and infant mortality, organizing vaccination campaigns for children and providing information campaigns focussing on family planning and sex education.

The SOS Vocational Training Centre - run as a training farm - offers agricultural training (with an emphasis on the practical) to around 40 young people from the region who have completed basic education and gives them the opportunity to acquire the necessary know-how to be able to live humanely. It is hoped that this will increase the chances for a better future in their home villages and in so doing fight against the rural exodus that contributes to the growth of the enormous slums on the outskirts of the big cities. Basic ecological values, ecological agriculture and its importance for mankind as well as protection and renewal of natural sources of energy are taught, as well as the traditional subjects of an agricultural college. The SOS Vocational Training Centre comprises two classrooms; two laboratories; a library; a kitchen with refectory; rooms for the students, director and the teaching staff; stables for cattle, pigs and dairy cows; a silo; a garage; a store room and rooms for administration. In addition, the farm has 20 hectares of arable land and pasture for stockbreeding, dairy farming and the ecological growing of maize, pineapple, cotton and sugar-cane. Another 20 hectares of rain forest are also part of the SOS Vocational Training Centre. The preservation of this forest and making use of it in accordance with the needs of nature and reforestation are important subjects on the training farm's time-table.