The Family Strengthening Programme (FSP) works to provide psychological and social support to families at risk of abandoning their child, or simply being unable to properly care for and provide for them.
While children at risk of losing parental care are the target group, SOS also works with their carers, to help them to better protect and care for their children.
SOS Social Centres (SC) offer parenting programmes which can support positive child-rearing practices, which need to be understood in their social and cultural contexts.
Social Centres (SC) also offer professional trauma counseling or specific therapies to help families at risk.
Psycho-social support for Children
|Produced By: Andrew MacDonald|
- Child counselling
- Trauma counselling
- Life skills workshops
- Recreational & social activities
- Referral to specialist / clinic
Psycho-social support for Caregivers
- Caregiver personal development training
- Social and psychological counselling
- Promotion of support/self-help groups
- Regular home visits
- Stress management training
- Facilitation of drug and alcohol counselling and treatment
Being there for the children
Gladys is involved in her neighbourhood in the north of Lima. Before, the mother of two was shy and reserved; however, today she is considered a leading figure in her neighbourhood. The SOS Children's Villages family strengthening programme has taught the 38-year-old how to network with people and change things.
Gladys lives with her husband Rolando and her two children Steissy and Bruno in Carabayllo, a northern district of Lima.
She was four years old when her family moved to Carabayllo. 'When we moved here, there was nothing. There were only those hills and, all in all, six houses. The next shop was ages away and there were neither electricity, nor water, nor gas. We ironed our clothes with hot coal and went to the river to fetch water.
Today, everything is easier, the neighbourhood is part of the city, all houses on the hills are occupied, there is electricity everywhere and gas even gets delivered right to your home', says Gladys. But it wasn't only about such circumstances that gave her a tough childhood; the relationship with her parents also made her suffer. She and her eight siblings were treated badly and they were never given any affection by their parents. Her father was an alcoholic and her mother was aggressive as well and was lacking in understanding.
'For instance, they never attended any events at school. All of my friends were sitting there with their mothers; only I didn't have any company. I was even on my own attending my First Communion. Later, I decided that I would never want to raise my children like this.'
Expensive medication, lack of education
Gladys attended school up to fifth grade; during her holidays she used to work for her uncle producing and selling stamps. Though she had a thirst for continuing to study, her family simply could not afford further education for her. 'My mother suffers from epilepsy; we had to buy her medicine. Each and every day we spent 1.20 Sol (about 0.30 euros) on her pills. That's a lot of money', says Gladys and explains that the main problem plaguing her all her life was lack of financial resources.
Later, she started working as a housemaid. The pay was very low, but for the lack of education, she could find another job. She had known Rolando since their childhood days. They both grew up in the same neighbourhood. They fell in love when at 17, but decided to wait with having children until having their own place to live and a regular income. They wanted to make sure they would be able to create a suitable environment for their children.
Gladys moved into the house of Rolando's parents where he worked as an instruments builder, together with his brother and father. Gladys considers the living situation at her own parent's place unfair: 'My parents did not plan well, they have eight children and only permitted two of them to build on their land', she says. 'So we bought this house a few years ago from my brother. Before that, he only rented out one room to us, but then decided that he would not want to live here anymore. Bit by bit, we paid back our debt.' Gladys was 30 years old when their daughter Steissy was born.
Broadening her horizon
Five years ago the community centre 'Nuevo Amanecer' in Carabayllo opened. Steissy was three, her little brother Bruno only a few weeks old. Right from the start, Gladys actively participated in the programme. She was at each and every meeting and training and helped wherever she could. 'In various trainings and courses we learned about the rights of children, improved on our self-esteem and even heard about how to manage a small business. No matter what the topic was, I attended each course offered', she says. 'The talks about self-esteem had the strongest impact on me, personally. Back in the old days, I used to be shy and insecure. I did not know how to talk to people. By now, many people talk to me like I was a community leader or something.'
Together with her partner she also visited the workshop on partnership. Both of them were enthused, they learned how to solve conflicts without violence and how to pay more attention to mutual communication. Steissy attended the community centre for two years before starting school. Bruno, who by now is in his last year at the centre, started participating in the programme at the age of two. To the family, this meant huge economic relief. There, the children get breakfast served in the morning, a snack later on and then lunch. Moreover, they have the opportunity of playing, singing, doing handicraft and growing up among children of the same age.
Volunteering on the family committee
Gladys started participating in the family committee in order to support the SOS Children's Villages family strengthening programme.
Together with other parents, she took on a number of organizational tasks at the centre. She still does the accounting of purchases in co-ordination with the facilitator and frequently gets the cheques for shopping from the social centre. In contrast to 'community mothers', those on the family committee does not receive any financial support, it is wholly based on the voluntary commitment of participating parents. Although Bruno will go to school and leave the centre next year, Gladys assured us of the fact that she would go on supporting the community. 'Maybe I won't have this position on the committee anymore, but I already told the other mothers that they could always come up to me when they'd need anything. Many of the mothers are shy and have problems communicating with strangers. But I will definitely be here for them as long as they need me.'
Gladys also participates in all events organised by Steissy's class in school. She explains, 'I bring her to school in the morning and pick her up at noon. When my kids watch TV in the afternoon, they sometimes ask me to sit down with them. And then I really do that, because I want them to feel that we are here for them.' Because she herself felt abandoned as a child, she tries to make up for this with educating her children. This was also a point where she could learn a lot from participating in the SOS Children's Villages family strengthening programme.
'In the courses we have learned about the importance of hugging children and telling them that you love them. Neither me, nor my husband were used to that when we grew up; we were only ever treated badly'. When Steissy and Bruno returned home in the afternoon, you could observe what Gladys had just explained. Both of them hugged their mother, held her hand, told her about their day at school and the community centre and enjoyed Gladys' attention.
Rolando also attaches importance to caring ways. 'He grew up just like me. He knows what it is like', says Gladys. Also, at home the financial situation was the main reason for conflict and tension. 'Sometimes we did not even have food, because we did not know how to pay for it. Me and my husband wanted our children to grow up in a different setting', she says. Rolando even works on Sundays to ensure that the kids have everything they need. He wants them to drink milk, eat eggs and even get yoghurt sometimes. Further, by now both of them have their own bed - which is also kind of a luxury not all families in the neighbourhood could afford. 'He is very responsible and, for instance, buys cloths for them. In our childhood we were running around without any shoes, because nobody bought us any.'
'They have their jobs, but they don't support me'
Her sad childhood memories do not really escape Gladys with the task of caring for her parents. Three times a day she brings them their meals; she pays for recurring hospital bills and medicine. Further, she goes searching for her father and brings him back home whenever he got lost again. She would like to send him to rehab but doesn't know how to organize that. 'I don't know anything about the internet, but I've been told that you would find information there. My brothers don't want to help me, they all behave like it would not be their business at all', says Gladys. 'They all have their education and their jobs and they don't care about what happens here anymore. Only one of my sisters sends me 50 Sol (about 12.50 euros) every month, but we are eight siblings in total'.
To improve the family's economic situation a bit, Gladys would like to work. But the situation is difficult: 'I wanted to work at least half-time as a house maid, but they only offered me 5 Sol (about 1.25 euros) a day: that does not even do for paying for lunch', she says. Also, the cosmetics direct selling effort she is operating from home does not reap huge profit. 'People buy things, but many do not pay. I need to be careful, so at least don't incur a loss doing that.'
Ways and wishes
Rolando also earns only little money through his work as an instruments builder. Gladys explains that the retailer in Lima's historic centre acting as agent for the jobs earns more than Rolando and his brother who actually build the instruments. Next year the family will have to pay school fees for two children and this will require additional income. Thus, Gladys says that one of her wishes for the future would be about finding a job. Last, but not least for doing renovation work on their house. 'I just want to go on improving things. I want to install a shower so that we don't need carry water in buckets anymore to wash and I want to improve the house's construction so that we don't have to be fearful of the entire building collapsing one day.' But her greatest wishes money can't buy: She hopes that her children will be able to study something. 'They shall always push ahead and be able to do what we could not do back then', she says. Furthermore, she wishes for staying together with Rolando and that they will always have a happy relationship.