SOS Children's Village Esperanza Tens of thousands of young children in the Lima metropolitan area live in crippling poverty and their basic child rights are being trampled on. The socioeconomic conditions that many of them face seriously endanger their healthy physical and mental development. Children are the real victims of the socioeconomic divide in Peru Children in our care grow up in loving homes (photo: SOS archives). SOS Children's Village Esperanza is situated at an altitude of 1,000 m in the town of Chosica (Lurigancho-Chosica district) about 40 km from Lima in the Rímac River Valley in the Andean foothills. The many nearby country clubs are a popular weekend destination for wealthy people from Lima. In stark contrast to the lifestyle of these weekenders, the wellbeing of countless children in this part of the Lima metropolitan area remains gravely endangered. Peru is a country whose people are as diverse as its landscape. Fundamental divides between urban and rural zones, as well as due to gender, language and culture continue to exist. Healthy and secure childhoods are rare in impoverished rural areas Although the situation has improved in recent years, nearly 60 per cent of Peru's children continue to live in poverty. Almost 500,000 children below the age of two are estimated to suffer from chronic malnutrition. Often, mothers are simply not educated on how to wean or feed their young children properly, or they do not have the means to provide appropriate a complementary diet. Child labour also remains a serious problem, despite the fact that the Peruvian government has introduced a number of programmes to eradicate its worst forms. One of the Lurigancho-Chosica region's principal activities is the manufacture of bricks from the rich clay soil found here. It is estimated that over 1,000 children and adolescents are involved in the brick manufacturing business. Peru's internal conflict in the 1980s involving the “Shining Path” guerrilla insurgent group led to extensive forced displacement. People from the highland areas most affected by the guerrilla war fled to the Lima metropolitan area, as it was relatively safe in comparison. This resulted in the separation and break-up of many families, and a great number of children were left orphaned. What we do in Esperanza A mother and children from our family strengthening programme (P.Wittmann). SOS Children's Village Esperanza is located just 400 m from a second SOS Children's Village, Río Hondo. Our work here began in 1975. The SOS Social Centre here offers a family strengthening programme, which aims to provide support and education, and alleviate hardship in the local community in order to prevent families from breaking apart. There is a children’s day-care programme, which makes it possible for mothers to leave their children in safe hands while they go out to make a living. SOS Social Centre’s activities are managed by the members of the community themselves, with SOS Children's Villages providing training and support. For children who are no longer able to live with their parents, twelve SOS families can provide a loving home for up to 108 children. They live with their brothers and sisters and are affectionately cared for by their SOS mothers. When young people from Esperanza or Río Hondo are ready to leave their SOS family to start a vocational training course or pursue further education, SOS Children's Villages offers a semi-independent housing programme in town. Qualified counsellors are available on-site to assist young people in planning their future, learning to shoulder responsibility and increasingly making their own decisions.