When a child arrives at an SOS Children's Village, they often have complex needs. Many are orphaned, and others have been abandoned. With difficult, sad starts in life, they need dedicated care to overcome past traumas and flourish in their new home. What they need is a loving parent.
SOS mothers are the inspiring women who provide long-term and nurturing care to children growing up in an SOS Village. Each SOS mother looks after a group of children, and together they live as a family. The close bond and attachment that children have with their SOS mother often lasts a lifetime.
Across the world, there are more than 5,250 SOS mothers caring for almost 62,000 children in 546 SOS Children's Villages. Here, three SOS mothers share their stories.
Marie is an SOS Mother in Kigali, Rwanda
20 years ago, genocide swept Rwanda. It is estimated that five out of six children who had been in the country at the time witnessed bloodshed. It was in the aftermath of the catastrophe, when countless orphans had lost their families, that Marie decided to become an SOS mother.
Since 1994, Marie has been an SOS mother to 29 children, including the seven she currently cares for at our Children's Village in Kigali. Marie, who lost her husband in the genocide, says, “I didn’t have children with my husband. Those kids in my care are the children I always wished to have”.
Loving care helped children overcome the past
Marie first cared for five little children between the ages of one month and three years,
“My trauma was controllable compared to that of the children. At the beginning, the children didn’t want to talk at all about what they had gone through. I tried to put myself in their shoes. I took them out for picnics, for shopping, to change the environment.”
Gradually, with love and care, the children began to trust Marie and feel safe in their new home. These children have now become independent adults, and their achievements include university degrees.
“Today I have mostly young children in my family”, who were born long after the genocide, “so we really don’t talk about it”, says Marie. “What I focus on is to help them avoid a mindset of hatred.”
Iulia is an SOS mother in Bucharest, Romania
In September 1993, Iulia Mira met her first children as an SOS Mother at our Children's Village in Bucharest. At the time, there were many orphanages in Romania. Sadly, these institutions were often overcrowded with not enough dedicated carers. As a result, children's development stunted and they suffered emotionally and physically.
When children who had spent their early years in these orphanages arrived at the SOS Children's Village in Bucharest, Iulia understood the neglect they had previously experienced. She also realised how much special care they needed, and that as their SOS mother she would be the one to provide it for them.
"Everything I gave to my children, I got back a thousand-fold"
Iuila touchingly explains how she nurtured these vulnerable children. Over time, she built up their confidence and trust.
"You need time to step inside children's traumas, to make children feel safe and secure. The most difficult part is to gain children's trust. Only long-term relations with a parent can instil trust with a child. Only then they can speak what's in their heart and find emotional balance. Without that, you just bathe, change and feed them.
Over the years, I came to realise that it's impossible not to find two or three good things a child has done during the day that you can praise him or her for. The most painful fact in children's lives is that they were abandoned. When they hear constant scolding, they project rejection. So instead I tell them "You look great, you're so polite to people, you help me in the kitchen". These phrases build up confidence and self-esteem.
I've raised 16 children and lived a thousand lives with them. I gave and give my heart, I spare no emotions. Everything I gave to my children, I got back thousand-folds. Every day I find a new thing about me, every day I learn new things. Through their stories, every day I learn to be a better person.
It's funny, I thought I'd be the one teaching, when in fact I'm the one being taught."
Muniye is an SOS Mother in Tlokweng, Botswana
Here you can watch Muniye from SOS Children's Village Tlokweng explain what the most important thing is as an SOS mother.
"Before (they came here) nobody was loving the children or caring for them. Now they are here, I have to give them warm love, proper education and proper health. I do feel like a parent. They ask for me as their mother. I am a parent here"
How will you say thank you to your mum?
There are so many ways to thank your mum, grandma or another carer who supported you as you grew up. Here are a few gift ideas from SOS Children.
- Send a free Mother's Day ecard
- Instead of a traditional gift, why not help to train an SOS mother?
- Sign up to give as you live for SOS Children, then donate as you shop.
Thank you to mothers around the world for nurturing the future generation. We especially thank SOS mothers, who provide loving care for over 62,000 children around the world. Learn about SOS mothers and read more of their stories.