Helmut Kutin Award winners 2019

Congratulations to Salam Khalaf, Damascus, and Chandra Kala Thapa, Gandaki! These inspiring colleagues shine brightly in the lives of children and families, bringing hope and support when they are needed the most.


Salam Khalaf, Damascus

Salam Khalaf is an SOS mother who has supported her children through two evacuations during the Syrian conflict.

In 2012, Salam and the children in her care, as well as other SOS families, fled from the SOS Children’s Village Aleppo to the SOS Children’s Village in Qudsaya Damascus due to an escalation of violence in Aleppo. Salam helped her children to cope with their new life, including their sadness at not being able to see friends or relatives still in Aleppo. However, she always worked to find ways for her children to talk to their families in Aleppo by phone, so they could feel more secure.

The second evacuation took place in 2016, when the security situation around the SOS Children’s Village Qudsaya became dangerous. Fortunately, this time Salam and the children in her care were able to return to the village after one month. 

“Salam is a great SOS mother. She has passion and love for the children raised by her and this is reflected in the quality care she provides,” says Lur Katt, who nominated her on behalf of the village director of the Qudsaya village. “Moreover, children in Salam's care are very generous because their SOS mother has taught them how to care for each other and for their friends. Whenever you visit Salam's house in SOS Qudsaya village, her SOS children will not allow you to leave without giving you chocolate or candy.”

Chandra Kala Thapa, Gandaki

Chandra Kala Thapa of Nepal has devoted 40 years to caring for children at SOS Children’s Village Gandaki, making her one of the longest serving mothers in the global SOS Children’s Villages organisation.

Over four decades Chandra has raised 35 children – 22 boys and 13 girls, including the nine that are currently under her care. She raised seven of these children from the time they were babies. Now, at the age of 60, Chandra still has the same “spirit and enthusiasm to care for children” as she did when she started in July 1978, says Bhagat Shrestha, Project Director, SOS Children’s Village Gandaki. She is retiring at the end of the year.

Besides her work with children. Chandra is a leader in her village, says Mr Shrestha. She serves as mentor and representative for other SOS mothers and aunts, as well as actively participates in community and social programs in the neighbourhood. “She is a Super SOS Mother of SOS Children’s Villages,” Mr Shrestha says.

All of the elder children who grew up in her SOS family have graduated from high school or have gone on to university. Many work or created businesses. Some married and have started their own families, giving Chandra 16 grandchildren.

One of Chandra’s grown sons, Raju Sapkota, is an example of a young man now standing on his own. For the past 10 years, he has run his own restaurant and lodge in Pokhara called Sanu Lake on de Water. “I was child with nothing, and now I have my own business and my own family. Today I’m living an independent life. This is a big credit to Chandra,” he says.


Congratulations to the award winners!