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How One Woman Helped an Orphan Beat the Odds

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Mother's Day is an annual worldwide celebration honoring women who have a positive impact on the lives of their loved ones. It's a day mothers, grandmothers, aunts, caretakers and friends are surrounded with love and appreciation for their care and support.

A day dedicated to mothers is beautiful. And, we need to realize that there are still 17.9 million orphaned and abandoned children who need mothers of their own. These children may never have the opportunity to grow up in a loving, stable home. However, I am comforted when I think about the 5,000 women at SOS Children's Villages who commit their lives to parenting over 80,000 of these vulnerable children. Women like Maria Socorro.

Twelve years ago, at the age of 29, Maria Socorro was an accounting student working part-time as a tutor for primary school children in Costa Rica. Her career path took an unexpected turn when she heard about a job opening at SOS Children's Villages in Santa Ana, Costa Rica.

After a rigorous interview process, Maria Socorro was hired, and embarked on a two-year training program to help prepare her for the role of an SOS Mother -- a trained professional who cares for orphaned and abandoned children until they are independent adults.

"It was a drastic change," Maria told me. "I was afraid I'd fail the kids." Her doubts, it turned out, were completely unfounded.

In 2003, she met Jose*, a 5-year-old boy with Down syndrome, who was taken to the SOS Village when his family could no longer take care of him. He was scared and unable to communicate with the people around him. That is, until he met Maria Socorro.

"I really had to start from zero. I taught him how to talk. I taught him how to go to the bathroom," she said.

Her love, patience and dedication truly made a difference. After a year of not hearing him speak, she finally heard him mutter a word during a family dinner. The word was "tape."

"We were so full of joy after hearing him say that word," she said. "For us, it was as though he had said 'mom' or 'dad.'"

By the age of 12, Jose had become an inspiration. His skill and love of sports drove him to win Special Olympics medals in running races. Now 16 years old, he attends a school that specializes in teaching children and teenagers with learning disabilities, and still enjoys his engagement with sports.

"You ask yourself, how is it possible to make such a significant change in a person's life?" she said. "Money can't buy this kind of happiness."

These are exactly the stories of transformation I love to hear. The ones that so clearly demonstrate the positive impact mothers can have on a child's life.

On Mother's Day, as we celebrate the women in our lives, let's also help empower SOS Mothers like Maria Socorro. Join us at celebratemoms.org today, and honor the women in your life by sending an eCard or making a gift that will help more than 5,000 SOS Mothers continue their noble work.

*Name changed to protect child's identity.

Follow Lynn M. Croneberger on Twitter: www.twitter.com/LynnCroneberger.