Awareness of indigenous rights has grown in recent years, and the Mexican government acknowledges that efforts to improve the living situation of indigenous people must be intensified. However, severe poverty and social exclusion continue to affect thousands of families in Campeche.
Improvements in living standards have not yet reached all levels of society
SOS Children’s Village Hampolol is located 12 km from the town of San Francisco de Campeche in the state of Campeche on the Yucatan Peninsula. Campeche has a population of around 220,000 and is an important national centre for education, culture, tourism and trade. It is one the few fortified cities in the Americas and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Although steady progress has been made in recent decades to improve the standard of living of the local population, life is still a struggle for thousands of families. So-called “asset poverty” affects over 50 per cent here, meaning that half of the population are unable to afford basic food, clothing, housing, health care, transport and education. Around 27 per cent do not have any skills that would allow them to generate sufficient income, and 20 per cent suffer from food poverty, which leads to malnutrition, especially in children. These levels of poverty are perpetuated by the lack of education, with 49 per cent not completing their primary education and an illiteracy rate of over ten per cent.
Children need opportunities in order to break the cycle of poverty
Around 27 per cent of Campeche State’s population are indigenous, and the Yucatan Peninsula overall has the highest proportion of indigenous people in all of Mexico. They are also the sector of society that is most affected by marginalisation and poverty: 82 per cent of them live in the areas with the highest rates of poverty, where educational facilities are sparser, and housing standards and average incomes are much lower than the Campeche averages.
The reasons for the on-going marginalisation of the indigenous population are partially historical: the Spanish conquistadors put in place a caste system that subjugated the indigenous peoples, essentially making them servants. Today, social exclusion is exacerbated by the relative geographical isolation many live in and the consequent lack of education and training.
Indigenous women and girls are particularly vulnerable: historically, they have faced great social and economic marginalisation, and much awareness-raising of their rights remains to be done. Today, many indigenous women are still monolingual, which in turn excludes them from education. Many have their first child at a very young age and go on to have large families and, more often than not, they do not have access to health care. The risk of dying during childbirth or due to related complications is therefore very high.
What we do in Hampolol
SOS Children’s Villages began its work in Hampolol in 1979. Children from the region who are no longer able to live with their parents can find a loving home in one of the ten SOS families. In each family, the children live with their brothers and sisters and are affectionately cared for by their SOS mother. They attend local nurseries and schools and are therefore very much integrated into the community.
When young people from the children’s 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. The young adults live together and are supported by qualified counsellors as they learn to shoulder responsibility, plan their future and prepare for independent adult life.