SOS Children's Village Basse SOS Children’s Villages have been working in Basse since 2007, and through our social centre we continue to increase our involvement for vulnerable children and their families in the area. Basse is an important town of administration and trade located at the brink of the Gambia River in the backcountry of The Gambia. A mother and her daughter who benefit from our family strengthening programme in Basse (photo: L. Willot) Basse, which is also known as Basse Santa Su, is the easternmost town or larger settlement in The Gambia. It has a population of around 18,000 and functions as the administrative centre for the Upper River Region. As such, it is an important place of trade and a transportation hub not only for the immediate region but also for the transportation of goods in western Africa. Basse has seen a lot of development in recent years and the social infrastructure has improved greatly. However, many families continue to live precarious lives, which puts many children at risk of losing parental care. Bringing security and hope into the households of the most vulnerable families In countries where poverty is as widespread as in The Gambia, the extended family plays an important role for the social security of many children. As traditional family structures deteriorate, more children are at risk of losing adequate care. Many children whose parents have fallen ill or even died live in households headed by grandparents or siblings. For these vulnerable children, food is often scarce and they are less likely to go to school. Without access to education, it is extremely difficult for the children to achieve secure living conditions as adults. SOS Children’s Village Basse seeks to reach as many of these orphaned and vulnerable children as possible and help them to a obtain a life where they can feel secure and loved. Our work for vulnerable families in the area is coordinated through our social centre, and the measures are varied and adapted to the immediate needs of the families. Some families may need food packages to ensure that the children have regular meals until the parents or carers have again become self-sufficient. It is an important factor for the stability of families that they have access to medical care, and we strive to help vulnerable families gain adequate access to health services. SOS Children’s Village Basse also works to ensure that children have access to schools by providing families with school uniforms and books or even helping them to pay for tuition fees. What we do in Basse Having fun at SOS Kindergarten Basse (photo: L. Willot) SOS Children’s Villages started its work to support vulnerable children in Basse in 2007. We run a kindergarten and a primary school where children from the local community benefit from good learning environments together with children from SOS families. The SOS Kindergarten cares for up to 130 children, who can experience happy and fun moments of childhood as well as preparing to start school. The SOS Hermann Gmeiner School in Basse provides high-quality basic education for more than 200 pupils and thus helps to strengthen the educational infrastructure of the area. Children with no one to care for them can find a loving home in one of the twelve SOS families in Basse. Under the care and love of an SOS mother, the children grow up together with siblings in a family environment, where they can experience just being a child. Psychosocial support is important for the healthy development of children who have experienced traumas or neglect, and the development of all children in SOS families is carefully monitored. With regard to education, an individual development plan is formulated together with each child as they grow older. The children move into the SOS Youth Programme when they become adolescents and are ready to take their first steps towards independence. Here, they live together with other young people from SOS families under the guidance of a qualified educational counsellor. Since 2010, SOS Children’s Village Basse also runs a social centre which reaches out to vulnerable families in the area to prevent these families from breaking apart. Households led by siblings or grandparents hold a particularly vulnerable position in the community, and therefore they account for most of the families we reach through our family strengthening programme. We believe that the best way to help children attain better living conditions is to make authorities as well as parents and carers aware of children’s rights and needs in order to ensure their healthy and secure development. Therefore, we also put great efforts into educating the local communities about children’s rights.