August 4 2017

The legacy of an SOS mother

Reflecting on 25 years of family life in SOS Children’s Villages

This year, Nancy Gicheru – also known as “Grandma Buru Buru” amongst her grandchildren – is celebrating 25 years as a mother in SOS Children’s Villages Buru Buru in Kenya.

A mum to 24 children and a grandmother to six, Nancy has achieved a lot throughout her career at SOS Children’s Villages. Among her children, two are her biological own daughters. They grew up together with her other SOS children and still remain in regular contact.


Nancy says she grew up with step brothers and step sisters, and interacting with an SOS family resonated with her own childhood. “We always treated each other like we were one family – when I first joined SOS Children’s Villages, it was more or less like home”, Nancy explains.


“In the past years, I have been a happy mother because I feel that I have been close to my kids. They are free to talk to me and talk about their problems. Some of them have had very bad trauma in their life – it can take time to heal. But I work with them on an individual level to find out what’s happening, and how I can help them heal”, says Nancy.

Preparing for retirement

While the second generation of her children is still in school, the first generation has become independent – and some have their own children.


“My children share the same care with me that I have offered them. I have a group of people that are always there to support and encourage me. When I look in front of me, when I look behind, when I look sideways – there is always someone there for me”, says Nancy.


Although the job requires a lot of commitment and responsibility, Nancy feels her work has been rewarding. “When they are happy, I am happy. When they are sad, I think I am also sad”, she adds.


With only three years left until her retirement, Nancy has set herself ambitious goals, to ensure a smooth transition for her children that remain in SOS family care. Her career with SOS Children’s Villages ends in 2020.


“My dream is to retire the right way. By 2019, I want to prepare my children for the transition to a new mother”, says Nancy.


To facilitate the transition, she plans to live with the new SOS mother, in order to guide her and ensure that the children adapt well.


“I also need to involve the older children who have left the house – it is also their family and family house. It will flow well if we all agree together”, she adds.


Leaving a lasting legacy

Reflecting on her 25 years as an SOS mother, Nancy says she is proud of what she has achieved, and especially how her children have learnt to give back to the community.
Her daughter, who currently resides in the United States, recently came back to the SOS village with friends who work as opticians. They conducted eye tests on thousands of people in the community, and gave free glasses to those who needed them. Some of her other children have also made donations to SOS families.
“There is a lot that I have learned from the organisation. My children have also learnt a lot. They are always looking out to care for each other and to care for others”, says Nancy. “When the children give back, it really reflects on my life too.”
“The organisation has [also] really done a lot for me. Allowing me to raise my biological children along with my other children made my job so much easier. I didn’t feel like I needed to neglect them. They were well-educated. For me, it was a great advantage”, Nancy adds. 
Although she is proud of her significant contribution to the community and to her children, Nancy says she still wants to do a lot more in the next three years.

Photo credit: Tania Thorngreen