Located in the south-east of India, Bylakuppe is situated in the Mysore region, within the state of Karnataka. Two Tibetan communities having been living in the region since the 1960s. Set up by the Indian government, these settlements were established for Tibetan refugees after the 1959 Tibetan uprising.
In the first wave of refugees, roughly 3,000 Tibetans were settled in Bylakuppe. Since then the numbers have increased till the present day. Now home to over 10,000 residents, these two settlements are the second largest population of Tibetans in India. Because of this, the region has experienced growth in the tourist sector. Many travellers come here from all over the world to experience Tibetan culture, and their way of life.
A rising population struggle with limited resources
Since their arrival, the populations main priority was to become a self-sufficient community. By using modern farming methods they produced a wide range of crops including vegetables, ginger, maize and rice. In addition to their agricultural work, they have also been able to develop the public service sector. There are many shops and restaurants in the village.
However, because the size of their territory remains the same, the crops farmed from the land are not enough to feed the population. This is because many Tibetans in the settlements are unable to buy land as they don’t have Indian citizenship.
Vulnerable children in struggle in Tibet
With growing levels of unemployment in the region, there is an increasing number of families unable to provide for their children. The schools and daycare centres within the region are also becoming unable to cope with the high numbers of children. As a result, many parents are forced to leave their children at home when they go to work.
Although many children in the communities have been able to access schooling, they encounter problems when trying to further their education. If they do not hold legal Indian status, they are unable to get scholarships. Without this educational grant to fund them, many are unable to afford the fees. Without being able to further their education, many young Tibetans are left with no choice other than to find work in the informal sector.
How we help in Bylakuppe
Working within the settlement
We have been working within the Tibetan settlements since 1982. With so many refugees being resettled in the Karnataka state, we decided to focus our efforts in Bylakuppe. Here, we provide a variety of services, including primary and secondary schools, as well as daycare and medical treatment centres. We also have have our own farm where we grow corn.
The main focus of our work within the community are education and daycare services. By providing children with a place to go during the day, parents no longer have to leave them at home alone.
Giving a child another chance
Despite our help, there are still occasions when children need more of our support. If they are unable to receive sufficient care within their family, they can find a loving home in our SOS Children’s Village.
Here, they are able to grow up alongside other children from the Village, while receiving the loving care of their new SOS mother. There are many SOS mothers in our village, each with a family of children whom they care for. Each family lives in its own home so children can start to benefit from a safe upbringing in a caring atmosphere.
Once the children have become settled in the village, they are able to attend our nurseries as well as our primary and secondary schools. Here they are able to play, learn and study alongside other children from the settlement. This helps them integrate back into the wider community while having the chance to prepare for their future.
As time goes on, the older children from our Village become ready to leave their SOS families. We have several SOS youth centres in Bylakuppe which help them them progress to adult life. With the guidance and support of their SOS mothers, they choose between educational courses and vocational training. With the assistance and support of qualified professionals, they are able to take the first steps towards independent life.
As the population of the Tibetan settlements continues to rise, children all over the community continue to suffer from neglect. We provide support to families, and a loving home to children with no one else.