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Nepal’s street children get a stately call

Nov 05, 2008

Ban Soon-taek, wife of the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon encouraged children at a rehabilitation centre to study hard and aspire for higher goals. The centre is run by NGO Voice of Children that works towards taking children off the streets to make them self-reliant and skill trained.

Kathmandu: “My husband and I were born in the countryside in Korea. We didn’t have a good infrastructure for our schools then,” said Mrs. Ban Soon-taek, wife of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “Sometimes we had to study under a tree.”

Ban visit.jpg

Mrs. Ban was in Nepal with her husband, who was on an official visit to Nepal on Saturday. She joined UNICEF staff to visit the Bisauni drop-in centre for street children, run by the local non-governmental organisation, Voice of Children (VOC).

At the centre, two children, aged 14 and 15, eagerly asked her how they could become like the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

“My husband studied and worked very hard and this, coupled with his determination, made him the Secretary-General,” said Mrs. Ban. She encouraged the children never to lose hope, and to aspire to higher aims in life.

Vulnerable to exploitation

Bisauni, meaning ‘a place to rest’, was established in 2000 to rehabilitate street children in Nepal by helping to improve their living conditions. It works to reunite children with their families and helps them to be more self-reliant and self-confident.

“We want the children to be independent but live their lives away from the street,” said VOC President Krishna Thapa. “On the street, they are vulnerable to sexual exploitation, and many become involved in petty crimes, as well.”

VOC staff estimate that 80 per cent of the children who arrive at the centre have been sexually abused in some way.

Children can drop in at any time and take part in recreational activities. The centre also provides non-formal education and skills training for them.

'I see bright futures for you'

When Mrs. Ban arrived at the centre, she was welcomed with a song that portrayed the life of a street child.

She asked two children what they wanted to be when they grow up. One said: “I want to learn driving skills and be a driver to support my family.” The other replied: “I want to be an auto-mechanic.”

In response, Mrs. Ban told them: “I see bright futures for you with the very strong support of your friends and this centre, and lots of organisations like UNICEF to help guide you.”

Source : UNICEF
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