For 16 years Abebech Kibret served the children and staff of the SOS Village in Addis Ababa as a cook. But she dreamt of doing more for the young people who obviously adored her. This dream came true in 2002 when she was officially appointed as an SOS aunt.

“Yes, yes, yes! Aunt Abebech is coming to us!” is the excited cry often heard when children hear Abebech will be standing in for their SOS mothers on their days off or when they take annual leave.

Abebech or “Abi” entertains a group of small children at the SOS village in Addis Ababa.

There are many reasons why Abebech, or Abi as she is the children call her, is beloved by the children at the SOS village. She makes time to play with them, listen to them and understands their problems. When the older kids have to study, she entertains the smaller ones. She is also well known for her delicious food. She enjoys cooking the children’s favourite meals on top of the daily menu.

Her relationship with the children under her care far outlasts their stay in the SOS village. For example, when former SOS children Hana and Elsa got married and gave birth to their first children, it was Abebech who played the mother role according to Ethiopian culture. She also receives regular phone calls and visits from former SOS Children’s Village young people to whom she is still a mother figure.

“When I think about the good deeds of aunt Abebech, my eyes fill with tears of joy. I don’t know where to start, but I can only say that I wouldn’t be here if she was not by my side next to my SOS mother,” said a former SOS child who is now a kindergarten teacher.

The Helmut Kutin award is given annually to exceptional SOS staff around the world who have made a difference in the lives of children. A separate award is given annually to youth leaders within the SOS global family.