Dignitaries from Austria and Nepal attended the opening of the ninth Nepalese SOS Children's Village in Lumbini, continuing the long-standing tradition of the organisation's work in the Himalayan kingdom. The commitment of SOS Children's Villages in Nepal began more than 40 years ago, when the founder of the organisation, Hermann Gmeiner, visited the country and made the accquaintance of members of the royal family, which led to the construction of the first SOS Children's Village in Nepal in 1973.
Thirty-seven years later, the new SOS Children's Village in Lumbini, a UNESCO World Heritage site said to be the birthplace of Buddha, brings the total up to nine SOS Villages, not to mention the many other facilities and programmes that SOS Children's Villages runs in the country such as SOS Schools, Medical Centres, Vocational Training Centres and Social Centres that operate various Family Strengthening Programmes.
Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world, and the lack of infrastructure leaves many of the countless children who are abandoned or orphaned - mainly due to causes related to poverty - with nobody to care for them. In his speech which addressed the children, the SOS mothers and the guests attending the inauguration, Mr. Günther Platter, the Governor of Tyrol said, "the idea of SOS Children's Villages has spread around the world. It has built millions of homes for children who have been left without families and parental care. With the SOS Children's Village, we all have the privilege of growing up in a family". The Austrian region of Tyrol played a central role in the construction of this particular Village, as it financed eight of the 15 family houses, administrative buildings and the SOS Nursery that make up the Village, with the capacity to accomodate 150 children (there are currently 80 children living in the Village).
The shortage of skilled labour among the workforce of Nepal and high levels of illiteracy mean that children and young people face bleak perspectives for the future, and providing them with education is therefore one of the country's most pressing needs. The president of Nepal, His Excellency Dr Rambaran Yadav, expressed his gratitude towards SOS Children's Villages for sharing the concerns of his government in ensuring a bright future for Nepal's children.
At present there are nine SOS Children's Villages in Nepal, seven SOS Youth Homes, eight SOS Secondary Schools, three SOS Vocational Training Centres, eight SOS Social Centres with Family-Strengthening Programmes and one SOS Medical Centre.