January 17 2017

Empowering vulnerable families in Cape Verde

When parents find themselves trapped in difficult living conditions, their families may be at risk of breakdown and separation. With assistance from SOS Children’s Villages, Margarida, a single mother from Cape Verde, has defied unemployment and poverty and is building a better future for her children.

Cape Verde ranks among Africa’s more developed countries, yet many people in the island nation face challenging social and economic conditions.

In her house on the top of a quiet green hill in the Cape Verdean town of São Domingos, 56-year-old Margarida shared the story of how SOS Children’s Villages helped to get her family out of trouble.

“My husband died in 1999,” explained Margarida. “I had two children with him and a child from before I married him. After his death, I got married again and had five more children. But my second husband abandoned me and the eight kids.”

Margarida struggled to care for the children on her own. She had no job and relied on little contributions from her older children to take care of the younger ones. Her family situation was referred to government and she started receiving a support grant of 4,000 Cape Verdean escudos (US$ 39) every month. This helped Margarida to register some of her children in school. In 2007, she had five school-going children.

But the grant could only go so far, and she struggled to meet the children’s most basic needs. “They couldn’t eat before going to school,” she explained.

Margarida is now able to also support other children in need. Photo: Jude Fuhnwi

Support and education for the whole family

In the same year, SOS Children’s Villages, through its family strengthening programme in Cape Verde, stepped in to assist Margarida’s family. The first intervention was a care package.

“We were then able to provide them with food items, school material and paid the children’s school fees,” said Herminalda da Silva, SOS family strengthening coordinator in São Domingos, a town in the central part of Santiago island. “The programme also provided health support for the family.”

Margarida also had an opportunity to enrol in basic education for adults. She had left school when she was only in 3rd grade. Margarida continued her studies in 2009, through a literacy programme for adults who dropped out of school. Moreover, between 2007 and 2015 Margarida was able to participate in various training programmes on care-giving, child rights, and small business management.
Margarida working on her small farm. Photo: Jude Fuhnwi

New projects for the future

To prevent family breakdown and ensure that children do not end up alone, SOS Children’s Villages Cape Verde is also partnering with community-based organisations. Through one of these partners in São Domingos, Margarida received CVE130,000 (US$ 1,255) to run an income-generating activity. Margarida used the money to start a poultry project in January 2016.

“The business is flourishing. I make profit of about CVE 20,000 (US$ 193) per month,” she said.

Today, Margarida is also supporting other vulnerable children. She is taking care of a three-year-old girl which her daughter found abandoned in Safende, a slum in the capital, Praia.

“The little girl was in a bad state when my daughter found her. So she brought her home and we adopted her. She is orphaned. Her mother died and her father was unidentified. She was found with her nine-year-old sister. She was nine months old when we took her in and her sister lives with a relative now,” Margarida said.

Find out more about our work in Cape Verde