SOS Children's Village La Cañada Nearly half of the population of the Lake Maracaibo region are poor. Basic items, food and medicines are extremely expensive and in short supply. Children from vulnerable families are at risk of not having enough to eat, not going to school, and not getting medical care. We are supporting the community so that the families can stay together. In La Cañada, numerous children remain without access to education At the playground (photo: SOS Archives) SOS Children's Village La Cañada is located around 35 kilometres south of Maracaibo, the country's second largest city. Around one million "zulianos", as the people of Maracaibo are commonly referred to, live in crippling poverty. Just like in the country's capital Caracas, crime rates in Maracaibo have been soaring over the last few years. In fact, the murder rate in Maracaibo exceeds that of many other major cities in South America. According to reports, around 6,000 children live on the streets of Maracaibo. A significant number of them are forced to beg or steal in order to survive. For many, the world of crime and drugs seems to be the only road available. Abandoned street children often experience violence and aggression and resort to glue sniffing to make their lives more bearable. Instead of attending school, many young children tend to engage in informal labour activities such as selling merchandise, cleaning car windshields at traffic lights or shining shoes. In such a hazardous environment, they are highly vulnerable to exploitation by adults and older youths who sometimes use them for selling drugs or pay them for carrying out other criminal activities. La Cañada's orphaned and abandoned children need our support SOS Children's Village La Cañada is one of three SOS Children's Villages in Venezuela. 480,000 children all over the country have lost either one or both of their parents and grow up under extremely difficult socioeconomic circumstances. Thousands of families are struggling to send their children to school. In many smaller towns around Lake Maracaibo primary schools remain scarce. The fare for the daily trip from one of these towns to nearby Maracaibo or Bobures is often unaffordable for Zulian families. What we do in La Cañada Children who have lost parental care grow up in SOS families (photo: SOS archives) Since 1979 SOS Children's Villages has been supporting vulnerable children and their families. These services include family strengthening programmes which aim to prevent family break-ups, loving homes for children who lose parental care, medical advice and counselling at our SOS Social Centres. Strengthen families: At the SOS Social Centres, we offer family strengthening programmes that aim to strengthen existing family ties so that children can grow up within their own family. The day care centres allow working mothers to leave their children with professional staff while they make a living. Due to the current situation, we have increased our activities in order to reach more vulnerable families. Care in SOS families: SOS Children's Village La Cañada comprises SOS families where up to 126 children can be looked after in a loving home by an SOS mother. Support for young people: Since 1996, SOS Children's Villages has also been running a programme to support young people. With the support of our qualified staff, the young people develop perspectives for their future and learn to shoulder responsibility as they lead semi-independent lives.