Paraiba is one of Brazil`s poorest states. Vulnerable families often live in insecure and unsafe conditions: they struggle to find safe accommodation and enough nutritious food. Young people from struggling families are particularly vulnerable, and both parents and children need support.
A large informal sector means a precarious life for thousands of families
Children reading together at a Storytelling workshop (photo: SOS archives)
TThe SOS Children’s Village Paraíba is located in João Pessoa, the capital of the Paraíba state on the easternmost point on the coast of Brazil. The town has a population of about 800,000 inhabitants.
Most jobs are in tourism or other service industries. Many people work informally, and without contracts they often lack security. Jobs are often short-term and poorly paid. Because people´s income is low or unpredictable, they cannot invest in owning a home or land. They are therefore forced to live in the neighbourhoods of the “landless”, where most of the housing is of low standard and infrastructure is severely lacking. The lack of clean drinking water and proper sanitation systems increases the risk of transmittable diseases. Mosquitoes – including the one that spreads the Zika virus - breed easily among the open drains and uncollected rubbish.
High rates of poverty and illiteracy
Paraíba has historically been one of the poorest states in the country and in the 1990s; almost 70 per cent of its population lived in conditions of poverty. While living conditions have improved for many, over 40 per cent of the population of Paraiba state still live in poverty. Poverty is especially high in rural areas.
In recent years, illiteracy has been greatly reduced in Brazil overall, however in Paraíba it remains high at 16.8 per cent (latest available figures for 2011) in people aged 15 and over. Illiteracy rates for Afro-Brazilians are about twice as high as for those of European descent, which is an indication of the deep-seated racial divides that continue to exist in Brazilian society.
Education is one way to give children from poorer families the chance to do well for themselves as they become adults and break the cycle of poverty.
What we do in João Pessoa
We run regular workshops with children who have been reintegrated with their families ( (photo: SOS archives)
SOS Children’s Village Paraíba began its work in João Pessoa in 1987.
Strengthen families: We work with partners to support children and young people from some of the most vulnerable families from the nearby communities. Each family receives different support, depending on their needs. We visit the families regularly and aim to provide them with counselling and training so that they can stay together.
Support for young people: We support young people so that they can become independent.
Together with the young person, we develop an Individual Development Plan to ensure that their needs are met. For example we provide them with advice on family matters, as well as with training so that they can find a job.
Reintegrating children and young people: Until the end of 2016 SOS Children’s Villages cared for children in SOS families in Paraiba. After we stopped providing direct care, some children and young people returned to live with their families. We ensured that both the children and their families were prepared for this new development. Once the families were living together, we visited them and helped them create new healthy relationships. We also ran regular workshops to raise awareness on parental responsibilities and children’s rights.