SOS Children's Village Tlokweng Gabarone is one of Africa's fastest growing cities. This brings many challenges as the government struggles to provide appropriate housing, schooling and health care to all who arrive. HIV/AIDS and its consequences continue to be the foremost social concern in Botswana’s capital, Gaborone, and its surroundings. Recently, a severe drought has had a negative effect on the lives of families in the area. Tlokweng is a town on the outskirts of Botswana’s financial and administrative centre A mother learning with her child in our family strengthening programme in Tlokweng (photo: M. Morosini) Tlokweng is located just outside Gaborone, which is the largest city and the capital of Botswana. Gaborone is the political as well as the economic centre of Botswana and is located just 15 kilometres from the border with South Africa. Gaborone and its surroundings have experienced rapid population growth since Botswana gained independence in 1966. Less than 5000 people lived here in the mid-1960s, and today the area has a population of approximately 200,000. This rapid growth has brought some challenges: poverty and inequality have increased in Gaborone. Many families, who have moved here from rural areas in search of a better life, are struggling to make ends meet. Tlokweng itself has also been greatly affected by the growth of Gaborone. Most recently the area has been affected by a shortage of water. This has meant that many people who lived off the food that they grew, have suffered due to the drought Supporting vulnerable children and their families in Tlokweng Botswana has put tremendous effort into fighting HIV/AIDS and providing anti-retroviral treatment to those affected. But it is a hard battle, as it is estimated that more than 20 per cent of the population are living with HIV/AIDS. Only through education and awareness-raising can the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS be contained, so that in the future Botswana will be able to dedicate its resources to the social and economic development of the country. Botswana’s ambitious targets in fighting HIV/AIDS have proven very successful so far, but they have also been very costly. Thousands of children in the Tlokweng and Gaborone area have lost parental care or will lose it in the years to come. Most commonly, these children are cared for by the extended family, but sometimes it is impossible for the extended family to take on responsibility for even more children. Grandparents are often the only ones left to care for orphaned children, and they usually depend on support from the social system or international charities to meet their daily needs. Growing up with ill parents or losing parents can be devastating for the development of children, and it is therefore extremely important to reach these children with psychosocial support. In addition, the grandparents who lead households are often illiterate, and many attach little importance to education and thus do not encourage the children to attend school. What we do in Tlokweng Having fun at the playground at the SOS Children’s Village Tlokweng (photo: M. Morosini) Strengthen families: SOS Children’s Village Tlokweng reaches out to vulnerable children and families in Tlokweng as well as in Gaborone. Where needed, we provide school uniforms and we support families in sending their children to primary or secondary school. Most of the households we support though our social centre are headed by terminally ill parents or by grandparents. Psychosocial support is important for children from such fragile backgrounds. We seek to empower these children through different initiatives such as camps where children can meet other children with similar backgrounds. At these camps, the children receive emotional support as well as education on issues such as HIV/AIDS and alcohol, which could become a threat to their healthy development. Parents and caregivers are supported in acquiring income generating skills, and in Tlokweng, families are provided with vegetable gardens that not only allow them to grow their own food but also to harvest produce to sell at the market. Care in families: Since 1986, children with no one to care for them can find a loving home in an SOS family in Tlokweng. Some of these families live in houses that are integrated in the community. Together with siblings they grow up under the care and love of an SOS mother who is supported by social workers. In an SOS family, the children all have access to schooling. They go on to higher education or vocational training according to the individual development plan for each child. Support for young people: When the children are ready for it, they enter the SOS Youth Programme, usually when they become adolescents. Young people learn to become independent in a supportive environment while finishing their education or vocational training.