Although measures to decrease poverty and reach the UN Millennium Goals in 2015 have yielded some initial success, progress has been slow and has not yet reached all sectors of society. Costa Rica now faces the challenge of finding the right balance between economic progress and improving the quality of life of its population.
Poverty is hardly visible in some areas of the San José department, while in others it cannot be ignored
Happy with his car (photo: M. Rivera)
The SOS Children's Village Tres Ríos is located in the small community of Dulce Nombre de Tres Ríos, which is located eleven km from Costa Rica’s capital city San José, in the department of the same name, and is part of the San José Metropolitan Area.
Poverty affects thousands of children, endangering their safety and their futures
Costa Rica has made significant strides towards poverty reduction in the last decades, but the gap between the wealthy and the poor remains as pronounced as ever. Like most Latin American cities, San José has its share of shantytowns where people who cannot afford higher standards of accommodation live in appalling conditions.
Children growing up in such circumstances have a very tough start in life. An estimated ten per cent of children between the ages of 5 and 17 in Costa Rica work, the large majority of them in urban areas. In many cases, working becomes incompatible with attending education, and for children engaging in labour activities, the drop-out rate is 44.1 per cent.
In such a deeply divided society, these children also have to deal with the stigmatisation that comes with growing up in a poor neighbourhood. Drug abuse or alcoholism in parents is another factor that is severely detrimental to family stability and adds to the vulnerability of children. Cocaine and crack consumption, in particular, has been a growing problem, particularly amongst young people from underprivileged backgrounds.
Often, children from struggling families are neglected and do not receive the care and nurturing they need. In the worst cases, the precarious socio-economic conditions can lead to parents abandoning their children because they are unable to look after them. Young people, too, cannot be expected to fend for themselves, but need support and guidance on the road to becoming successful adults.
What we do in Tres Ríos
Little girl having lunch (photo: M. Rivera)
SOS Children’s Villages began its work in Tres Ríos in 1975. For children from the area who are no longer able to live with their parents, 13 SOS families can provide a loving home for up to 117 children. In each family, the children live with their brothers and sisters and are affectionately cared for by their SOS mother.
When young people from the village feel ready to move out of the family home in order to pursue further education or vocational training, the SOS Youth Programme makes shared accommodation available to them. With the support of qualified counsellors, the young people live together and learn to take responsibility, plan their future and prepare for independent adult life.
One of our SOS Vocational Training Centres is located in San José. Here, future SOS mothers and staff are comprehensively educated and prepared for the important roles they will take on looking after the children in our care.