Pokhara is the starting point for many expeditions into the surrounding mountains, drawing thousands of tourists to the city each year. However, life for the local population continues to be marked by inequality. Many children start out life at a disadvantage.
Children from Tibet, autonomous region of China, suffer social marginalisation
Children playing in the garden of the children’s village (photo: SOS archives)
SOS Children's Village Pokhara is situated in central Nepal and cares for children from Tibet, autonomous region of China. A second village for Nepali children, SOS Children's Village Gandaki, is located nearby. Pokhara has a population of over 250,000, making it Nepal’s second largest city. It is located at an altitude of up to 1,700 metres in the foothills of the Annapurna mountain range, which makes it a very popular destination for tourists from around the world. Although Pokhara wasn´t affected by the earthquake in 2015, the number of tourists visiting the city has fallen, and this has brought difficulties to those catering for tourists.
The city’s population is ethnically quite diverse, and there are four Tibetan settlements here, where up to 4,000 Tibetans have been living for many decades.Around 20,000 Tibetans live in Nepal, and an estimated 3,000 continue to arrive from across the border each year. For the old, the weak and for children the difficult journey and the life they face in Nepal’s camps for Tibetans are incredibly tough. Tibetan children do not have Nepalese citizenship, even when they are born here, Tibetans in Nepal are not allowed to own land, houses, cars or any other property, nor can they start a business.
Thousands of children do not have a fair chance in life
Thousands of poor families live on the margins of society in Nepal, which means that their children are born into a life of disadvantage, where they do not have the same opportunities to develop their full potential as other children. When parents are struggling just to provide for their children’s most basic needs such as food and shelter, the children’s emotional, educational and psychological needs are often neglected.
The SOS Social Centre in Pokhara reaches out to struggling families in the neighbouring communities and provides a family strengthening programme for underprivileged families from Tibet, autonomous region of China. One of the main pillars of the programme is to ensure that children can attend school. Many parents cannot afford to send their children to school as the costs for tuition, school uniforms and books are too high for them. By granting such children a “Hermann Gmeiner Scholarship”, which covers all costs associated with attending school, we enable children to study, thus providing the basis for them to go on to higher education or vocational training. Their chances later in life are therefore greatly improved.
What we do in Pokhara
An SOS family going to school (photo: SOS archives)
SOS Children’s Villages began its work in Pokhara with the construction of a home for Tibetan children in 1975 due to the great number of children who were without parental care. An SOS Children’s Village was then opened in the village of Chhorepatan near Pokhara in 1978 in order to give children a more permanent home.
Care in SOS families: Today, children from Tibet, autonomous region of China who have lost or been separated from their parents can find a loving home in one of 15 SOS families. The children live with their brothers and sisters, affectionately cared for by their SOS mother.
Next to the children’s village is the Tashi-ling Tibetan Refugee Camp, and there are lots of joint celebrations to keep social and cultural traditions alive. The children from the refugee camp also attend our kindergarten and schools.
Education: Together with Nepali and Tibetan children from the neighbourhood, the children from SOS families attend the SOS Kindergarten and the SOS primary and secondary schools, which provide a solid educational foundation. The SOS Vocational Training Centre in Pokhara offers courses in different crafts and trades so that the young people can make a living. It also includes dormitories for male and for female students.
Support for young people: Young people from SOS families who are ready to move out of home in order to study or receive vocational training can join the SOS Youth Programme, where they live together, supervised and guided by a professional counsellor as they make the transition into independent adulthood.
Emergency Programme: In 2015, after the strong earthquake caused widespread damage and suffering, SOS Children’s Villages co-workers from SOS Children’s Village Pokhara offered emergency help - in the form of food, first aid, water and shelter - to local families in need. We also set up two Child Friendly Spaces. These provided day care and food to children from families who had been affected by the natural disaster.