(Photographer: Ahmad Firoz)
(5/7/2014): SOS Mother Chittilakshmi proudly displays the pretty handbag given to her by siblings Arthi and Saranya. She is even more proud of their immense accomplishments over the past decade.
“The children watched their mother and sister die in front of their eyes during the tsunami 10 years ago. The initial years were very difficult. Saranya, who was in sixth grade at the time, would cry at night for her mother. She would also sleepwalk and try to run away. I would stay awake at night to look after her,” the SOS Mother said.
“She would be irritable, and wet her bed for many years, but I would tell her ‘Don’t be nervous; I will be here for you for the rest of my life.’”
Arthi, 17, nods in agreement. She is visiting SOS Children’s Village Puducherry from the Pondicherry Institute of Medical Science where she is studying to be a nurse.
“After coming to SOS, I felt happy,” the young woman said.
“What I like best about SOS is the love that exists here, and the value of a family. I don’t plan to ever say goodbye to anyone here.”
SOS Mothers struggled to help traumatized children in the initial years after the tsunami. SOS launched yoga and dance programs, art camps, and other activities to help support the childrens’ healing process.
Twenty year-old Shagila, currently pursuing a Bachelor of Commerce degree, recalls coming to SOS after her mother and younger brother died in the tsunami.
“Shagila used to be a loner, not speaking to anyone, so I asked children who were from the same native village to talk with her and keep her engaged in play,” SOS Mother Banumathi said.
“Gradually Shagila decided to join activities such as dance, drawing classes, and watching television. She began to eat dinner with the other children and today after so many years, her face finally looks happy.”
These children haven’t just rebuilt lives that the tsunami disrupted a decade ago. They’ve also built foundations for new beginnings – a feat possible in large part because of the love, support and encouragement of their SOS Mothers.
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