Our village in Dharamsala is located at the base of the Dhauladhar Mountains, in the Himalayas. Ever since the Tibetan uprising in 1959, refugees have been arriving at the settlement in exile. With the population rising year-on-year, many families have been struggling with the region's limited resources.
Dharamsala plays an important part in the history of the Tibetan refugees. Ever since 1959, the Dalai Lama has been living in the settlement, along with the rest of the exiled Tibetan government.
Today, Dharamsala is home to the largest settlement in India. With an estimated 10,400 residents, many of the people living here were born in India. Families all over Tibet continue to send their children to Dharamsala, in the hope that these children can receive a proper education.
Population struggles with a lack of resources
Tourists from all around the world travel to India to visit the Tibetan settlements. Many people are attracted to Dharamsala to see its monasteries and temples. This has helped many of the residents, providing them with livelihoods in the tourist industry. It is also popular place for people to learn about the way Tibetans live in exile.
As the population in Dharamsala continues to grow, the resources surrounding the settlement are becoming more scarce. The most popular crops are vegetables ginger, rice and maize. However, even though farmers are using modern agricultural methods, the limited land available has caused a food shortage in the region. Many residents in the settlements are unable to buy land because they are not legally Indian citizens.
Children caught up in the Tibetan struggle
As the competition for work becomes higher, many families are becoming unable to provide for their children. Even when parents do find work, they are still faced with difficult challenges. There are daycare centres in the region. However, nearly all are at full capacity. Because of this, parents are faced with little choice except leaving their children at home while they go to work.
There is a similar problem with the region's primary and secondary schools. Although many children in the region are benefiting from education, the schools are unable to take on any more pupils. Many children miss out on their chance to learn and often end up working to provide income for their family.
Helping in Dharamsala
Supporting the community
When we arrived in the settlement in 1963, it quickly became clear how the community could benefit. Many families needed improved schools and nurseries. Today, our SOS school is providing more children with access to primary and secondary school education. Our SOS nursery is also looking after many children from all over Dharamsala. In doing so, we provide many parents with an alternative to leaving their children at home.
A new life in our Children’s Village
Sadly, there are still many cases in Dharamsala where children end up losing parental care. In this situation, we are able to provide them with a loving new home in our SOS Children’s Village. Here, each child receives parental care in a warm family environment.
When a child first arrives at our Children’s Village, they are greeted with a warm welcome by their new SOS mother. Once the they are feeling comfortable, their mother shows them around, introducing them to all the other children from the village. There are many SOS mothers in our Children’s Village, each caring for the children in family-sized groups. These family groups each have their own home in the village, where they can learn, play and grow up alongside their SOS brothers and sisters.
Upon arrival, the younger children in our village can attend the SOS nursery, while the older children can attend our schools. This helps them mix with all the other children from around Dharamsala.
As time goes on in the Village, the older children feel ready leave their SOS families and continue on their journey to independence. With the support of their SOS mother and the guidance of qualified professionals, they can pick a suitable course at our SOS youth programme. Here they can choose between vocational training courses, or move on to higher education.
Many Tibetan children and families are continuing to live a hard life in exile. By working within the community, we make sure the children receive help when there is no one else.