SOS Children's Villages has been present in Bangladesh since 1973 and started supporting families and children in the northern city of Bogra in 1995. Poverty is widespread in this densely-populated southern Asian country, and political instability and environmental factors cause further misery.
More than one million people live in poverty in the district of Bogra
A girl from a local family is able to attend school thanks to a scholarship from SOS Children's Villages (photo: SOS archives)
SOS Children's Village Bogra is situated about 225 km to the west of Dhaka and eight km to the north of Bogra. The area has a rich cultural heritage which attracts many tourists. For example, the historically famous site of Mahasthangarh is nearby; this is one of the oldest archaeological sites in the country and is sacred to Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims.
The area around Bogra is mostly rural, with people living mainly off agriculture. Most of the people who work the land are day labourers, their work is seasonal and they earn low wages. In recent decades however, and in urban centres in particular, an increasing number of people work in the services' sector.
The region has a high poverty rate - according to official figures between 23 and 32 per cent of the population lives below the regionally-defined extreme poverty line. Children are often the main victims of poverty. Their parents struggle to meet their basic needs - many do not get enough food and can only dream of going to school. As families try to make a living, many children have to drop out of school and go to work. Given these harsh circumstances, it is no surprise that the region has a high illiteracy rate: 47 per cent of the population cannot read or write. Many children have lost parental care due to this complex social and economic situation, and many more are at risk unless they receive support.
Children need a loving home and families need support
When the War of Liberation ended in 1971 many children were left without parental care. SOS Children's Villages approached the responsible ministry, who welcomed the proposal to support families in need and to provide loving homes to children who had lost parental care. Today, our main aim is to support families so that they can stay together: we give families material assistance, training and support until they are able to provide for themselves. The children do not have to go to work, and may also receive scholarships to attend school.
What we do in Bogra
Homework is taken very seriously because education is central to a better future (photo: SOS archives)
SOS Children's Villages works closely with the local population. In order to support vulnerable families in the neighbourhood, we offer family strengthening programmes which, in collaboration with local agencies, aim to ensure that children have access to essential educational, health and nutritional services. We also run a training centre and day-care facilities for children of working mothers. The SOS Clinic treats families and children from the local community and provides them with advice on preventing illnesses.
When children can no longer stay with their families they can find a loving home with one of the ten SOS families, who can care for up to 100 children. The high illiteracy rate in the country makes the work of the SOS Hermann Gmeiner primary and secondary school particularly pertinent. The school is open to all children and the availability of scholarships, through the family strengthening programme, means that many families can afford to send their children to school.
As children grow older they can move to the SOS Youth Programme. They live here while they attend further education or training. With the help of qualified staff, the young adults learn to shoulder responsibilities and make their own decisions.