Wearing tight bell-bottomed pants and long hair, my father rings the doorbell to pick up my mother for their first date. To his surprise, my grandmother opens the door and hands him over a crying baby and a bottle. “Could you feed Carlina for me, dear? Thank you.” My father had never held a baby before, but he had to learn quickly at my grandmother’s house.

My grandmother, Tuti, is my hero. She dedicated her life to saving abandoned children in her native Colombia. She saved 280 abandoned children, many of them on the brink of death, always with a passion for life. She took home, sometimes six or ten at a time, babies that could not be cared for by the orphanages, which where overflowing with children.

Tuti defied the opinion of medical experts by rehabilitating children who were considered uncurable. One little girl, blue-eyed and with golden locks, was thrown inside a trash can as soon as she was born, and she was found two days later with her fontanelle closed. She received a diagnostic predicting certain and chronic mental retardation. Tuti, after rolling her eyes at the doctor, took her home for a year and, in her words, “treated her with love”. The girl was adopted, and she is now happily married and a professional musician.

At age 65, Tuti took her last baby home, Santiago, or Tato for short. Tato stayed with her for 10 years, but he was not adopted due to his rare genetic disease, Lowe’s syndrome. At age 75, Tuti decided to adopt Tato herself. Typically, Colombian judges only let young couples adopt a child, but many of the children Tuti had cared for, now adults, wrote letters to the judge saying that any child would be exceptionally lucky to be adopted by my grandmother. The judge ruled positively, and now Tato is part of our family. He is my 12-year-old uncle.

Also at age 75, Tuti decided to study literature at a Colombian university. She picked an online university so she could stay home with Tato while studying. Tuti has now learned how to use her computer and the internet to write her assignments. She just finished an assignment about Homer's Illiad and The Oddysey.

She is an inspiration to all the abandoned and un-abandoned children in the world, the ones she has raised and those who grew up around her, as well as to older students around the world. When I am her age, I want to receive as many Christmas cards as she does every year from all the children she cared for. I want to feel as accomplished as she is.

Take action! This post was submitted in response to International Women's Day 2011: A Call for Heroes.

Comment on this Post


Hi Maria!

I was so excited to see your smiling face on PulseWire today. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story about Tuti. What an incredible woman - it's not hard to see how her personality has rubbed off on you. And you put South America on our google map!

How are you? I was just thinking about you the other day when I ate some delicious bread... missing your yummy baked goods, but most of all your energy :)

Love Jade