Millions of Hindus from then East Pakistan fled to India during the war in 1971, when Bangladesh became an independent state. In order to try to help the numerous orphans, an SOS Children's Village was set up at Bidhannagar, Salt Lake City, east of the city of Kolkata (Calcutta) in 1975. The first children moved into this SOS Children's Village in 1977. SOS Children's Village Kolkata consists of 14 family houses, a multi-purpose hall, staff accommodation and the necessary administration and service area. There is a playground where the children can romp around and have fun. The SOS Children's Village has its own sick bay where the inhabitants can get medical treatment. Most children attend schools in the neighbourhood.
In 1991, an SOS Youth Facility was opened at Kolkata. Young people usually move from the SOS Children's Village to an SOS Youth Facility when they start a vocational training course or go on to higher education. With the support of qualified youth workers, the young people develop realistic perspectives for their future, learn to shoulder responsibility and increasingly make their own decisions. They are encouraged to develop team spirit and build up contacts with relatives and friends, as well as with the relevant authorities and potential employers.
SOS Children's Villages has set up a home for retired SOS mothers at SOS Children's Village Kolkata.
In 2003, SOS Children's Villages India launched its family strengthening programmes in Kolkata. These programmes are intended to support families at risk of abandoning their children and to encourage families to stay together. SOS Children's Villages therefore works with local authorities and other service providers to support families and enable them to take good care of their children.
The Kolkata family strengthening programme provides nutritional, educational and health support as well as vocational training, career counselling sessions and job placement support. Families are linked with existing self-help groups; if there is no group, a new one is formed. The programme also aims at raising awareness of hygiene and child rights and improving people's parenting skills.