Estelí was the location where SOS Children's Villages first started working in Nicaragua. Situated around 150km north of the country's capital Managua, our organisation started working there in the early 1970s after a terrible earthquake had destroyed vast parts of the country, leaving many people dead and hundreds of thousands homeless.
Socioeconomic situation of children in Estelí
Children having fun at a party in SOS Children's Village Esteli (photo: SOS archives).
The city of Estelí is located in the north of Nicaragua and is the capital of the department of the same name. Home to roughly 129,000 Nicaraguans, Estelí is the third largest city in the country. Due to a disastrous earthquake in 1972, the country's capital Managua was destroyed almost entirely and other regions of the country, including Estelí, were also heavily affected.
Tens of thousands of people died and many children lost their parents or were abandoned by them. During the Nicaraguan civil war in the 1980s, Estelí saw heavy fighting between the Sandinista revolutionary forces and the troops of former dictator Somoza. No other part of Nicaragua was more affected by the civil war than the country's north.
In and around Estelí, children often have to engage in labour activities in order to financially assist their families. As a consequence, a high number of them cannot attend school. Many young lives are marked by family disintegration, domestic violence and parental migration due to a lack of jobs in the region.
Many children in Estelí continue to face harsh socioeconomic conditions
SOS Children's Village Estelí was initially planned as a response to high levels of poverty that have always affected the northernmost part of Nicaragua. Due to harsh socioeconomic conditions, many parents cannot provide for their children. We started working in Estelí as a response to the alarming situation in the 1970s after the earthquake; however, our work was intensified after another natural disaster in the 1990s.
When Hurricane Mitch hit Central America in 1998, Nicaragua was not spared either: many people lost their houses and jobs because of the disaster. Although the Nicaraguan government has started multiple projects to help vulnerable children, the provision of long-term support to families and children remains as crucial today as it was when we started our activities over four decades ago.
What we do in Estelí
Children in our care grow up with their brothers and sisters (photo: SOS archives).
The SOS Children's Village in Estelí has been supporting the local community since 1973.
Strengthen families: SOS Children’s Villages aims to prevent family break ups.. We provide vulnerable families with services that include child day-care, which gives mothers the opportunity to leave their children with professional staff during the day while they are able to be at work. Our organisation also offers different training workshops for parents of the local community.
Care in SOS families: Children who have lost parental care can find a loving family environment in one of our SOS families.
Education: At the SOS Hermann Gmeiner School, around 1,700 students from the local community are taught at both primary and secondary level. They are thus provided with better opportunities to find a job once they become adults. The technical school specifically offers training in dressmaking, accounting, computing, commerce and secretarial duties.
Support for young people: The high unemployment rate makes it difficult for young people to become independent. We provide young people with support, training and advice until they are able to live on their own.