Mussoorie is a town located in Uttarakhand state, in the upper north of India. Around 30,000 people live here, in this town nicknamed “Queen of the Hills” at an altitude of 2,000 meters.
5,000 Tibetan refugees live in exile in Mussoorie, where they try to make a life for themselves in the harsh living conditions in the rural mountainous area of Uttarakhand. Children are most vulnerable to these difficult living situations.
Since 1962, Tibetan Homes Foundation (an independent charity which is partly supported through SOS Children’s Villages sponsorships) has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Mussoorie.
Uttarakhand, where Mussoorie is located, is mostly rural, with 70% of the population living in towns scattered throughout the mountains. This makes it hard for people to access health care and education.
Furthermore, there is a lack of proper roads and transportation possibilities. This makes economic development in the area difficult, with 40% of people living below the poverty line in the rural areas.
Uttarakhand, sadly, is high on the list of Hill states in cases of human trafficking, which could be partly due to the proximity of the Nepalese border. Children are most vulnerable to these difficult living conditions.
Nowadays, two generations of Tibetans have been born and brought up in exile in India, after the first emigration in 1959. Moreover, new refugees are still travelling from Tibet, autonomous region of China.
They have often suffered repression and brutality, which has led them to flee to India. The scars of such experiences remain with them.
An estimated 5,000 Tibetan refugees live in exile in Mussoorie. Many Tibetan children are sent to Mussoorie by their parents who see this as the only way that their child will obtain a Tibetan education.