(Photo: Katerina Ilievska)
Ramzia has been an SOS Mother in SOS Children's Village Plagiari for thirteen years. She describes her calling as a personal challenge and a life-changing experience.
"I started out as an aunt in this house for a period of six months," Ramzia remembers. "The three children got used to me and when I became their SOS Mother, nothing much changed for us. The real challenge came when three new siblings arrived. They were scared and confused, and kept to themselves.”
"On their first night, I gave each of them a bath and put them to bed. Apostolis, 6, was the last one. As I put his pajamas on, he asked me, 'Where's the mother?' The whole day he kept hearing that there would be a mother. I told him, 'It's me, son. I am your mother.' He looked at me with disbelief. I stroked his hair and kissed his cheek. He dived into a hug and whispered 'Good night, mom.'"
Eleni, now a 7-year-old girl, was another new arrival. Due to the trauma in her past life, the word mother had a negative meaning. "I let each child decide what they wanted to call me," explains Ramzia. "Those that come at an older age usually prefer ‘Auntie.’ It was the same with Eleni, or so I thought."
While still struggling with issues from her own biological family, Eleni began discovering another side to having a mother – one completely opposite of the one she’d known. She learned what it was like to have a mother who gives tenderness, warmth, hugs, affection and unconditional love. A mother who is there for her, a mother who makes sure she brushes her teeth and does her homework, a mother who tucks her in and kisses her goodnight. The new experience brought with it a need to give the word another try.
"She asked me to play a game," says Ramzia. "We played house. She was the daughter, I was the mother. At breakfast, the daughter said 'good morning.' Then they did the dishes together and folded the laundry. The mother started the lunch and the daughter said 'Can I help you, mom?' Ever since then, Eleni calls me mom.”
Mom, mom, mom!
The ‘mascot’ of Ramzia's home is three-and-a-half-year-old Nikos. With less than a year in the house, the puppy-eyed boy is everyone's favorite. His own favorite person is not hard to figure out. At any time of day, Nikos can be found clinging to Ramzia’s hand.
"His need for a mother was apparent from day one," says Ramzia. The boy lived with a relative, separated from his older sister. The siblings reunited in Ramzia's home, finding the family love and warmth they missed in their earliest childhood. Here, in the blink of an eye, Nikos found his mom.
"When I put him to bed and then go check on the others, he yells after me," smiles Ramzia. "He goes around the house yelling 'mom, mom, mom' all day. Once I told him he doesn't have to call me all day, that I'm here."
"I like to hear the word mom," the little one replied.
This story is part of a month-long series telling the stories of women and mothers around the world. The series is part of the SOS Children’s Villages – USA ‘Celebrate Mothers. Empower Women’ campaign. You can find more stories, free eGifts and more at CelebrateMoms.org