SOS Children's Villages has been present in India since 1963, our work developed rapidly all over the country and we started our activities in Gopalpur in 1998. In this northern Indian location, near Dharamsala, we support Tibetan refugees who have left their homeland and settled here.
What we do in Gopalpur
SOS Children's Village Gopalpur provides day-care, medical treatment, primary and secondary education, as well as family-based care. SOS Children's Villages for Tibetans generally have many more inhabitants than other SOS Children's Villages due to the large number of Tibetan refugees. In this case, the village has its own grocery store, bakery and communal kitchen.
Children who have lost parental care can live in one of the 35 SOS families alongside their brothers and sisters. Due to the great number of orphaned and abandoned children, SOS families may have up to thirty members and sometimes even more. Young people live in special accommodation while they start vocational training or go on to higher education. There are two such houses - one for girls and one for boys. With the support of qualified professionals the young adults are guided through this new stage of their lives.
Young children from the village and from surrounding families go to the SOS Kindergarten. Having a place where a professional looks after their children while they are at work or receive training makes life easier for parents. As the children grow older, the SOS school provides them with a primary and secondary education in accordance with their Tibetan beliefs.
The SOS Medical Centre provides medical advice and treatment to people from the village and to those from the surrounding neighbourhoods.
Supporting Tibetans in exile
The SOS Children's Village for Tibetans in Gopalpur is located in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. It is about 30 kilometres from Dharamsala, the centre of Tibetans living in exile. The number of Tibetans living in the area has increased steadily since 1959 when the Dalai Lama fled China and set up his residence in Dharamsala. There are now two generations of Tibetans who have been born and brought up in exile. In addition, children from Tibet are often sent here by their parents who see this as the only way that their child will obtain a Tibetan education.
The Central Tibetan Administration, based in Dharamsala, aims to protect and promote Tibetan culture. In India, it runs schools and health care centres. It provides training courses and small loans so that the unemployed and young people can generate an income. However, as refugees continue to arrive from Tibet, there is a growing pressure on resources.
In spite of efforts to create income-generating enterprises, the levels of unemployment remain high. As a result, there are an increasing number of families who struggle to make a living. People continue to arrive from Tibet, and the new arrivals have often suffered repression and brutality which has led them into exile. The scars of such experiences remain with them as they try to rebuild a new life for themselves and their families in exile.
Supporting the victims of the Tibetan struggle
As the number of people and children from Tibet arriving in the Dharamsala area continued to increase, SOS Children's Villages for Tibetans decided to start another long-term programme in the area. All the children in our SOS families have lost parental care; while some children have no living parents, others have parents who are in Tibet, in other locations throughout India, or have moved further away.