Dharamsala is the winter capital of the state of Himachal Pradesh, in the upper north of India. Around 31,000 people live in this city. The Central Tibetan Administration is located in the city, and the Dalai Lama settled here in 1959, making it the centre of Tibetan exile in India. As Tibetans try to make a life for themselves in exile, they face many challenges. Children are most vulnerable to these difficult living conditions.
Since 1971, Tibetan Children’s Villages (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 Dharamsala.
Himachal Pradesh, where Dharamsala is located, is one of the best perfroming states in terms of human development indicators. However, food insecurity is still recurrent, and many people still suffer from acute hunger. Parents in Himachal Pradesh struggle to provide enough nutritious food for their children. And thus, 25% of children are underweight. To be more specific, 30% of children in Himachal Pradesh experience stunting (low height for age), a result from undernutrition. Furthermore, 17% of children experience wasting (low weight for height), which occurs when a child has not had food of adequate quality and quantity.
To date, 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 which has led them to flee to India. The scars of such experiences remain with them. An estimated 90,000 Tibetan refugees live in exile in India. Dharamsala is home to the Central Tibetan Administration, and to the 14th Dalai Lama. Many Tibetan children are sent to Dharamsala by their parents who see this as the only way that their child will obtain a Tibetan education.