SOS Children's Villages has been working in India since 1963. Our work developed rapidly all over the country and we have been present in Pune since 1979. India has undergone many changes in the decades since we started working there, and yet the need to support vulnerable children and families is as pressing today as it was in the last century.
Many children living in slums
Children enjoy a secure environment in which to develop (photo: SOS archives).
Pune is located in the state of Maharashtra approximately 200 km south of Mumbai (Bombay). Pune is one of the largest cities in India, with around 5.5 million inhabitants living in the wider metropolitan area. SOS Children's Villages is located in the northern suburb of Yervada, which is one of the most densely populated areas of the city.
Pune's economy relies on both the recently arrived IT and automobile sectors and the more established manufacturing, glass and sugar industries. The flourishing IT industry has attracted many people to come and live in the city - many of these have ended up living in very poor housing conditions. Government statistics estimate that slums cover 15 square kilometres and over a third of the population lives with inadequate access to basic services or infrastructure. The majority of those living in slums have not benefited from the flourishing economy and continue to live in poverty.
Children living in slums have a high incidence of sickness and malnutrition. Many risk losing parental care. Some of these children can be found on the streets during the day, trying to scrape together some money to contribute to the family income. They shine shoes or sell goods - many are addicted to substances. Other children permanently live on the pavements or near the railway platforms. These children are very vulnerable as they struggle to keep safe, healthy and well-nourished.
Providing families with support and children with loving homes
The work of SOS Children's Villages is particularly important in Pune due to the bad social and economic conditions in which many families and children are living. At a local level, Pune suffers from all the social problems which India suffers from as a country - high poverty rates, high illiteracy rates and children who have either lost parental care or who are at risk of losing it.
What we do in Pune
The prevention of poverty and abandonment is a high priority for SOS Children's Villages in Pune. The family strengthening programme enables children who are at risk of losing the care of their family to grow up within a loving family environment. To achieve this, we offer access to essential services for children’s development (for example educational, nutritional and health advice) and we support families so that they can protect and care for their children. Many of the households we assist are headed by single women living in poor and vulnerable conditions.
Girls growing up in the care of SOS Children's Villages (photo: SOS archives)
We also aim to raise awareness of hygiene and child rights and try to improve people's parenting skills. Mothers and fathers are given advice on income-generating activities. We also inform them about social security schemes and benefits.
Children who can no longer live with their birth families can find a loving home in one of the SOS families. As the children grow older, they can move into our youth programme, which caters separately for boys and girls. With the support of qualified professionals, the young people develop perspectives for their future, learn to shoulder responsibility and increasingly make their own decisions. They are encouraged to develop team spirit and build up contacts with relatives and friends, as well as with the relevant authorities and potential employers.