SOS Children's Villages has been working in Sanothimi just outside Kathmandu for four decades. As the city is growing, a lack of funds and urban planning means that thousands of families live in precarious conditions. An increasing number of children need our support.
Life is tough in an ever-expanding metropolis
A young girl who is now able to attend school thanks to the SOS Social Centre (photo: L. W. Nielsen)
SOS Children’s Village Sanothimi is located just ten kilometres from the centre of Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital city. It was the first children’s village in Nepal and has been supporting vulnerable children and families for four decades now. Kathmandu is located in the Himalayas at an altitude of around 1,300 metres in Kathmandu Valley and has a population of just over one million, with 1.7 million living in Kathmandu district.
The region is the economic heart of the country. Whereas once internally displaced people came here by the thousands in search of safety, today the city continues to attract people from impoverished and underdeveloped rural areas. This rapid population growth has put incredible strain on the existing infrastructure in Kathmandu and also poses a threat to the ecosystems of the valley. Rivers are becoming polluted due to the lack of sewerage and wastewater treatment systems, which in turn endangers the health of the local population.
Informal settlements characterised by substandard housing are expanding on the outskirts of the city. Land is cheaper here and no building permits are needed, so many migrants buy a plot in these semi-rural areas. Infrastructure such as water supply and sanitation are not available here, nor is road access.
Children growing up in these circumstances are often denied their basic rights. When parents struggle to make ends meet, the care and attention they are able to devote to their children is often inadequate. Around 5,000 children are estimated to be living on the streets of Kathmandu. These children fend for themselves, trying to earn some money in any way they can. They are at great risk of suffering sexual abuse or violence, and of falling into drug and alcohol abuse. Severe health and emotional problems, illiteracy and social marginalisation are some of the possible consequences for these children.
Support for the whole family
The SOS Social Centre in Kathmandu runs a family strengthening programme to support struggling families in the neighbourhood. The programme focuses on enabling children to attend school, by providing scholarships for school fees, text books and school uniforms, for example. We also assist families with food, medical treatment or with repairing their homes where needed. It is our aim to strengthen families in such a way so that children will be safe and protected, receive an education and grow up to be confident and successful adults.
What we do in Sanothimi
Children playing outside in SOS Children Village Sanothimi (photo: SOS archives).
For children from Kathmandu Valley whose families can no longer take care of them, 16 SOS families can provide a loving home. In each family the children live with their brothers and sisters, affectionately cared for by their SOS mother. They attend the SOS Hermann Gmeiner School, where they are taught together with children from local families, which helps them become part of the community. The school offers primary and secondary education for 840 pupils.
Once the children reach adolescence, they usually move on to the SOS Youth Programme when they start vocational training or go on to higher education. With the support of qualified professionals, the young people develop 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.
The young adults also have the option of attending the SOS Vocational Training Centre, where courses in ceramics are offered. The skills acquired during the six-month course enable the students to generate an income and provide for themselves.
After the strong earthquake caused widespread damage and suffering, SOS Children’s Villages co-workers from SOS Children’s Village Sanothimi offered emergency help - in the form of food, first aid, water and shelter - to local families in need.