Daughter of an Army officer, Tulsi Parihar grew up in the interiors of Uttarakhand. At 19 she was married off. Ms Tulsi Parihar is currently the longest-serving mother of SOS Children’s Villages worldwide. She takes care of SOS Children’s Village Bhimtal, India.

Wondering how she rediscovered herself? Read on.

“Three years into the marriage, I lost my husband. My in-laws did not support me after his death and I had to move back to my parents’ place,” Parihar told SheThePeople.TV. “I was living a stigmatized widow’s life and I had the responsibilities of my own one-year-old daughter. My in-laws were not giving me any financial and emotional support. After moving back to my parent’s place, my parents and brothers were not able to give me financial support due to their own family responsibilities,” she added.

Parihar joined SOS Children’s Village as a mother in 1984. Since then 33 children have been given shelter under her captaincy. “I have raised 33 children till today. Out of 33 now I have 9 children in the home and two boys in Youth home. 5 children are in the hostel and they are pursuing higher education. 15 children are settled out of which 9 (6 girls and 3 boys) are married.  Two (one daughter and one son) just joined the job,” she echoed.

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My vision is to focus on the holistic development of children. They should be well educated so that they are independent in their lives. My focus is on the social integration of these children.

How did it all start? What inspired you to join SOS Children’s Villages and becoming an SOS Mother?

I was looking for a place which will be safe to work. My uncle gave me the address to SOS Children’s Village. He lived near the SOS Children’s Village, Jammu. I visited their Greenfields sector and came to know that it is a platform where I can serve the children as a mother. The place was also safe and secure for me to work. I got my initial training at National Training Centre, Delhi and joined the SOS Children’s Village, Bhimtal in 1984. Today, I have completed 33 years with the SOS family.

Tulsi Parihar, SOS Children’s Villages
SOS Family

Holding the record of the longest-serving SOS Mother in the world  — was it inspired from any personal space?

My inner conscience and desire to serve the children is what inspires me. Apart from my own wish to work, my bond  with my SOS children inspired me to serve such a long time. What kept me going is the positive feedback from our directors and my relatives. My relatives have been very encouraging of my work.

I would not tag SOS family as a job. Being the longest-serving SOS mother in the world, is a privilege I received.

Did you always know that mothering children in distress was something you were going to do for the rest of your life? If so, when in your life did you realize this?

I always wanted better lives for these kids.  But I was not aware that I will become the longest-serving mother in the SOS Children’s village.  When I joined, serving the children in need as a mother was the aim. With my SOS children, I started to forget my own sorrows. I got a very precious SOS family, a place which is safe and secure to work. After two years of the joining, I realized that it is a place where I am going to work for the rest of my life.

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We believe, no child should grow up alone. An SOS home is the caretaker of children hungry for care and protection since 1949 across the world.

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What has been your most touching or amazing moment you’ve experienced as an SOS Mother?

Our loved Papa Ji (Late JN Kaul) gave me surprise that I will be travelling abroad. I along with other mothers of SOS India visited Germany, Italy and Australia for the one month, in the year 1992. I met SOS Mothers from different countries, Elsa Dr Gmeiner’s sister who was the inspiration for him to think of an SOS Mother & Helmet Kutien’s mother also. We visited Church also, and visited different International SOS Villages. I got a chance to learn about the different culture.

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My commitment towards work and a very trustworthy relationship with children keeps me going. Alongside working with the diverse behaviour of children, I do not discriminate the children and treat everyone equally.

Our children should be socially integrated either by having a good job or by marriage or by both. I also provide knowledge to my children about how they will maintain a relationship.

Tulsi Parihar, SOS Children’s Villages
Vintage SOS Children’s Villages

Fundraising Challenges

Fundraising is not an easy task. Despite our credibility, transparency and over 50+ years of experience, one of our biggest challenges is the brand visibility and brand recall. We raise funds from individual and Corporates both. We also run various online and offline campaigns to raise funds. By 2020, the organisation aims to become completely self-sustaining.

Any other challenges? How did you overcome the challenges that tried to stop you throughout? 

Working as an SOS Mother means looking after many children at the same time. Since children come from different backgrounds, I had faced difficulties to help them adjust. Sometimes, dealing with adolescents  gets difficult and taxing. However, various training programmes, sessions on parenting skills and support from the SOS Village staff helped me to deal with such challenges.

In SOS Family we prepare girls to be strong and independent. But we all look forward to the day when our girls are not afraid to travel alone and feel safe on roads

Tips girls need to know to protect themselves:

  1. Awareness of right or wrong: Since we deal with both genders, we train our boys and girls to respect each other as equal human beings. We also train them about personal safety and awareness about the risk of abuse, etc.
  2. Help in times of emergency. They should always remember the contact details of Child Line, Police Helpline, numbers of Village officials so that they can contact them in any difficult circumstances.
  3. Girls should be strong and smart to protect themselves from anti-social elements. If possible girls should get training in the Judo, Karate.

My girls are strong. They are aware about the personal safety. They have faith in me and share their difficulties. My older girls are capable of travelling alone.

Read More Stories By Ria Das

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