Omar is studying journalisms and working in television in Ecuador. Although he has been able to follow a career path he is passionate about, he is aware of the challenges young people who have grown up in alternative care face on their way to independence.
Omar, 26, is a young man from the city of Portoviejo in the province of Manabí, Ecuador. He and his sister came to live in an SOS family when he was eleven after their parents had died.
Fifteen years later, Omar is completing his last semester of his journalism degree at the Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja. For the last eight years, he has worked as a cameraman, sound engineer and camera director for the midday and primetime news, and for a sports programme on one of the largest television channels in Manabí, Manavisión. His career is important to him and he loves his work.
Gaining access to the labour market is not easy for young people, he stresses, and youth unemployment remains a concern. This is why ensuring access to decent work for young people as well as eradicating poverty have become important priorities in public policy.
Challenges of starting an independent life
As someone who was not able to count on the guidance and support of his biological family, Omar knows how challenging it can be for young people to transition to adulthood and become self-reliant. Omar has always been ambitious – with the support of SOS Children’s Villages, he was able to take on summer internships and receive training in electro-mechanics and personal budgeting.
The situation was made more challenging for Omar when his girlfriend became pregnant, so he took on the responsibility of being a young father. He says that the support he received from SOS Children’s Villages was key for him to be able to improve his skills, continue with his university studies and to get a good job.
Omar recognises that the training and preparation for independent life he participated in at SOS Children’s Villages were decisive for him to be able to take advantage of the opportunities he has had until now, building a career he is passionate about.
Nevertheless, Omar believes that there is a need for stronger support mechanisms for young people who have grown up in alternative care. The state can and should put in place a number of actions to reduce unemployment among young people who have not been able to grow up with their families. “In addition to employment opportunities, the state should think of support measures for young people to start a business on their own, in terms of training and access to credit. Currently, young people face big challenges in accessing loans and finding guarantors.”
Omar also urges organisations providing alternative care for children who cannot live with their families like SOS Children’s Villages to continue to promote and protect the rights of young people so they can have better employment and educational opportunities, finish their university studies and develop better skills to compete effectively in the workplace.
Encouraging other to seize opportunities
Based on his own experience, Omar has a message for other young people growing up in alternative care: “We should not conform, and we should be able to take advantage of the opportunities that we have, because if we do not do it and we believe that things will fall from the sky, we are wrong. It is important to be aware that what comes easily is also easily lost. We must strive to follow the right path, however hard it may be. We must not give up hope but instead unite to improve our opportunities.”