Born in Senegal, but raised in the SOS Children’s Village Eisenberg/Pfalz in Germany, the story of Irene Bailey is a true example of what can be achieved despite a rocky start in life.
The tragic death of their older twin siblings led to 20-month old Irene and her three-year old sister N’dine’s return to Germany, where their mother was originally from. There they had a “very normal, secure and carefree childhood”, where their SOS Children’s Village mother Gudrun Kolbenschlag was “simply mom” to them.
Irene as a baby. Photographer: SOS Archives
Both Irene (42) and N’dine later moved to the USA, where Irene has been heading the SOS Children’s Villages Atlanta Volunteer Chapter for more than a decade. The chapter has held countless functions to raise money for SOS Children’s Villages. From dinner parties to soccer festivals, Irene has volunteered thousands of hours to ensure SOS Children’s Villages is a name known throughout the Atlanta area. Her efforts to introduce companies, donors and political heads to SOS Children’s Villages’ staff have resulted in the raising of tens of thousands of dollars.
“My motivation to help others stems from the awareness that I was loved unconditionally by my SOS mom, and was taken care of in the most amazing way by people who do not share my DNA,” says Irene.
In 2014, in honour of the World Cup, Irene hosted a soccer tournament. She worked tirelessly to secure fields, vendors, teams, and donations for the Atlanta International Soccer Festival. She did all this while working her normal day job, raising two kids and getting married. The event received an endorsement from the Atlanta mayor and support from the local professional soccer team. In total, it generated over 70 media hits.
“My wish is that children around the world don’t have to suffer as much in the future, and that places like SOS Children’s Villages therefore become less and less necessary. However, in the meantime I hope SOS will receive more awareness, funding and support so that even more loving homes will be created for children in need all over the globe,” she says.
“What Irene overcame as a young child to become an amazing, passionate and dedicated woman is incredible. Her continuous efforts to help raise money and awareness for SOS has been unparalleled to any other alum, volunteer, or donor I have seen.”
Ms Lora Sodini, External Relations and Special Outreach Officer SOS Children’s Villages USA.