Unlike anyone else in the world, mothers have the unique ability to be many different things at once; they are our role models, best friends, heroes. When we were young, mom got us out the door and to school on time. She gave us a shoulder to cry on; she laughed at our jokes. Without her, we may never have learned how to tie our shoelaces or truly understand what it means to be ourselves.
There are countless children around the world who have not been so lucky. These children grew up without knowing what it was like to carry a lunch packed specially for them to school, or fall asleep after a goodnight kiss.
However, these children have not gone unnoticed. In celebration of Mother’s Day, we want to share a few inspiring stories of World of Children Honorees who are taking motherhood to a whole new level. These extraordinary woman are helping the world’s most vulnerable children learn, grow, and dream, every step of the way.
Every day for the past 24 years, 2010 Humanitarian Honoree Leonor Portela (known as “Mama Leo” to the children in her program) has rescued children from the streets and saved the lives of abandoned children brought to her by the Guatemalan police.
Once, the police brought her a premature newborn who was left to die on the street. The doctors told her that he was too weak to survive, but Leonor was determined to save the newborn’s life. For days, she held him in her arms to provide “kangaroo care,” keeping him warm with her own body heat; she spent two hours throughout the day and night to carefully feed him.
Today, he is 11 years old.
“These are the things that make you go on and keep going,” Leonor said.
A parent of two adopted children herself, 2006 Health Honoree Dr. Jane Aronson is determined to be a mother for every child without parents of their own.
“(Whether) you give birth to a child or you adopt a child,” said Dr. Jane in an interview, “you have to accept the child with unconditional love and acceptance.”
One such child was Wadley, a three-year-old who had been abused and neglected. One day, he was outside with a group of children at one of Dr. Jane’s program sites in Haiti. Suddenly, he became frightened and ran away. Dr. Jane searched everywhere before finally finding him in a room by himself. She started speaking to him in French and gently stroking his arms and face. He slowly relaxed and fell asleep.
She is now doing everything in her power to keep Wadley and his family safe, from enrolling his mother in school part-time, to providing physical and psychological care for Wadley and his younger brother.
From the very first time she set foot in Nepal, 2005 Humanitarian Honoree Olga Murray felt intimately connected to the children there.
“I met children who were so poor, dressed in rags with nothing to eat and no toys, yet they were cheerful,” said Olga in the SF Gate. “It was a magical thing to me, and all they wanted was to go to school.”
Santosh Basnet was one of the very first children Olga took under her wing. Having run away from an abusive father, Santosh was living on the streets. One day, he was outside collecting water when a truck accidentally hit him, crushing his right arm. Alone and with no one to turn to, Santosh was taken to the hospital where his arm was amputated. That was when Olga showed up. She placed him in one of her group homes for orphaned boys, where the children considered Olga to be their second mother.
Now 27, Santosh has an MBA and recently started his own nonprofit, Sahayeta, which supports Nepalese refugees in the Bay Area.
“You know those fairy tales where you have fairy godmothers?” said Santosh in an ABC interview. “She’s just like that to me.”
Have an inspiring story about a mom in your life? Enter our “My Mom Rocks” contest by sharing her story with us, and she could be featured for Mother’s Day.