SOS Children’s Villages for Tibetan children was established in 1960 by the Dalai Lama, to care for Tibetan refugee children who had fled across the Tibetan border following the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959.
In 1971, what was initially a make-shift children's home was turned into the first Tibetan SOS Children's Village in Dharamsala. Today, there are eight SOS Children’s Villages caring for 11,000 Tibetan children. Tibetan SOS families generally have more children per family than usual due to the high demand for alternative care. In the 29 SOS families in Mussoorie-Happy Valley in northern India alone, some 1,700 children are growing up. SOS mothers receive support from several ‘family assistants’ who help them to care for the children. SOS Children also run seven schools which are open to all Tibetan children, including those whose parents have survived with them. The Villages and schools teach the children traditional Tibetan values and culture.
As the Chairman of the Tibetan Children's Villages, The Dalai Lama was the chief guest at the golden jubilee celebrations. He was joined by many other dignitaries – including the Honorary President of SOS Children's Villages International, Helmut Kutin - and hundreds of children, young people and staff from the neighbourhood and from abroad.
Children from various different Tibetan Children’s Villages and SOS Schools put on a performance for the assembly. Despite heavy rainfall, they marched to the beat of drums, and performed traditional songs and dances.
Their performance was followed by official speeches. The President of SOS Children International Helmut Kutin said: "You all have found a home here. The home country is in my mind and in my heart and this is stronger than any location. You are fantastic children, you are beautiful children. Take care of each other."
In his address, the Dalai Lama thanked everyone who contributed to the work of the organisation in the past five decades: "Today, when we are celebrating the 50th anniversary, everything has gone very well and I'd like to thank all of you. The Homes Foundation has asked us all not to lose hope but to keep our homeland in mind, which is a very good advice."
After lunch, the Dalai Lama and other guests viewed a photo exhibition about the 50 years of the Tibetan Homes Foundation. He also met with sponsors and friends from abroad whom he thanked on behalf of the Tibetan people for their support for SOS Children’s projects.
Read more about SOS Children's Villages for Tibetan children.