BELDANGI CAMP, Nepal, June 22 (UNHCR) – Conditions might be relatively tough in eastern Nepal’s Beldangi refugee camp, but for the past week or so the children there have been walking around with big happy faces.
The secret of their happiness lay in 41 large boxes that arrived in the camp earlier this month after being sent all the way from France’s Quai Branly Museum, which specializes in primitive and indigenous art, cultures and civilizations from Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas.
The cardboard boxes were crammed full with toys donated for refugee children under an annual drive organized by the museum in Paris and UNHCR’s office in the French capital. The precious cargo was flown for free to Nepal by the Aviation Sans Frontières charity.
Five-year-old Salina Sherpa was delighted with her new toys, a doll in a blue dress and a pink teddy bear. “This doll looks just like my friend – it is so beautiful.
I will play with her every day,” the little girl crowed.
“I always wanted a plane like this,” said 10-year-old Laxman Timilsina, clutching a blue toy aircraft. “It is great, it is just like the one I see every day flying over my hut. My father says that one day we will be going to America in a plane just like this.”
UNHCR staff distributed the toys to community based organizations for children in Beldangi and other camps in eastern Nepal. These house more than 66,000 refugees originating from Bhutan. A further 46,000 have been resettled in countries like the United States under a programme launched in 2008. Some of the refugees have lived in the Nepal camps for two decades.
Most of the families in the camp depend on humanitarian handouts and cannot afford to buy toys for their children. “All kids are in need of toys. Toys can create a great influence on the healthy growth of the child,” said Tila Maya Chamlagain, who is in-charge of a play centre in Beldangi.
In the past, the toys donated by schoolchildren in Paris have been given to young refugees in places like Chad, Liberia and Kenya. Rianawati, head of the UNHCR in the town of Damak, thanked the French children, the Quai Branly Museum and Aviation Sans Frontières.
By Nini Gurung and Pratibedan Baidya in Beldangi Camp, Nepal