Many children cannot live with their families Boy in our care with SOS family homes in the background (photo: R. de Silva) The city of Monaragala has about 10,000 inhabitants, and is about 170 kilometres east of the capital city of Colombo in Uva province in the south-east of the country. Although the Monaragala urban area is developing very fast, the main occupation of the people is agriculture. Slash and burn methods are used to clear land and short-duration crops such as grains, legumes and vegetables are grown. Families and neighbouring farmers help each other out in the fields. The district of Monaragala has a high poverty rate - approximately one third of the population lives in poverty. The same number of people does not get enough food. Many do not own the land they cultivate, thus increasing their vulnerability. Poverty is also the main reason why children lose parental care in the region. In addition, many children fail to receive an education which will give them the chance to break the cycle of poverty as they grow older. The rural areas around the city of Monaragala are isolated and often lacking in basic services and infrastructure. SOS Children's Villages has established a special programme in Monaragala to build sanitary facilities and provide basic services to poor families living in more remote areas. An official request to start working in the area Because of the great number of children without parental care, the work of SOS Children's Villages was very much supported by the Sri Lankan government. In the case of Monaragala it even donated land to the organisation. In addition to the long-term programmes, emergency relief was provided after the tsunami in 2004, when the local authorities made two warehouses available to SOS Children's Village Monaragala; they were then adapted and turned into shelters for refugee families. What we do in Monaragala SOS Children's Villages provides different kinds of assistance to the local population. The family strengthening programme gives support to families who are at risk of abandoning their children. Working with local authorities, we provide health treatment as well as counselling and psychological support. Families are given training so that they can set up small businesses such as poultry farming or sewing services. Children grow up in SOS families with their brothers and sisters(photo: SOS archives) Children who have lost parental care can find a loving home in one of the 12 SOS families, where up to 120 children can be looked after by the SOS mothers. They grow up with their sisters and brothers in a familial environment full of love, respect and security. The children can attend the SOS Kindergarten, which has capacity to care for up to 120 children, some of whom come from the neighbouring community. The provision of day care is particularly valued by those parents who attend training or go to work. At SOS Kindergarten Monaragala, training courses for the local inhabitants, especially for girls and women, are held in the evenings. As the children grow up, they move into our youth programmes, which can accommodate up to 100 young people. 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 and start looking for work. In addition, the SOS Vocational Training Centre provides training in craftsmanship, baking, basic wiring and plumbing, IT and office skills to up to 150 trainees.