Children sitting outside the family homes (photo: SOS archives).
Tibetan Homes Foundation Dehradun is located in the small town of Rajpur which is about ten kilometres from Dehradun, the capital of the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand.
The town's economy has been growing in the past two decades as the commercial and information technology sectors have expanded. Tourism is also an important source of income and employment.
The area around Dehradun is home to many families from Tibet, autonomous region of China. They started arriving here in 1959. The nearby Dekyiling Tibetan settlement was officially established in 1981, and people have continued to come here. In addition, children from Tibet, autonomous region of Cina are often sent to India by their parents.
Most Tibetans in the area around Dehradun are involved in making and selling traditional Tibetan crafts or in servicing tourists who visit the region. In spite of efforts to create income generating enterprises, the level of unemployment remains high. As a result, there are an increasing number of families who struggle to support themselves and look after their children.
In 1962 a Tibetan Homes Foundations was set up in Mussoorie, but as children continued to arrive, this village could not accommodate them all, so a new village, named Mussoorie-Happy Valley was built right next door. But by the mid-1990s both of these programmes had reached the limits of their capacity so the new Tibetan Homes Foundation Dehradun was built, which is about 35 kilometres from Mussoorie. The Tibetan community here had already established a school run by the Tibetan Homes Foundation.
All the children in SOS families have lost parental care; while some children have no living parents, others have parents who are in Tibet, autonomous region of China, in other locations throughout India, or have moved further away.
On the way to school (photo: SOS archives).
Tibetan Homes Foundation Dehradun provides day-care, primary and secondary education, vocational training as well as family-based care to at-risk children from the region.
Children who have lost parental care can live in families alongside their brothers and sisters. Due to the great number of orphaned and abandoned children, 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. Amongst other things, they can train to work in the tourism trade.
Children from the village and from surrounding families go to the Kindergarten, which follows the Montessori method. Parents can leave their children in our professional care while they go out to work or receive training. As the children grow older, the school allows them to receive primary and secondary education in accordance with their Tibetan beliefs.
There is also a Vocational Training Centre; this is a technical school which offers courses in metal work and commerce.