SOS Children's Village São Bernardo do Campo

In recent years, Brazil has made steady progress in terms of human development, but life in the big cities remains tough. Despite efforts by the Brazilian government to reduce crime rates and provide better housing for the thousands of inhabitants of the shanty towns of São Paulo, for many life is extremely insecure and often unsafe. Young people from struggling families are particularly vulnerable, and both parents and children need support.

In one of the world’s largest metropolises, social segregation is very strong

Two girls from São Paulo (photo: SOS archives)

The SOS Children’s Village São Bernardo do Campo is located in São Paulo, capital of the state of the same name, on the southern coast of Brazil. São Paulo is the Southern Hemisphere’s largest city and has a population of over eleven million, and approaching 20 million in its metropolitan area.

The so-called Extended Metropolitan Complex of São Paulo, which includes conurbations bordering the city, has a total population exceeding 29 million.

In addition to heavy air pollution traffic congestion, this population explosion has led to a number of other critical problems. Large sections of the city developed without any urban planning whatsoever – entire neighborhoods virtually sprang from the ground overnight. Today, around one million of São Paulo’s inhabitants live in illegal “favela” settlements. Some of these are built on precarious terrain prone to landslides or flooding, and there are even so-called “vertical favelas” – huge, run-down tower blocks where families live in overcrowded, appalling conditions.

São Paulo therefore continues to be a deeply divided and socially segregated city: a major industrial hub and important economic center on the one hand, with cheap labor provided by the inhabitants of the many underdeveloped, underprivileged neighborhoods.

Lack of education and stigmatization deprive children of the chance they deserve

Life in the favelas is far from easy. Crime rates have successfully been reduced in recent years, but they remain at high levels and often affect young people most severely. Those who grow up in the favelas are hugely stigmatized throughout their lives; they are viewed as criminals or drug dealers and are often met with fear by people from better-off neighborhoods. For the thousands children born into these conditions, it can be extremely difficult to overcome these prejudices on the road to becoming a successful adult

What we do in São Paulo

Lunch at the social center (photo: SOS archives)

SOS Children’s Village São Bernardo do Campo in São Paulo began its work in 1970. In 2004, the local authorities declared that SOS Children’s Village São Bernardo do Campo was located in an environmental reserve. The SOS families slowly moved out of the village and into rented accommodation.

Strengthen families: Our social center here provides a family strengthening program, which aims to alleviate hardship in the community in a holistic and sustainable manner. Its services include a day-care center and childminding program. This allows working parents and single mothers to leave their children in safe hands while they are out making a living. Our efforts also address the needs of parents, providing support and training.

Care in SOS families: For children from the area who are no longer able to live with their parents, SOS families can provide a loving home. In each family, the children live with their brothers and sisters and are affectionately cared for by their SOS parents. The SOS families live in the community, and are therefore fully integrated into the neighborhood.

Support for young people: Qualified counselors support young people while they pursue further education or vocational training, some of which is delivered by SOS Children’s Villages. Young people learn to take responsibility, plan their future and prepare for independent adult life.