SOS Children's Villages has been working in Laos since 1993 - decades of fighting and destruction have brought the country to an economic standstill, resulting in a growing number of children and families in need of support. In 1997 Pakse, in the south of the country, became the second location where we started working.
A city struggling to service the increasing number of inhabitants
SOS mothers provide loving support to children who have lost the cares of their parents (photo: SOS archives).
Pakse is the capital of Champasak Province in the south-west of the country. It is located 700 km from the capital city of Vientiane, and only about 30 km east of the Lao-Thai border town of Chong Mek.
The population has traditionally lived off agriculture, but in 2001, a bridge was built over the Mekong River nearby, and this has increased the commercial activities around the city. Pakse has gradually become an important tourist destination due to the surrounding natural sites.
As a result of these new activities, the city has grown in recent years. In addition, because people living in the rural areas of the province are isolated and face many difficulties, many move to Pakse in search of a better future. This growth in population has put a strain on the city's infrastructure. It is estimated that around one third of households are poor. Poverty is mostly located in the low lying areas where there is poor drainage and inadequate waste collection, let alone adequate access to health and education. In addition, these areas are vulnerable to flooding, a real threat due to the city’s location at the confluence of the Mekong and Se Don rivers.
Children in these areas are very vulnerable, as they are exposed to illnesses associated with poor sanitation facilities. Some parents here do not earn enough to provide their children with the amount and type of food they require and the children suffer from malnutrition. Other parents manage to meet the basic needs but can only dream of sending their children to school.
We adapt our work according to the local needs
SOS Children's Villages started working in Pakse in response to the area’s economic and social situation, which meant that many people were living in hardship. Our work has adapted to the changing needs of the local population by providing day-care to children from vulnerable families, loving homes to children who have lost parental care, and an education for many who would otherwise not go to school.
What we do in Pakse
Children in our care on their way to school (photo: SOS archives).
YSOS Children's Village Pakse offers various programmes to support the local population. Children who can no longer live with their families and need long-term loving care can move into one of the 14 SOS families, where they grow up with their sisters and brothers and are looked after by the SOS mothers.
Up to 100 children from both the SOS families and from the neighbourhood can attend the SOS Kindergarten. As the children spend time together, they become friends. The provision of day-care is particularly valued by those parents who receive training or go to work - they know that their children are being cared for by professionals. As children grow older they can go to the SOS Hermann Gmeiner School which provides students with both a primary and a secondary education. There is a canteen at the school so that children can get a daily nutritious meal.
When children are ready to move out of the SOS families they can join the SOS Youth Programme. They live here while they attend further education, receive training or start their working lives. With the help of professionals the young people are encouraged to develop perspectives for their future, learn to shoulder responsibility and increasingly make their own decisions.