|Ban Soon-taek, wife of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, is greeted at the Bisauni drop-in centre for street children in Kathmandu, Nepal.|
By Ashma Shrestha Basnet
KATHMANDU, Nepal, 3 November 2008 – “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.”
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 organization, 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.
|Mrs. Ban observes some of the recreational activities provided for vulnerable children at the Bisauni drop-in centre.|
“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 organizations like UNICEF to help guide you.”