"I think I can still help those children."
Maria Mercedes' experience is somewhat special because it's the second time in her life that she is mother to young children.
She split up with her husband several years ago. She has three beautiful daughters; two are already married and have their own children. The youngest has a good job and is probably the one who supports her mother most. She is single and is very happy with her mother's work. She helps her mother in every way and is almost as committed to the children's well-being as Maria is.
Maria Mercedes' story at SOS Children's Villages
Maria Mercedes and her SOS family
As time went by, Maria Mercedes realized that her daughters would eventually marry and have a new life and that she was still very young to wait for her daughters to visit and to play with her grandchildren from time to time. "That was when I decided to dedicate my life to building a future for boys and girls who need it," she says confidently.
Even on her first visit to the village she realized that she had made the right decision. "...Living with boys and girls in a space specially designed for this purpose... I liked it very much and I stayed," she remembers fondly. "I explored the premises with my daughter and got to know the people that work here. The boys and girls were calmly doing their chores, others were playing... I liked the atmosphere immediately."
More than two years have passed since then. As long as her thesis is approved, Maria Mercedes will receive her SOS mother diploma in a ceremony that is scheduled to be held in March.
She's been in charge of an SOS family for a year now, with Leidy (18), Angie (17), Julian and Jose Luis (15), Diana (14), Luisa Maria and Marisol (12), and Nicolas, Kenner and Angie Lizette (9).
Portrait of Maria Mercedes
Maria Mercedes first read about SOS Children's Villages in Colombia in a classified advert on the Internet. The organization was looking for mothers. After she was accepted, she studied at an SOS mother's school in the city of Rio Negro, near Medellín, where she received complete theoretical and practical training for a year, which included hands-on training as an SOS aunt (family helper) in several villages throughout the country. Particularly since last year, she has been in charge of a family as SOS mother, and expects receive her diploma soon. Then, she will have completed her training as a certified professional in child care.
Meanwhile, Maria Mercedes' three biological daughters are important to her work. They visit her at the weekends, help her to organize things, and accompany her on outings with the children. They have got to know each other so well that they consider themselves to be part of one big family.