Families struggle to stay healthy and safe in unsuitable living conditions
It's fun to learn together! (photo: B. Neeleman)
SOS Children's Village Mai Dich is situated on the outskirts of Hanoi, the country's capital. The city's economy is growing fast, and this attracts many people to move here in search of a better life. According to recent figures, the population is growing at a yearly rate of 3.5 per cent.
Although the city is one of the richest in the country, there is a growing wealth disparity. Life is very harsh for those who continue to live below the city's poverty line. People who are most likely to be poor include those with low levels of education or few skills, those who are ill or have a disability, families with many children, and those who have recently moved to the city and have no permanent residence status.
Families living in poverty often build their shelters in precarious locations, such as on the streets, in slums, or on wasteland. As they build their living quarters on unrecognised sites, they constantly face the threat of eviction and relocation. In the majority of cases they have no electricity and no source of clean drinking water. Access to services such as health care and education is limited.
People living in these conditions often have no official residence rights, and are therefore excluded from governmental services. Migrants who have moved to the city are also socially isolated as they do not have a support network, which makes it harder for them to find work or seek support in times of need.
Children growing up in poverty are often not officially registered and therefore find it hard to access free school, health care and other services. In addition, parents may struggle to care for their children; many are forced to leave school because their families cannot afford the cost, and the children have to work to raise the family income. These children can be seen on the streets scavenging for rubbish to sell on or selling small goods.
Some children from rural areas migrate to the cities on their own. Human trafficking is a problem in the region and internal trafficking is often linked to rural-urban migration. Hanoi is reported to be one of the major destinations of internal trafficking where prostitution is prevalent, meaning that many young girls are trafficked and forced into the sex trade.
Providing loving care to children and a future for young people
The social and economic conditions in Vietnam's capital city make the work of our organisation particularly important. The provision of family-based care, education, and support into adulthood has continued to improve the lives of people who lack even the most basic means to earn a living or to ensure that their children can receive an education.
What we do in Mai Dich
Having fun with a mobile phone (photo: B. Neeleman)
If children can no longer live with their families, they find a loving home in one of the 16 SOS families. Young children from the neighbourhood also attend the SOS Kindergarten, which can look after up to 95 children. The provision of day-care is particularly valued by those parents who go to work - they know their children are being cared for by professionals.
Older children can go to the SOS Hermann Gmeiner School, which caters for pupils at both primary and secondary level. The school has a canteen which ensures that children get at least one nutritious meal a day. The teachers at the school work very hard to ensure that children are given the best possible education, and children receive special support in subjects where they are struggling.
The SOS Youth Programme gives young people professional support while they attend further education or start a vocational training course. The young adults are encouraged to develop perspectives for their future, learn to shoulder responsibilities and increasingly make their own decisions.
At Mai Dich, there is also an SOS Vocational Training Centre where SOS mothers and co-workers are prepared for the important roles which they will take on in our organisation.