AIDS Africa Best Practice: SOS Social Centre Lusaka

SOS Social Centre Lusaka, Zambia Social Outreach Programme

Programme Description

The programme became operational in April 2002 and pursues the mission to reach out to vulnerable grandparent and child-headed households in the high-density urban communities (townships) surrounding the SOS Children’s Village in Lusaka. It aims to alleviate the negative impact of poverty and to mitigate conditions that lead to the situation of street children and orphans. The programme intervenes in the communities through identified community based informal political and structural organisations. It works closely with community leaders who have organised themselves in Community Orphan and Vulnerable Children Committees. Each target community identified a volunteer to work closely with the beneficiaries as the Community Mobilisers and who is also a linking pin between the community and the SOS Social Centre. The programme has employed a two pronged strategy; namely to deal with the short term impact and effects of poverty and disease while strongly supporting initiatives that lead to long term mitigation of the negative consequences of these factors. Immediate needs are met through food supplementation, paying child headed rental, educational scholarships, clothing, medical treatment and psycho social counselling. Long term sustainability is targeted through family capacity building: skills training for youths, house improvement, skills for income generating activities, psychosocial training for care givers and developing child and youth talents & recreation through drama and sports. Over 700 persons are currently being assisted in 4 different communities at an average cost of US$13 per month/beneficiary and expansion plans into new communities, whilst drawing on the existing experiences, are well under way.

Relevant standard and good practice

We support families to build their capacity to protect & care for their children.

Immediate material needs are addressed through a household support plan which includes capacity building strategies for the family members


We see the beneficiaries as our partners and make sure that with each intervention a contribution and effort from their side is made as well. As a result of the participatory process the community members themselves take action to address problems.


The main areas of support identified through the Participatory Households Needs Assessment were food supplementation, medical care and home based care, child education, skills training for youths, skills for income generating activities, house improvement and tenure security. Based on these findings, an individual household support plan was drawn up. However the material support is to be seen as a supplement, in order not to create dependency, except for child headed households where the needs are currently fully met so that the children can focus on their education.

Empowerment approach:

Educational scholarships and school material are provided for children who stopped going to school due to the inability of their guardians to meet the school costs. In addition to this, arrangements were made to assist these children with additional classes either during the holidays or on the weekends to enable them to catch up. SOS makes sure that a part of the teacher’s allowance for these extra classes is provided by the beneficiaries. Medical care is provided by the SOS Medical Center due to its geographical proximity. Given the need for home based care which was revealed by the baseline study, the Community Committee themselves took action and formed home based care volunteer groups for which SOS organised the relevant training. In order to build the capacity of families to provide long-term security for the children, the following strategies are pursued:

  • Food security: Through the provision of seeds and fertilisers to families that have enough land to grow their own food, families have been able to feed themselves.
  • House improvements and the adding on of extra rooms which can be rented out and thus income is generated.
  • Empowerment through property ownership: Operating in substandard dwelling areas around Lusaka we realised that 98% of the households in our catchments areas do not have legal title deeds. We saw it fit to intervene in this problem area as land and housing are one of the great assets of the poor. Similarly, the lack of legal ownership of the housing plots makes children especially vulnerable as their guardians cannot write a will on land property that is declared as squatter by the law. Consequently, when the guardians die, children cannot claim right to inherit the property as there is no legal document to support the claim. The non-availability of title deeds and later on wills is a recipe for property grabbing. We organised a workshop on the Housing and Land Acts and started respective sensitisation and awareness campaigns amongst the households as well as the local municipal officials and legal bodies to address this problem, particularly those that cannot afford to pay for the title deeds.The workshop was co-financed by SOS and the World Bank. The households are now in the process of obtaining title deeds and making wills for their children.
  • Parental capacity building: Guardians and heads of child headed homes have been trained in parental skills, psychosocial support and paralegal. This was necessitated by the multiple problems family heads go through in taking care of children who are, in most cases, emotionally and psychologically traumatised and abused, and in other cases, the victims of property grabbing.

Lessons learnt

Building the capacity of families is a complex and multidisciplinary venture and thus the establishment of strong partnerships with other service providers is essential.

Key people

The Community Mobiliser, a committed community member, is elected by the COVCC to be in direct contact with the beneficiaries and a linking pin to the SOS social centre coordinator. Each is assigned to 25-30 households which he visits regularly to give the necessary emotional, psychosocial and material support. Since the inception of the programme 2 years ago there has been no turn-over of community mobilisers! They are not employed by SOS but given the amount of time they spend on household support, they get a small subsistence allowance from SOS. Fred Sakala (26) says: “I come from this community, I know the situation of the children. People are dying and leaving behind children who are very vulnerable. I felt that I needed to give my time and efforts to help these children.” Fred, with the help of SOS, completed his certificate in Social Work and is now taking evening studies for his Diploma at the University of Zambia.