Having fun on the swings (photo: SOS archives).
Jaipur, with 3.1 million inhabitants, is the capital city of Rajasthan, in northern India. It is also known as the "Pink City" because of its pink buildings and palaces. Tourists come to visit its beautiful temples and monuments. The city is also an industrial centre, and the service sector is growing.
Jaipur is expanding rapidly as people arrive here in search of a better life for themselves and their families. The majority of migrants, however, face many hardships in their new urban setting. They end up living in informal settlements where, in spite of some government measures, there is still no proper sanitation system, no safe drinking water and only limited access to health care and education. People living in slums struggle to make a living as they find it hard to get a decent job: those who find one work mostly as street cleaners, or pick through rubbish in order to find something to sell on.
Children living in these circumstances face many difficulties; for example, malnutrition and illness are common. Because the parents are unable to adequately provide for the family, the children are forced to contribute by begging, selling small goods or doing menial work on the city's streets. Very often, they do not go to school and are therefore unable to improve their future chances in life.
The majority of the families in the SOS Family Strengthening Programme are headed by females. Women and girls bear the brunt of the grim social and economic conditions as they struggle to keep their children healthy and well nourished. It is women who have to fetch water from distant sources, and who have to maintain minimum levels of hygiene so that their children do not get ill. Women also face a disadvantage in educational terms: the overall literacy rate is 76.5 per cent, but while 87.3 per cent of men can read, this figure drops to 64.6 per cent for women.
The SOS Children's Village Jaipur is situated in a residential area, about two kilometres from the railway station, and was built on a site which was donated to SOS Children's Villages. We work in close partnership with local agencies and community-based organisations in order to identify children who have lost parental care, and families who are in need of support from our family-strengthening programme.
A meeting of women from the family strengthening programme (photo: SOS archives).
A central part of the work that SOS Children's Villages carries out in Jaipur focuses on supporting children and families in the community. Our SOS Social Centres run a family strengthening programme which offers a comprehensive package of services to enable families to stay together and take good care of their children. We aim to raise awareness of hygiene and child rights and give guidance on parenting skills. Our recently upgraded medical centre provides SOS families and local families with medical check-ups and vaccinations as well as with general advice and treatment. In order for families to generate income, we offer them vocational training, career counselling and advice. If self-help groups do not exist, we enable their creation.
If children can no longer stay with their families, they can find a loving home with one of the 14 SOS families, where they grow up with their sisters and brothers. When needed, the SOS Kindergarten can also provide day care for young children. Older children go to the local schools. The children from SOS families take part in many activities organised locally and those from nearby families also participate in festivals that we celebrate.
When the young adults are ready to leave their SOS families they can join our SOS Youth Programme. With the support of qualified professionals they are guided through this new stage of their lives, as they start vocational training courses, attend higher education or look for work. The young people are encouraged to develop perspectives for their future, learn to shoulder responsibility and increasingly make their own decisions. The young people in our care have, for example, studied nursing, computing, management and accounting.
In Jaipur there is also a home for retired SOS mothers.