The idyllic scenery in and around Matagalpa may be stunning. However, its natural beauty is contrasted by high levels of poverty that continue to affect the city's population. Thousands of children in the region face undernourishment, a lack of education and child abandonment.
In picturesque Matagalpa, life for a child can be challenging
Children playing together in SOS Children's Village Matagalpa (photo: P. Verbeek)
The city of Matagalpa is located in the Central Region of Nicaragua, roughly 130 kilometres from the country's capital Managua. It is not only one of the most densely populated cities in Nicaragua but demographically speaking- also one of its youngest: nearly 50 per cent of Matagalpeños are under the age of 16. During the country's brutal civil war, the region around Matagalpa saw heavy fighting between the troops of former dictator Somoza and the Sandinistas.
Nicaragua's rural population is particularly affected by high levels of poverty. Nearly 40 per cent of households in the region do not have proper sanitation facilities and running water. Around 17 per cent of the population live in shacks with unpaved floors where walls and roofs are patched together by using any material they can find. Due to the town's remote location, roads are barely accessible during the rainy season and medical attention is often scarce. Child poverty is traditionally high in Matagalpa. Matagalpa has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country. Owing to the socioeconomic situation of most Matagalpeños, a high number of children have to engage in labour activities and are not able to attend school.
The need for family-based child care in Matagalpa persists
We decided to start working in Matagalpa because the total number of vulnerable children in the region had been rising steadily. Although the Nicaraguan government has started multiple projects to help vulnerable children, a great need for long-term alternative care remains.
What we do in Matagalpa
Children doing their homework together (photo: P. Verbeek).
The SOS Children's Village Matagalpa has been providing support to the children and young people of the region since the year 2000. The services our organisation has been offering to the local community include family strengthening programmes, loving homes for children who grow up without parental care and counselling.
Strengthen families: We aim to enable children who are at risk of losing parental care to grow up within their own family. At our SOS Social Centre, mothers can leave their children with us during the day while they go to work. In this way, they are able to hold down a job and earn a living for their family knowing that their children are in good hands while they are not at home. Children receive meals, pre-school education and medical assistance. Counselling, training workshops and psychological support is also being offered at the SOS Social Centre.
Care in SOS families: At our SOS Children's Village, up to 108 children without parental care grow up in loving SOS families with an SOS parent.
Support for young people: We support young people until they are able to live independently. We give them access to further education and vocational training so that they have the right skills to find a job, or start their own business. With the support of qualified youth workers, the young people develop perspectives for their future, learn to shoulder responsibility and increasingly make their own decisions.