|Princess Salimah Aga Khan visiting Marseille|
It all started in French Polynesia in 1995, when Princess Salimah Aga Khan happened to hear of the construction of SOS Children's Village Papara on Tahiti. One year later Her Highness attended the official opening of the new village. This first contact with SOS Children's Villages has been followed by a large number of visits and events, at which the cosmopolitan Princess has demonstrated her commitment as an advocate of the organisation and its work.
Numerous meetings with children and mothers at SOS Children's Villages in a wide variety of countries, including South Africa, Romania and Egypt, have strengthened Princess Salimah Aga Khan's conviction that the SOS Children's Village model represents one of the best possible forms of family-centred child care. On 5 November 2000, at the inauguration of a Tibetan SOS Children's Village and an SOS Hermann Gmeiner Secondary School in Gopalpur, about 30 km from Dharamsala, India, President Helmut Kutin appointed Her Highness the first SOS-Kinderdorf International Ambassador for Children.
|Princess Salimah and President Kutin at the opening celebrations in Gopalpur|
In his speech President Kutin expressed his belief that, through her official duties, the Ambassador would not only make a significant material contribution to the development of SOS Children's Villages worldwide but would also open up her heart for children in her own unique way.
Princess Salimah Aga Khan replied that her appointment was a great honour for her, one that she accepted in all due humility. In the Princess' eyes the worthiest ambassadors of the child-care model created by Hermann Gmeiner are the children and their SOS Children's Village Mothers, who live together in peaceful coexistence in their diverse cultural groups throughout the world.