SOS Children's Villages started working with families and children in Lekenik in 1993. Our unique approach to support local families and enable children to grow up and flourish in a loving home remains very much in demand in this country, which is still recovering from the conflicts of the 1990s. Although nearly two decades have passed, many families still struggle to care for their children.
A high proportion of children without parental care
Blowing bubbles (photo: A. Nadj)
SOS Children's Villages is located in Lekenik, about 24 kilometres south-east of Zagreb. The village of Lekenik lies in a rural community with about 2,000 inhabitants. Our organisation is located on the outskirts of the town, next to a primary and a secondary school. The people living in the region are mostly of Croatian origin, with Serbians, Bosnians and Roma being the main minorities.
Although the region around the village is home to some important industries, the unemployment and poverty rates continue to be high as the country recovers from the war which took place in the 1990s. Many children have lost parental care due to the complex social and economic changes which the country has endured recently. In fact, the region where our organisation is located accounts for one of the highest proportions of children who have lost parental care in the country. According to a United Nations report, young people without parental care run a high risk of living in poverty and being socially excluded.
Providing children and young people with long-term support
When SOS Children's Villages started its work in the area, there was a great need for the provision of long-term support to children and families. Most of the children without parental care were placed in institutional homes, and the SOS model of family-based care was welcomed. Although social reforms have led to a fall in the number of children being placed in institutions, the dominant trend is still to employ homes as the main providers for children without parental care. In this context the work that our organisation carries out with children and families remains critical. The comprehensive support that we are able to offer young people leaving care tries to ensure their successful integration into adult society.
What we do in Lekenik
Children and co-worker during a pottery workshop (photo: K. Ilievska)
SOS Children's Villages provides different kinds of assistance to local families and children: activities for children, day care, loving homes for children without parental care and a youth programme.
The SOS Social Centre offers many different activities for the children in the area. Experts work with the children and run workshops, sports activities and cooking courses.
Children who can no longer live with their birth families can find a loving home in one of the 15 SOS families who can provide a loving home for up to 98 children. The family houses are located near a playground where the children can spend time outdoors. There is a leisure centre where the children from the area can all play together.
Young children from the vicinity can also attend the SOS Kindergarten where qualified staff can look after up to 60 children during the day. The kindergarten works closely with the parents: together they decide on activities, together they learn how to contribute to the children's development.
Young people attending higher education or receiving further training can move into special houses and flats, which are located in the nearby cities of Zagreb and Velika Gorica, With the support of qualified staff, they are encouraged to shoulder responsibility and increasingly make their own decisions.