Helmut Kutin Award 2021

The Helmut Kutin Award, named after our organisation’s former president, honours the commitment and dedication of SOS caregivers.

Please read the short bios and cast your vote by 31 March at 05:00 p.m. (CET). The top six vote getters will move on to the next round. They will be evaluated by members of the Youth Coalition who will select our two winners! THANK YOU for being part of this! 

We are looking for caregivers who have made a significant difference in the lives of children and young people, have laid the foundation for them to have an independent future, and who stand out for going above and beyond their duties in unique circumstances. 

Vote now!

Meet the 10 finalists:

Adrolata Nikuze, SOS mother, Rwanda

Adrolata struggles to put into words the love she feels for her children. She has worked as an SOS mother at SOS Children’s Village Gikongoro for 29 years, and raised 53 children.   

Adrolata's inspiration to care for vulnerable children came from her parents. They fed and clothed poor children in her neighbourhood, which made her think about their lives. This passion drove Adrolata to adopt two children and dedicate her life to changing the lives of disadvantaged children.   

During the tragedy of the genocide against Tutsis in 1994, Adrolata fled with the 10 children in her SOS family and exiled to neighbouring DR Congo. “I decided to go with my children and keep them safe. We lived in difficult conditions and suffered together in a refugee camp. After four months, we returned home and I went on being their mother.” This tough experience made Adrolata a stronger and more resilient mother.

One child she raised was speech impaired from childhood. Adrolata cared for him and met his every need; he now has graduated from university and is a musician. “Children come to the village with no hope for the future but later on mature and find themselves. Watching my children grow up, study, overcome challenges to live independently and start their own families is my forever happiness.” 


Adrolata Nikuze of Rwanda

Afi Guidayema, SOS aunt, Togo

Although she has only worked as an SOS aunt for two years at SOS Children’s Villages Togo, Afi exemplifies the power of will and self-giving. 

In 2019, Afi played a crucial role in the survival of Light, a baby boy only nine days old, who was admitted to the SOS Children’s Villages’ transit house, a temporary care home for children in crisis as they wait for placement in alternative care. Light was born with a cleft lip, a birth defect some people in Togo still see as a bad omen, which often leads parents to abandon their child or the child being neglected or stigmatized.  

Seeing beyond his differences, Afi took it upon herself to care for Light. Since he could not drink from a bottle, his case required special medical care, love and attention. Thanks to a special medical device, Light was able to drink in small amounts every two hours, a lengthy and challenging process Afi was determined to see through. Following specific instructions from the doctor, Afi cared for Light day and night, often refusing to be replaced during night shifts. She had one goal: to make sure Light grew strong enough for a required surgical procedure. She also played an important part in deconstructing perceptions around children born with a cleft lip allowing other children from the transit house to welcome and care for their new baby brother.  

"Her relentless efforts to give Light the best start in life really inspired us all,” says Komlan Toeppen, SOS Children’s Villages Togo's programme director in Atakpame. 

Afi Guidayema of Togo

Dina Quispe, SOS mother, Peru

Dina is a leader among the SOS mothers at the SOS Children’s Village in Ayacucho, Peru. She is a mentor for other caregivers, sharing her experience, giving them support and encouraging them to develop their own capacities.  

Dina has always gone the extra mile for children and young people under her care. Among the 30 children she has raised over the years, a number had emotional and behavioural problems. Through patience, love, and dedication, Dina helped them achieve emotional stability. She watches, listens, builds trust, and finally gets to know their feelings and needs. In many cases, together with the children, she helped change their attitude and behaviours, transforming their lives. Today she stays in touch with most of the children she has cared for, many of whom recognise that her support was key to overcoming their challenges. 

“My motivation is to see the improvements in my children, see them thrive, get a superior education and fulfil their life objectives,” Dina says. 

One young man who was quite rebellious as a child, managed to fulfil his dream of becoming a police officer. When he got his first paycheck, he took Dina out for lunch and gave her a pair of slippers as a gift, telling her: “Mommy, to me you are my mom, because you were there supporting me even when I was not behaving well and you guided me with love and patience. Now in gratitude, with my first salary, I want to recognise you and give you the best of me. Thank you for everything you gave me.” 

Dina Quispe of Peru

Lydia Mncina, SOS mother, Eswatini 

Lydia was among the first SOS mothers to join the SOS Children’s Village Nhlangano in Eswatini when it opened in 2001. Over the years, she has been recognised several times for being an outstanding mother. 

“Children are a gift to me and I am dedicated and passionate to bring real change to their lives. Most have not had the precious opportunity to experience the love and the warmth of a family. I like to show them that they are deeply loved and that they do matter,” she says. 

Lydia has raised 20 children and young people, most of whom are now independent. One of her proudest moments was when one of her sons donated money to the SOS village toward the Herman Gmeiner Day celebrations. He had recently secured a job as a teacher after university. “I live to help my children find their way in the world, and I am happiest when I see them overcome their painful past to see what I see in them, and learn to love themselves and build confidence.” 

Sometimes dreams are cut short. Lydia welcomed into her home a child who needed special care due to a serious illiness. Lydia cared for the child for over two years until she passed away. This was the hardest moment of Lydia’s entire career.

With the COVID-19 situation that kept children from going to school, Lydia engaged 12 children to work with her on a vegetable garden. She also utilised her sewing expertise to alter cloth masks from local donors to fit children in the SOS village, keeping them all well covered and protected.  

Lydia Mncina of Eswatini

Maimuna Shabani, SOS mother, Tanzania

Maimuna has positively influenced her children in every way. Their choices and values in life take root from her extraordinary determination, wisdom and charisma. 

“Some of us value education the most, because mama places a greater emphasis on education,” wrote her adult daughter Rose. “Others are engaged in numerous businesses because we watched how mama juggled between caregiving and running her individual business activities.”  

Maimuna makes an effort to understand her children’s individual strengths and weaknesses to give the necessary support.  

Maimuna saw early on that Rose had a passion for health issues so she enrolled her in different programmes to gain knowledge. Her lasting support gave Rose the confidence to pursue a degree in public health at the University of Cape Town. “Children need to feel safe to thrive,” says Maimuna. “Once they know I love them, they trust me.” 

Three young adults who Maimuna raised lost their jobs in the tourism and hospitality sector due to the Covid-19 pandemic. She reached out to help and accommodated them in her house until they could provide for themselves again. “Children, no matter their age, who have experienced loss, need the warmth and care of a real family so they are not alone, afraid and helpless not knowing how to live their lives,” she says. 

Maimuna Shabani of Tanzania

Monique M’Po, SOS mother, Benin

When it comes to caring for children and allowing them to become the best version of themselves, Monique is what one would call an MVP. Since she began working at SOS Children’s Villages Benin, Monique has cared for and supported many children.

Monique has made a difference for children suffering from severe malnutrition leading to incredible results. But she is best known for her unique ability to teach and support children with everything related to school.  In 2013, one of the children she cared for at SOS Children’s Village Natitingou in northern Benin won the statewide first place at the primary school examination and received a prize from the then Minister of Primary Education.  

Thanks to her support and determination, another one of the children she cared for, Agnes, went on to become a children’s rights champion and advocate at the local, national and international level participating in panels in Senegal and Switzerland. Agnes also won first place at the general exams of her school finishing with an astounding 16/20 average.  

“I think that as an SOS parent, Monique has greatly influenced the lives of the children she cares for and especially Agnes with whom she’s built a very strong bond. Her love and dedication for children is unparalleled,” says Essohana Laurent Tchilao, SOS Children’s Villages Natitingou’s alternative care coordinator.  


Agnes with her SOS mother Monique of Benin

Maribel Garibay Rodriguez, SOS mother, Peru

Maribel is a role model for SOS mothers and aunts at the SOS Children’s Village in Pachacamac. She stands out for her charisma, responsibility and solidarity.  

Maribel uses positive discipline principles and strategies with the girls and boys in her care. She is loving, recognises their progress, and sets limits in day-to-day parenting. She considers communication as key for their development and is always willing to meet their needs to serve them in the best way.  

Maribel cares for many types of children from various backgrounds. She cared for two teenage siblings from an indigenous background with warmth and affection, respecting their cultural roots, practicing songs in their mother tongue, Quechua, and supported them in their academic development. She also helped two other siblings, one of whom had a mild intellectual disability and behavioural disorders. Besides receiving therapy from specialists, this young man has made great progress thanks to Maribel’s support and devotion. She has followed the specialists’ advice and has created a unique bond with the boy, who calls her mother. “Maribel, a woman with a big heart, expresses her affection to him daily in every act of care,” says a fellow colleague. 




Maribel Garibay Rodriguez of Peru

Sylvette Guichard, SOS mother, France 

Sylvette, an SOS mother at the children's village in Carros, knows how to take a child by the hand and read their heart.

Several of her children were previously abused and psychologically traumatised. Through her unconditional love, devotion and patience, Sylvette helped many to smile again. “I’ve seen a lot of happiness as the love we give might not fix everything, but definitely eases the pain,” she says.

Sylvette's care has allowed several children to avoid lengthy stays in psychiatric institutions. One of them, *Guillaume, came to the village with his younger sister at the age of four. “He had behavioral problems that got worse as he was growing up, requiring regular hospitalisation. He was a very endearing child who required a lot of attention,” she says. Guillaume was aggressive and had great difficulties at school to the point that he was excluded. Sylvette looked after him in the village, provided home schooling and made sure the other children accepted him. She created a loving bond that allowed for the family to enjoy moments of pleasure and fun together.

Likewise, during the Covid-19 crisis, Sylvette took in two very disoriented brothers whom she helped to settle in their new living environment, sparing them the mental anguish linked to the epidemic crisis. Sylvette, as a leader on child mental health and well-being, shares her knowledge with other caregivers to improve the quality of care for all children in the village.

*name changed for confidentiality purposes

Sylvette Guichard of France

Yurley Andrea Quintero Diaz, SOS aunt, Colombia

Yurely uses art, music and dance to help children express themselves, manage anxieties and gain confidence. Her approach to care was especially crucial last year as a way to help children relieve stress and worries during the Covid-19 lockdown. 

Through activities like dancing, singing, reading and writing, this SOS caregiver shows children and young people how through art and creativity they can channel their thoughts and feelings in a productive and healthy way. Art is her way to open hearts and connect with children and adolescents who sometimes find it difficult to form bonds of trust.  

Yurely considers communication, respect and love key ingredients in her work. One of her secrets is to always emphasise and recognise the children’s achievements, boosting their self-confidence. Yurely is their biggest cheerleader. At the same time, she builds relationships based on trust and friendship. She not only considers herself their caregiver, but their confidant and teammate.  

Thanks to her charisma, her loving personality, and passion for what she does, Yurely has created a unique bond with many of the children. They always approach for advice or just a hug.  

Yurley Andrea Quintero Diaz of Colombia

Zuhair Zboun, youth care coordinator, Palestine

Zuhair has been a mentor and father figure to young people in the Palestinian West Bank for some 20 years. Over that time he has cared for them and supported their transition to independence as both a youth house supervisor and youth care coordinator.

“Zuhair is like a supervisor, brother, friend, and father for all youth,” says his SOS colleague Noureddin Qadi. “He shares with them their joys and challenges.”

Zuhair ensures that every young person has a clear vision about their future. Through mentorship and trainings programmes like YouthCan!, as well as local partnerships and projects such as BMZ youth empowerment, Zuhair has helped shape the lives of hundreds of young people in the West Bank. More than 70 percent of young people enroll in colleges and universities, and 90 percent are self-reliant after they leave care – a success rate that Zuhair and his colleagues are proud of.

Of particular importance for Zuhair is helping young people build strong bonds with members of their biological family, their community and with other care leavers. He started an alumni association for former SOS Children’s Villages youth and at the same tries to instill in young people the importance of giving back to the community by requiring 100 hours of volunteer service.

The two initiatives came together during the Covid-19 lockdowns where the SOS Youth Council and SOS alumni joined to help those who lost jobs and needed help. Zuhair mobilised young people in Bethlehem in the relief efforts to distribute food packages and financial aid to the families of alumni and people in the community.

Zuhair Zboun of Palestine