Princess Salimah Aga Khan visiting a SOS Children's Village in Marseille
It all started in French Polynesia in 1995, when Princess Salimah Aga Khan happened to hear about the construction of SOS Children's Village Papara in Tahiti. One year later, Her Highness attended the official opening of the new Village. This was then followed by a large number of visits and events, at which the cosmopolitan Princess demonstrated her commitment as an advocate of the organization and its work.
Numerous meetings with children and mothers at SOS Children's Villages in a wide variety of countries, including South Africa, Romania and Egypt, have strengthened Princess Salimah Aga Khan's conviction that the SOS Children's Village model represents one of the best possible forms of family-centred child care.
On November 5, 2000 at the inauguration of a SOS Children's Village in Tibet and an SOS Hermann Gmeiner Secondary School in Gopalpur, near Dharamsala, SOS-Kinderdorf International President Helmut Kutin appointed Princess Salimah Aga Khan as the first SOS-Kinderdorf International Ambassador for Children.
In his speech, Kutin expressed his belief that, through her official duties, the Ambassador would not only make a significant material contribution to the development of SOS Children's Villages worldwide but would also open up her heart for children in her own unique way.
Princess Salimah Aga Khan replied that her appointment was a great honor for her, one that she accepted in all due humility. In the Princess' eyes the worthiest ambassadors of the child-care model created by Hermann Gmeiner are the children and their SOS Children's Village Mothers, who live together in peaceful coexistence in their diverse cultural groups throughout the world.