SOS Illinois was treated to a royal visit when Princess Salimah Aga Khan visited our Chicago, Roosevelt Square, and Lockport Villages.
Princess Salimah Aga Khan, SOS Children’s Villages International Ambassador for the past three decades, visited SOS Illinois on October 22 and 23. On Sunday, October 22, the Princess was greeted at the Lavezzorio Community Center at the Chicago Village by two young ladies dressed in their finest clothes with tiaras atop their heads. The Princess smiled and replied, “You must be princesses too because of your crowns.” Wide grins spread across the girls’ faces. Then, the Princess gave each girl a hug. The royal visit then continued with a reception of families and staff at the Village, and was then followed by visits with families at both our Roosevelt Square and Lockport Villages.
Princess Salimah Aga Khan was born in New Delhi in 1940 and her early childhood was spent in India where her father served in a Cavalry regiment, The VI Duke of Connaught’s Own Lancers. The regiment was sent to Iraq in WW II. After the war her father retired and the family relocated to England where she and her brother were educated. In 1969, she was married to His Highness The Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslims. Since Their Highnesses separated in 1995, Princess Salimah has committed herself to supporting humanitarian efforts, especially those in the areas of health and child support. Her work with SOS Children’s Villages started when she took part in the official opening of the first SOS Village in French Polynesia.
Princess Salimah Aga Khan was appointed by SOS Children’s Villages as the first International Ambassador in 2002. She has been actively involved with SOS ever since, visiting facilities in Cambodia, Nepal, Romania, France, Egypt, India, Austria, South Africa, Pakistan, Germany, Mexico, El Salvador, Panama, Portugal, the US, and most recently Morocco and Crete.
During her SOS Illinois visit, the Princess noted the number of homes at the Lockport Village, as she had previously visited in the early 2000s and recalled only half of our Village being built. Presented with homemade cards made by the children, the Princess greeted each and every person she met and was often seen with a child in her arms. Families and staff who visited with the Princess were taken by her graciousness, kindness, and rapport with the children. Monday evening was followed by a special reception held in the Princess’ honor at Christie’s in Chicago.
We are so grateful to have an Ambassador for the children, such as Princess Salimah, dedicated to ensuring the most vulnerable children grow up having family, love, and a community surrounding them with hope and security. Princess Salimah Aga Khan is a true gem to the brothers and sisters in our care, as well as to children around the world.