In SOS Children's Villages, brothers and sisters grow up together (photo: SOS archives).
The city of Rajpura is home to around 96,660 people and located in the state of Punjab. The people of Punjab live mostly off agriculture, and about two thirds of the population live in rural areas. However, the state's economy is flourishing and many migrants from other Indian states are arriving here; the population increased by 17 per cent between 2001 and 2011. This unplanned urban growth has resulted in informal settlements. People living in slums have limited access to decent drains and sewers and are therefore living in conditions which make them prone to illness. In addition there are no places where the community can come together - no meeting halls, no parks, no sports areas or playgrounds for children to play in.
Families who live in poverty face many hardships: due to their lack of skills they struggle to find a decent job and have to survive on low incomes. Parents in these households are often unable to meet the basic material and emotional needs of their children. Children are often expected to earn some money too, and they do not go to school or they drop out at an early age. Girls are more likely to not be enrolled into school or to drop out than boys. The disparity of the literacy rates between women and men reflects this phenomenon: just 76 per cent of women are literate in comparison to 82 per cent of men.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the province of Punjab suffered due to the fighting of different groups who had been seeking independence for many years. Innumerable acts of violence caused great misery and left behind thousands of refugees and children without parental care. It was against this background that SOS Children's Villages started working in the area. In spite of improvements in the political and economic situation in the region, our work continues to be as vital today as it was when we first started working here.
SOS Children's Village Rajpura is situated on the outskirts of the city, on a piece of land which was donated to our organisation. Schools, hospitals and other important facilities are all located nearby. We work in close partnership with the local authorities 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.
At the SOS Family Strengthening Programme, women learn a new skill so that they can earn money (photo: SOS archives).
A central part of the work that SOS Children's Villages carries out in Rajpura focuses on supporting children and families in the community. Our family strengthening programme offers a comprehensive package of services to enable families to stay together. In addition to providing day-care in the SOS Kindergarten we aim to raise awareness of hygiene and child rights and give guidance on parenting skills. We provide SOS families and local families with regular medical 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. Every child has a "Child Development Plan" which is prepared in consultation with the child and the SOS mother. Young children go to the SOS Kindergarten, together with children from neighbouring families, thus making friends and integrating into the community. Older children attend the local schools.
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. Young adults in our care have studied nursing, hotel management, tourism or architecture to give some examples.