ORURO, Bolivia—Twenty-six years ago, Tuca was searching for a job related to her degree in chemistry when she heard a job ad on the radio for SOS Mothers in Bolivia. She applied, thinking it was a good chance to give back to the community for a few years.
After starting her new job as an SOS Mother, however, she quickly became too attached to her children to leave. Her plans for a short stay at the SOS Village turned into a lifelong role as mother to the 26 orphaned, abandoned and other vulnerable children whom she’s raised over the years.
“What keeps me going is the feeling that I am important to someone else and that with my support the children are able to grow in so many different ways,” Tuca said in a recent interview about her role as SOS Mother. “I love watching the kids prepare for school. I love helping them with their studies and motivating them to be better,” she added.
One of the children whom Tuca is particularly proud of is Carla. At just 6 months old, Carla arrived to the SOS Village in Oruro and was welcomed by Tuca into her new family. Carla'mom had died shortly after she was born, and her father had abandoned her.
When she was 8 years old, Carla was diagnosed with a learning disability. Her teachers were pessimistic about her ability to keep pace with the other students. Carla struggled most in language and math courses.
Tuca, however, made sure that Carla always believed in herself.
“Sometimes the only thing children really need is a voice of encouragement and love to develop,” Tuca said. “I have always respected Carla for who she is while at the same time pushing her to achieve even more.”
Carla is welcomed into her new home by Tuca when she is just 6 months old (left); Carla dons a red dress at her home at SOS Village in Oruro, Bolivia.
On trips to the grocery store or doctor’s office, Carla would always bring a notebook to practice math and writing with Carla. She used to stay up late with Carlaat night to help her with homework.
“I always reminded her that it was up to her. When Carla couldn’t get the writing correct, I always motivated her by telling her that that she could do it, and she would keep trying,” Tuca said.
Carla worked very hard in school to keep up with the other students. She made honor roll in high school and went on to get a degree in food and hospitality. She now works in a restaurant and is continuing her education at night to specialize in baking with the hope of opening her own bakery.
“Carla is a source of inspiration not only for me but also for her brothers and sisters,” Tuca said. “She has proven that there is no obstacle that can stop us from realizing our dreams.”
Like Carla, many of Tuca’s children have stable jobs doing what they love. “Carla is just an example of all children who are with us in the SOS Village,” she said. “When I look back, I realize that every word and ever gesture we express to the children has an effect on their future. I feel so proud of Carla and my 25 other children. I would never change anything for the opportunity of being an SOS Mother.”
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