“Together, we can make a difference” - Saba Faisal

By Mariam Khan
Tue, 04, 24

This week You! is in conversation with Saba Faisal, National Director of SOS Children’s Villages, Pakistan…

“Together, we can make a difference” - Saba Faisal

It was a beautiful afternoon in Lahore when I walked through the SOS Children’s Village to have a conversation with Ms Saba Faisal, National Director of the facility. I saw a lady working on a sewing machine, girls sitting in the veranda of a house, a group having lunch, some returning from studying, children playing cricket and flying a plastic kite. It was refreshing to see children engaged in healthy outdoor activities and living what we can call a regular childhood. It felt like a happy home. I became more intrigued to meet Ms Saba and discuss how all this was made possible and about her journey with SOS. Read on…

You! How did your journey start?

Saba Faisal: I worked in a private school for nineteen years on the administration side and was looking for a more challenging job when somebody randomly mentioned that SOS Pakistan was looking for a National Director. My friend pushed me to consider it. I was hesitant because I did not have any experience in a not-for-profit organisation but I had experience in childcare. I was called for an interview with the President and was offered the job. I was still reluctant but my husband encouraged me to join and reminded me that I could do it and this was the challenge I was looking for! Finally, I said yes, and joined in 2017 as the National Director of SOS Children’s Villages, Pakistan.

You! What are your most memorable moments here?

SF: It was my first day of work here and I arrived at 7:30 am. The office doesn’t officially start until 9:00 am. I went through all the emails and familiarised myself with the National Director’s role. I was hugely surprised and touched when our Lahore Village Director, Ms Almas, arrived with a bouquet of flowers - I felt welcomed with love and respect as soon as I joined. The next memorable moment was when I visited the SOS Village for the first time. A little girl ran towards me and hugged me. I was a stranger for her and her display of unconditional love and acceptance became an unforgettable moment.

Saba with Ms Almas, Village Director, Lahore
Saba with Ms Almas, Village Director, Lahore

You! Tell us more about the SOS background and presence in Pakistan.

SF: SOS Children’s Village Pakistan is affiliated with the SOS-Kinderdorf International, the largest child welfare organisation in the world. In 1949 a medical student, named Haermann Gmeiner, saw a lot of orphans after the Second World War, and decided to build a support system for these children based on the concept of family-like care. The first SOS Village in Pakistan was established in 1977 in Lahore. Each village has 15 houses and each house can accommodate 10 children. We have 64 projects in 17 cities across the country. Projects include villages, youth homes, schools, medical centres, and technical training centres.

You! How do these children reach you?

SF: Children are brought to us by extended families or are referred by hospitals, courts or social welfare department. We follow consistent admission criteria to admit children. We take complete orphans (both parents have passed away) and social orphans (for example, their mother is alive but she re-marries and the stepfather does not want to keep the children, and vice versa.)

You! How do you support girls and women here?

SF: After going through a scrutiny process, eligible women are employed by SOS and are assigned to each village home as ‘Mothers’. These are usually women who are abandoned or don’t have anywhere to go to. Their role is to nurture children and to provide them emotional support. They are expected to take care of these children as they would with their biological children. It is beyond simply taking care of daily household chores. To this end, new mothers are provided training for one or two months and then are assigned with a senior mother to get hands-on experience. Girls who are admitted here are provided education and vocational training. We support girls according to their aptitude with the goal to help them reach their full potential. We also support them through the phase of getting married, including organising weddings.

You! How can people support your cause?

SF: First, I’d like to invite people to visit our facilities and see our work first-hand. There are many different ways to support our children and no matter who you are, you can contribute in providing these children a loving home and a bright future. You can donate any amount or give for a specific purpose. For example, with only PKR 2,000/month, you can contribute towards our education endowment fund or with PKR 15,000/month to fund complete sponsorship of a child. You can also volunteer your time and know that your dedicated attention can make a huge difference for a child. We also have online volunteering opportunities where you can volunteer with your skills such as graphic designing. Details of ways to support are also available on our website

Saba with children at SOS Village
Saba with children at SOS Village

You! What does your work entail?

SF: I am responsible for making and implementing policies and procedures with the goal to provide uniformity of care at our facilities in Pakistan. I ensure that there is no compromise on our fundamental principles of financial transparency and child protection. If there is a new idea or innovation, I run it by our board and develop implementation plans. I also liaise with the relevant government departments.

You! How do you take a break?

SF: I have my ‘me time’ daily in the morning. I still arrive early around 7:30 am and have my morning cup of tea as I catch up on news or read articles.

You! What are some of the challenges that you face?

SF: Personally, I have been truly blessed to have an enormously supportive family - parents, in-laws, husband, and children. At work place too, my staff and colleagues have always been supportive and encouraging. However, professionally, the challenge is to find the right people who are committed and devoted. Although we have people working here for over a decade, retention of dedicated people is a challenge.

You! If children face psychological or behavioural issues, is there support available?

SF: Yes, we have clinical psychologists. We understand that many children who come to us have previously experienced difficult situations in life, facing neglect and violence, and that they may need help coping with these burdens. We provide psychological counselling for all our children who need help.

You! Do you have a complaint management system for the children?

“Together, we can make a difference” - Saba Faisal

SF: Yes, we empower children in this regard. Our children elect a ‘person of trust’ from among themselves. In case of any issue, that person can report the problem to the village director. Other than this internal mechanism, we take any complaints received on emails seriously and take all possible steps to address the issue.

You! As a working mother, what would you say about work-life balance?

SF: In the beginning, I chose to work in the education sector because I knew it would allow me to maintain work-life balance. I think your family’s support is also important in helping you achieve this balance.

You! What advice would you like to give to other women?

SF: It is everyone’s responsibility to give back to the community. Women must realise that no matter who they are, they have the potential to become change-makers in their community. Every woman should take out time for herself, find her passion, and follow it through - she must do this for herself and for her community. Together, we can make a difference.

The writer is a LUMS alumna and a community social worker with special interest in public health, philosophy, and human rights. She can be reached at Her X handle is @mariamibkhan


Bushra Aziz’s inspiring journey started in 1991 at SOS Village Dhodial. She started her impactful career within the SOS community. Under the care of SOS Children’s Villages Pakistan, this young girl excelled academically. She earned her MBA in August 2007 and continued her relentless pursuit of knowledge.

“Together, we can make a difference” - Saba Faisal

In September 2007, Bushra took on the role of the Assistant Director at Dhodial Village. Her relentless determination and passion for empowering others meant that she rose to the challenge and became the Village Director in September 2011. Bushra became a symbol of resilience and perseverance, guiding and nurturing the children of SOS Village Dhodial with compassion and wisdom. In this leadership role, she leaves an indelible mark on countless lives.

In 2020, she completed MS and began pursuing PhD Professionally, Bushra chose a career that would enable her to instil hope and belonging for other orphan and abandoned children in Pakistan. Beyond her academic and professional achievements, Bushra is also a council member of the Adventure Foundation of Pakistan. Fearlessly undertaking skiing, and trekking courses, she embodies a spirit of exploration, adventure, and pushing boundaries.

Through organised social work, each one of us can have a huge impact on many lives. When girls are provided equal opportunities academically and professionally, they have the power to inspire change and can lift up the entire community. Bushra Aziz’s story demonstrates the impact of our collective power to transform lives.