SOS mother Isma on 20 years of experience in building family ties in Sarajevo
When Isma Habibović heard about the opportunity of becoming an SOS mother, she immediately knew this profession was the right choice for her.
She was from a big, cheerful family with strong family bonds, and she was used to having many people around. “For me, it was easier to fit in the role of an SOS mother because I came from a large family. I understand the dynamics, the sharing and the jealousies,” she says.
Isma joined SOS Children’s Villages in 1999. In her nearly 20 years as an SOS mother in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, she has raised four generations of children, 24 boys and girls altogether.
Lasting bonds in her SOS family
“The children come here because they lived through hard times. If they hadn’t had a difficult past, they wouldn’t be here. I knew it would not be easy raising them,” she says.
But she immediately bonded with the children in her SOS family, a connection that has lasted ever since. When she sees the ‘first generation’ grown up now, some of them with their own families, she cannot help but feel proud.
“I see that they are responsible towards their own children, their spouses, they are in stable relationships. That makes me happy,” she says.
Isma continues to be part of the lives of the now-adult children. She has been ‘best woman’ for four of her children’s weddings, a special honour for her.
The grown-up children still come to visit with their own families.
“Sometimes the house is not big enough to find room for everyone when they visit,” Isma says. “But the important thing is that we spend time together.”
Isma focused a lot of energy on creating such a strong and lasting connection within her SOS family.
“For me, the social element of being part of a stable unit was very important. I put a lot of work into it.”
Challenges and achievements
But because of the difficult past the children have had, it is not always easy to help the children in their development. Sometimes it takes a lot of time to see progress in their behaviour and education.
That is why Isma also reaches out to the teachers at school to agree on the best approach to support the children. She is convinced that when the children and their support network work together, the children can eventually move into the right direction.
With some children, reaching even small agreements is a great achievement. Isma remembers how much one of the boys struggled to adjust to the family routine and the rules. He was a teenager when he was placed in her care.
Isma started out by setting basic rules with him. She insisted on eating together as a family, that the boy informed her about of his whereabouts when he went out. Eventually, he learned to respect the agreements.
“It was important that he knew that someone cared about where he was, that someone cared about what happens to him,” she says.
When Isma went to talk to his teachers, it was the first time in eight years that someone showed up for him at school.
“I have always tried to be there for the children, give them the best I can,” Isma says.
“I am really proud of the children. Some of them now live far away, but they always call for my birthday and for Mother’s Day. They are my family,” she says.