The Love family at their home in Pleasant Hill, Oregon.
The following story is written by Jordan Love, an employee at Holt International and and adult adoptee.In the past year, I have really felt more of a tug to speak about my life. Since I have dwarfism and stand at only 3 feet tall, most of the conversations I have about my life have to do with that. But lately I have had a strong desire to discuss my other source of individuality – the fact that I am a Korean adoptee. When I was 4 years old, I was adopted from Seoul, South Korea through Holt International Children Services.
In the past few months, I have read about the Russian adoption situation and have seen several news articles about families that have had negative experiences with international adoption. This has definitely played a role in my willingness to speak more about my adoption experience. The main reason it has been on my heart, however, is because of a trip I took in 2011. In December of that year, I had an opportunity to go back to Seoul for the first time through a trip called the Happy Together Tour – a trip for Korean adoptees who have some sort of disability, either physical or mental. It was a whirlwind, week-long experience and gave me the opportunity to visit my orphanage, look at my adoption file, and also spend time with my past caregivers, my housemother, physical therapist and teachers. I felt so much love that week, a feeling I tried to express to my caregivers despite the language barrier. It was an amazing trip, and I will cherish it for the rest of my life. This trip changed me and put a passion into my heart for how much adoption has formed me into the person I am today.
My Adoption Story
I can only talk about my own experience. I understand that all adoption stories are different and have their own difficulties and joys. I don’t want to tear down anyone else’s experiences. I just want to tell my story – my “Love” story.
I was found abandoned in the streets of Ilsan and was brought to the Ilsan Holt Orphanage, where I stayed until I was adopted. I was placed in the “Love” house at Ilsan and was cared for by loving housemothers, including Molly Holt. The Ilsan Orphanage is where the physically and mentally disabled orphans stay and receive special care. These children are called “special needs.” And I am proud to say that I am a special needs adoptee.
My parents Dwayne and Jackie Love lived in Pleasant Hill, Oregon and had previously adopted a sibling group, and an older child from Korea. My mother saw my picture in Holt International magazine, called up my dad while he was working as a truck driver and said that she had found their next son. She called Holt International and inquired about me. Apparently I was in hot demand, because another family was in the process of adopting me at the time. Fortunately, the other family decided not to go through with the adoption, and after a couple of weeks, my mother got a phone call asking her if they were still interested in me.
My parents made a lot of adjustments upon my arrival home. Adding a new member into a family is always hard, but because of my dwarfism, I also had some physical limitations that would require surgery. From about the age of 5 to 21 years old, I underwent 13 surgeries. A lot of my childhood was spent at Shriners Children Hospital in Portland, Oregon—having surgery, recovering from surgery, or having the doctor to tell me that I needed another surgery. My mother never left my side during those times. As much as I feel my childhood might have been stolen because of all the surgeries, all that time was spent with my lovely mother.
My parents are both Caucasian and had two birth children before they started to adopt. About a year and a half after I was adopted, they fostered my older sister, Trisha, who is mentally handicapped. They later adopted her. My parents went from being a family of four, to a family of nine in two and a half years. They always told us that our birth parents loved us and chose to give us a better life by making the hard decision to put us up for adoption. I never have to question that. I believe it to be true. Throughout my life – from birth to the orphanage – there was never a gap in love. I always had a certain protection that never made me question my identity. My birthmother knew she couldn’t take care of me and made the hard decision to give me up. Could she have gone about it in a different way? Sure. I was found wandering the streets of Ilsan. For how long, I’m not sure. But I have to believe that my birthmother didn’t have a choice. My adoptive parents have always been open and honest with me about my past and my adoption, answering any and all questions. They made me who I am today, and that’s all that matters.
As much as these next few words might be a little controversial, I’m going to say them anyway: By adopting me, I believe my parents saved me. I know a lot of people that would be offended by that statement and disagree with me, saying that I could have had a successful life in Korea with my birthmother. My parents would never claim that they saved me, and would probably say that I’ve blessed them just as much as they’ve blessed me. But listen to what I’m saying. By adopting me, my parents were able to provide me with access to quality medical care – care that I needed to survive. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Today, I am in a place where I am more accepted and have more opportunities to grow and succeed – opportunities that, because of my disability, I would have never had in my native land. This is why I believe my parents saved me. They gave me the best opportunity to be successful and accepted.
Being disabled and only 3 feet tall is hard to explain. But this is my life. I don’t know any different. For me, the shortest and best way to explain it is like this: Imagine requiring special assistance in every part of your life. From a stool to help you reach the bathroom counter, to pedal extenders and a booster seat to help you drive, to asking strangers to reach something at the grocery store. I am very fortunate to live an independent life, but I constantly need help by something or someone to get through my day.
As I look at the landscape of international adoption and observe how it’s shifting toward special needs adoption, it’s my desire to be a voice for how much being a “special needs” adoptee has helped me in my life. I know I would not be as socially accepted in South Korea. I know that the medical care I received from Shriners Children’s Hospital was the best care I could have received in the whole world. And even before I was adopted, I received special care at Ilsan.
One person I cherished the most during my short time in Korea was my physical therapist at Ilsan, who I was able to see for several days when I traveled to Korea two years ago. Because of my disability, I spent a lot of time with her. I had a lot of pictures of this lady when I was adopted and was able to have those photos explained me. She told me that she would take me on special trips. She expressed how grateful she was to see me as an adult and how well I turned out.
Jordan and his physical therapist in Korea-2011
This amazing woman loved me without condition. When I was adopted, she held onto the few photos she had of me and told me she would think about me often. Just another example of how well I have been cared for throughout my life.I am never going to be shy or ashamed about the labels I am given. I am a Korean Adoptee. I am disabled, and I am a special needs adoptee. But I am not any less of an American, or any less of a member of society. All of those labels define who I am as a person as much as my last name defines me as a member of the Love family. I am Jordan Love, and I am not going to let any of those other labels pigeonhole me or allow me to make excuses for what I can or cannot accomplish. Through those labels, Ihave been given a voice, a platform to speak about my special situation.
I could tell you that I have been successful because of my own drive and determination. But that would be disingenuous. I have been successful because of the people who have cared about me. The people who gave me a little bit of themselves. From my birthmother, to my housemother, my physical therapist and my parents. I am a reflection of all of them. My success comes from them. I thank them for their sacrifices, and hope that I can make them proud – showing them how much a “special needs” adoptee can accomplish in life.
Earlier this year, MoneyGram generously committed $100,000 over the next three years to help support the education of school-aged girls in India through one of Holt’s partner agencies. The project will target 300 girls from underprivileged families who are at risk of dropping out of school. Support will include assistance with school tuition as well as books and school uniforms.
Holt began an educational sponsorship program in India in 2008 to empower girls and promote gender equality. The program is designed to provide motivation and support to keep children – especially girls – in school. The MoneyGram grant will effectively double the number of girls sponsored through our partner in Bangalore, providing assistance with school tuition as well as books and school uniforms.
To celebrate this important achievement for children, MoneyGram hosted a special event in Bangalore on October 10, 2012. Susan Soonkeum Cox, Holt Vice President of Policy and External Affairs traveled to India for the launch.
Bangalore—October 10—The first thing I notice when entering our partner agency’s kitchen is bright yellow walls painted with vibrant and cheery red, blue and green flowers and the smiling faces of children. The warm, welcoming walls reflect the positive spirit that is the heart of this beautiful child welfare organization in India, our long-time and trusted partner agency.
It’s been more than 10 years since I visited Bangalore. Sunday evening I had the pleasure to attend the meeting of the board of trustees, and later the entire Holt staff joined us for dinner.
My time in Bangalore got off to a perfect start — meeting with Executive Director Mary Paul, who has been a godsend to the orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children of India for many years. It is exciting to see how devoted Mary Paul and the care providers are to the children, and how eager they are to find ways to expand the important work they do for children and families.
Bangalore—October 11—Today, while visiting one of our partner agencies in India, we were joined by a young, enthusiastic group of volunteers – all employees at Thomson Reuters, a business data company headquartered in New York. They prepared a western lunch for the children, including chicken nuggets, smiley face potatoes, sandwiches and fruit and ice cream. It was great watching them play and interact with the children, and later you could hear the kids laughing and squealing while they played outside.
Hosting corporate volunteers is a good opportunity for the outside community to learn of the important service our partner agencies provide children in India.
About 20 of the children visiting today live with foster families, but come each day to the care center to eat lunch with the staff. This is convenient and inexpensive for the staff, but also ensures the quality of the food because the children and staff eat the same meal. The children and staff all know each other from this daily check-in, and it is another method of monitoring the care of the children in the foster care program.
There are about a dozen children who live directly in the care of our partner agency. They are children with special needs and require more than a foster family could provide. Today, a physical therapist worked with several of the children and it was clear the children enjoyed it. Some of the children have adoptive families waiting for them. For those children, the picture of their new family is hanging on the wall above their crib or bed.
It is always a gratifying experience to spend time with staff in our overseas programs. They are the ones on the ground in the trenches every day. To directly see the spirit, compassion and tenacity they bring to their work each day is inspiring. At the partner agency I visited today, the staff is primarily made up of social workers. In listening to them discuss cases and processes, the passion they have for what they do is evident. They expressed grave concern that the adoption process now takes so long. This particular agency has more than 50 Indian families who are waiting for a child!
The agency’s executive director and her staff have smart, sensible ideas about what could and should be done. Being here and meeting with them puts a face to the policies and procedures that need reform. It makes me more determined that we have to do what we can to help the staff, but most of all, to help the children…
Bangalore—October 16—The first girls to arrive for the special event wore blue school uniforms, their hair in long braids, tied with blue ribbons. The teachers led them to their chairs, and they filed in quietly and sat patiently, waiting for the program to begin. Another school arrived later. These girls wore white uniforms with red ties in their hair. Behind the girls, their mothers sat quietly. Behind the mothers were several rows of fathers.
As the program began, Harsh Lambah, regional director for MoneyGram, spoke to the girls and expressed MoneyGram’s commitment to their education, urging them to study hard and make the most of their opportunities. He then presented a check for $100,000 to our partner agency for a 3-year project sponsoring the education of 300 girls in India. The girls and their families are all part of Holt’s family preservation program in India. Each girl also received a 10-dollar voucher for school books.
MoneyGram had produced a video highlighting several of the girls and their mothers talking about what it means to them to have the opportunity to attend school. As the girls appeared on screen, the girls in the audience giggled as each of their classmates appeared.
As I sat on the stage, looking out at all of the girls, I couldn’t help but think of the others girls I had seen during my time in Bangalore. Girls working beside their mothers and fathers on the street, selling fruits and vegetables, sorting garbage or watching their younger brothers and sisters play in the dirt by the side of the road. The girls in the audience with bright blue and crisp white uniforms will have the opportunity to elevate their lives through education. The parents sitting proudly behind their girls were clearly pleased for this future – a future filled with endless possibilities for their daughters.
This joyful occasion, by coincidence, occurred the day before the international Day of the Girl Child.
The official program ended and the girls shook hands with Harsh Lambah and the dignitaries attending the event. Following the program, the girls and their families enjoyed a light lunch outside on the school grounds. The colorful saris of the women and the bright uniforms and shiny dark hair of the girls presented a beautiful mosaic in the sunlight.
Later in the afternoon, when everything had been cleaned up and put away, I walked outside and looked across at the schoolyard. The girls were on the playground under the trees. You could hear laughter and animated voices as the girls played together. I walked over and asked if I could take their picture. The quiet girls of the morning became excited. Giggling, they asked me my name and where I lived. We took several group pictures together, taking turns with the camera. It was clear that these girls were enthusiastic — full of life and possibilities. I asked if they were going to study hard. “Oh yes, ma’am,” they replied.
As we drove away, the girls stood in the bright sunlight waving and smiling. I will remember this day, and these girls, for a very long time.
My adoption journey started in September, 1975 when I came to the States at 7 months old to Minneapolis, MN where my adoptive parents were waiting. I grew up in a small farming community in northeastern Iowa on a dairy farm. My older brother and I had a traditional and simple upbringing. We used our imaginations to create endless days of fun, playing, learning and exploring the farm. We helped in the garden, played on tractors, ran around on barn rooftops, played basketball in the hay loft, and built sandcastles until dusk. It was a joyful childhood. We lived near my dad’s side of the family (he’s one of five children), so we grew up going to almost monthly birthday parties for cousins, anniversaries for aunts and uncles, and celebrating every holiday together. Family traditions were strong back then and have been carried on by my cousins and now their kids. It was an ideal upbringing for me to be raised in a community that totally and completely accepted me into a big family that unconditionally loved and supported me. It’s all any of us can ask for as a child or for our own children…to grow up to be accepted, loved and supported by our family and our communities.
With that solid foundation, I never felt any different from anyone else growing up. So, I’ve never really questioned, “who I am” or, “where I’m from” because my self-worth was engrained in me at a very young age. I’ve always had good self-esteem (except during those teenage years where we all go through “that” phase) and I’ve always had a healthy self-confidence in who I am. Again, I’m thankful for growing up in that place at that time in my life. It was a blessing.
So, how did I get from there to writing my first book about adoption? Good question! Recently, I’ve looked back over the past 3-4 years and I can clearly see God’s path for me in giving me the opportunity to write this book. He not only gave me the time to write it, but he also gave me the ability to write it, as well as, the courage to tell my story. We all have a story and some may share it more publicly than others. In general, I’m a fairly reserved person and I like to keep a lot of things to myself. So, having the foresight, courage and motivation to write this book is God’s ever-present light in my life and my growth as a person in that light. I say that because I never sought out to be an author or to write a book. That was never a life-long dream of mine. It just happened. Truly.
Initially, I just wanted to see how many stories I could write down and then when I saw I could potentially have enough to actually have a book, it became more of a project…to actually see if I could do it. So, without looking too far ahead I just took it step by step…continuing to write and then finishing it, researching the publishing process, creating my query letter, sending my query letter to hundreds of literary agents and publishers and then finally finding a publisher that was willing to publish my book! One step at a time…and even then it was a new adventure of what the actual publishing process would be, so again just taking it one step at a time. And now the publishing process is complete! I am actually holding MY book in my hands! Who knew? It’s a reality and not a dream realized, but an accomplishment that I’m proud of and hope to inspire other adoptees and even non-adoptees out there with my stories and my journey. The reality of this book is a testament to God’s work in my life and his will for my life. Something that was never on my radar has now been actualized and it’s amazing. So, be open to whatever path God calls you to go down, even if you never saw it coming!
My intention for this book is to provide hope and inspiration to other adoptees to know they are not alone and that we all go through similar questions, confusion and situations throughout our lives. However, I wanted to shine a different perspective on adoption and show how daily life and the situations we face as adoptees or just being Asian can be humorous. I take a light-hearted spin and sometimes sarcastic look at everyday life so that not only adoptees can relate, but so that non-adoptees can see what it’s like to be an adoptee…the questions we get, the confusion, the stereotypes, or even the non-acceptance we receive on a daily basis. It’s all real and I provide a very truthful look into the life of a Korean adoptee.
So, I hope anyone who reads the book can find a piece of themselves in it, can relate to a certain situation, can laugh and can find greater understanding and acceptance of one another. I know all adoptees and their situations are different, so there’s not one right answer to every question we may have. But, we share a common bond…being adopted. So, I hope this book helps open the dialogue for you to other adoptees and their experiences or to non-adoptees in gaining greater understanding of our circumstances. We may not have all the answers, but that’s what our life journeys are for…to explore, to learn, to reflect and to share with others.
I’m excited to share my story with you through the publication of my first book, Corn-fed with Rice on the Side! For more information and to purchase a copy, go to www.kimfenneman.com.
Landrieu Passes Amendment to Help Adopted Children Secure Citizenship
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., today passed the bipartisan Citizenship for Lawful Adoptees Amendment to the Senate Immigration Reform bill. The amendment provides technical but important fixes to the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (CCA) and the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) so that automatic citizenship provisions under these laws apply to all foreign-born adoptees of American citizen parents. The amendment is co-sponsored by Sens. Dan Coats, R-Ind., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Roy Blunt, R-Mo.
“Some adopted children, through no fault of their own, endure a precarious legal status, which can result in the horror of being deported to a country they don’t remember at all, where they don’t have any ties or even speak the language,” Sen. Landrieu said. “My amendment provides important technical fixes to ensure that children adopted internationally by American citizen parents receive automatic citizenship, treating them the same as biological children.”
The Citizenship for Lawful Adoptees Amendment:
- Applies automatic U.S. citizenship provisions of the CCA, which currently only apply to children who were under the age of 18 at the time of its enactment in 2001, to all foreign-born children lawfully adopted by U.S. families who were ever lawfully admitted to the United States.
- Clarifies language in the CCA so that eligible children need only be “physically present” in the U.S. versus “residing” in the U.S. for their citizenship to accrue. This clarification benefits adoptees of American families who live and work overseas, such as those serving in the military or at U.S. Embassies or Consulates.
- Modifies the INA so that only one adoptive parent—not both—must travel overseas to visit a child during the intercountry adoption process for the child to qualify for the type of visa that leads to automatic U.S. citizenship upon entry.
*Article from Oswego County Today
Adoption can create new families or expand existing ones. The expenses of adopting a child may also lower your federal tax. If you recently adopted or attempted to adopt a child, you may be eligible for a tax credit. You may also be eligible to exclude some of your income from tax.
Here are ten things the IRS wants you to know about adoption tax benefits.
1. The maximum adoption tax credit and exclusion for 2012 is $12,650 per eligible child.
2. To be eligible, a child must generally be under 18 years old. There is an exception to this rule for children who are physically or mentally unable to care for themselves.
3. For 2012, the tax credit is nonrefundable. This means that, while the credit may reduce your tax to zero, you cannot receive any additional amount in the form of a refund.
4. If your credit exceeds your tax, you may be able to carryforward the unused credit. This means that if you have an unused credit amount in 2012, you can use it to reduce your taxes for 2013. You can carryover an unused credit for up to five years or until you fully use the credit, whichever comes first.
5. Use Form 8839, Qualified Adoption Expenses, to claim the adoption credit and exclusion. Although you cannot file your tax return with Form 8839 electronically, the IRS encourages you to use e-file software to prepare your return. E-file makes tax preparation easier and accurate. You can then print and mail your paper federal tax return to the IRS.
6. Adoption expenses must directly relate to the legal adoption of the child and they must be reasonable and necessary. Expenses that qualify include adoption fees, court costs, attorney fees and travel costs.
7. If you adopted an eligible U.S. child with special needs and the adoption is final, a special rule applies. You may be able to take the tax credit even if you did not pay any qualified adoption expenses. See the instructions for Form 8839 for more information about this rule.
8. If your employer has a written qualified adoption assistance program, you may be eligible to exclude some of your income from tax.
9. Depending on the adoption’s cost, you may be able to claim both the tax credit and the exclusion. However, you cannot claim both a credit and exclusion for the same expenses. This rule prevents you from claiming both tax benefits for the same expense.
10. The credit and exclusion are subject to income limitations. The limits may reduce or eliminate the amount you can claim depending on your income.
For more information, visit the IRS.gov website to see the Adoption Benefits FAQ page. Also, check out Form 8839 and its instructions. Both are available at IRS.gov or you can order the form by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
HB 1525 will have its first hearing in the Senate next Thurs, March 21 at 10am. This is the Senate Human Services & Corrections committee, which is the same committee that the majority voted YES on the brief no-veto version of SB 5118. This is one of our last chances to get the bill modified so ALL WA adoptees can get their original birth certificate.
But we need HELP!!
We need 100+ birth mothers and birth family, adoptees and families, and adoptive parents to show up to this hearing all wearing RED!
Why red? I went to a town hall meeting last year and there were a bunch of teachers there, all wearing red. Looking around that room all you could see was a sea of red. The legislators couldn’t deny the amount of teachers that had showed up in support!
We’ve had a major problem the last year where the legislators in Olympia are listening more to their colleagues than they are listening to all of you. This is not right! This is why we need as many people as possible to show up in Olympia next week, all in red showing solidarity, all sending the same message:
ALL WASHINGTON ADOPTEES DESERVE TO BE TREATED EQUALLY!!
Even if you’re not comfortable giving a testimony, we still need you there in red! If we don’t have a huge number of people, we won’t have an impact.
BIRTH / FIRST / NATURAL MOMS! You are the key in this! We need as many of you there as we can get! We need WA moms because this is our state, and we definitely need OR moms to say “nothing catastrophic happened in Oregon when we changed this law 13 years ago!”
Since we’ll all be there, we’d like to also have a peaceful demonstration after the hearing to get the attention of all the legislators down there so none of them can deny the support when it’s time for them to vote on these bills.
Please let us know if you can commit to showing up in Olympia next Thursday, March 21 at 10am, what your connection to adoption is, and if you’d like to testify.
The National Council for Adoption (NCFA) is one of Holt’s longstanding partner organizations. An adoption advocacy nonprofit, NCFA promotes a culture of adoption through education, research and legislative action. The organization works on behalf of agencies from across the U.S.
The following is a story about NCFA employee Nicole Callahan. It discusses her experiences growing up as a domestic transracial adoptee and how those experiences have influenced her time at NCFA.
“I like that adoption is complicated and that I may never fully understand it. It means that I continue to approach my work and my life as someone ready to listen and learn to grow.”—Nicole Callahan, U.S., Korean American
As a Korean American and adoptee, many assume Nicole Callahan came to the United States as an adopted child from Korea. In reality, Nicole was born in Seattle. Her birthparents moved from Seoul to Seattle just a few years before she was born. Born premature, Nicole was in the neonatal ICU for several weeks before a family in southern Oregon adopted her.
Migration from one country to another often goes hand in hand with a transracial adoption experience – this was not the case for Nicole. But even as a domestic adoptee by birth, her experiences and struggles with culture and identity mirrored those of international adoptees.
“It was definitely not always easy,” says Nicole. “I grew up knowing very, very little about my birth family. The transracial aspect of my adoption was especially challenging for me when I was in elementary school.”
Nicole spent much of her childhood feeling out of place for a myriad of reasons. Being the only Asian in a predominately white town didn’t help matters. With no one to talk to about being Korean and no one to teach her what it all meant, Nicole found herself desperately wishing she had blonde hair and blue eyes – wanting only to “blend in.”
In middle school, she transferred from a small parochial grade school to a larger and slightly more diverse school. Although still in a predominately white town, the children in this new school were a bit more tolerant and accepting. “Even if I didn’t know how to be Korean, I could understand and embrace my identity as a Korean American adoptee and be proud of it,” says Nicole. “I learned not be ashamed of bring ‘different.’”
Nicole eventually went on to college, attending Johns Hopkins University where, for the first time in her life, she had many Asian friends. “Hopkins always felt like home to me,” says Nicole. “It felt like home in a way that my small hometown never really did.” It was here that Nicole met her husband. They have been married nearly ten years and have two young daughters, ages 5 and 2.
In 2005, Nicole came to the National Council for Adoption (NCFA). She found her way to NCFA by chance, after a friend told her about the organization. Although she had never before felt called to work in adoption, the idea appealed to her because of her own personal history and the appeal of nonprofit work.
NCFA, which was founded in 1980, is one of the country’s leading authorities on adoption issues and child welfare, and continues to advocate for children, adopted individuals, birth families, and adoptive families.
Nicole and her sister Cindy
Last year was a pivotal year for adoption policy. Agencies and organizations, including both Holt and NCFA, worked diligently to pass the Adoption Tax Credit and Universal Accreditation. “We are gratified that the adoption tax credit passed as part of the American Taxpayer Relief Act,” says Nicole. “We have also been working with other stakeholder groups to call for a much needed amendment to the Child Citizenship Act, so that all intercountry adoptees automatically become U.S. citizens upon finalization of their adoptions.”“Our partnership with member agencies like Holt keeps NCFA informed about the practices of adoption and how agencies strive to serve individuals and families,” says Nicole. “We benefit from our members’ expertise, knowledge of adoption and best practices. As the principal providers of adoption services, agencies are on the ground working with the families and children.”
Nicole says that, during her time with NCFA, she has still not realized the full extent of the impact adoption had had on her life. Like many adoptees, each time she thinks she has it figured out, something new happens to surprise her.
Five years ago, Nicole became a mother. That same month, she reconnected with her birth family. “I wanted it for myself and for my child—I wanted her to have a complete family tree,” says Nicole. “I have appreciated the unconditional support of my coworkers—particularly NCFA’s President and CEO, Chuck Johnson, who was very encouraging when I was searching for my birth family several years ago. I’ve gone through life explaining adoption to others—which is not something I have to do at NCFA, because the people I work with already get it.
“It can be challenging at times to have my professional life intersect so often with my personal experiences,” says Nicole. “Whether or not I work for NCFA, I’ll always be an adoptee. Adoption will always be part of me. It is such a personal issue and a personal cause. It’s shaped my entire life, my childhood experiences, my concept of family and my identity. And my work at NCFA has helped me understand adoption and the impact it has on others as well as myself.”
“I was just like any other child. At the end of the day, we all want to feel accepted and loved—no child deserves to be alone.” – Desi Stephens, Bulgaria
Desi Stephens was 7 years old when she left a small town in Bulgaria for a new home in the United States. After the move, Desi quickly emerged into the American culture, learning to speak English, enjoying school and playing basketball. “Sports were always such a positive outlet for me,” says Desi. “It’s something I must have in my life.”
Desi’s adoption story inspired her to offer a helping hand to the world. In 2010, she traveled to Guatemala to work with an orphanage and missionary program. Although the experience proved gratifying, Desi began searching for a more profound way to make changes in the lives of people in need.
“I wanted to create opportunities for children and families in rural Guatemala – opportunities that became lifelines,” said Desi. With this vision, Desi founded Education Plus Development (EPD), a nonprofit organization that partners with local churches. EPD serves to provide indigenous families with the resources, skills and education to build self-sufficiency.
From basic food resources, such as gardens, fruit trees and chicken coops, to the essential skills of running a small business, EPD helps communities improve their standard of living.“I get so excited when a family tells me how well their garden is doing! For them, the garden represents food, money, growth, hope and change,” said Desi.
The San Antonio Aguas Calientes community in Guatemala, where EPD is based, is a community of about 15 thousand people. Ninety percent of the population is made up of Mayan Ingenious people. The kinds of programs that EPD provides for the community are vital to preserve families and keep children with their parents.
Hearing EPD program success stories is rewarding says Desi, but she admits that her job proves challenging at times. “Seeing constant need every day becomes very heavy on the heart, which is why I wanted to start helping families at the heart of the issues they are facing in their homes,” says Desi. “It’s a catch twenty-two. I often have to take a step back and realize God is in control of everything.”
In Guatemala, as in many developing countries, extreme poverty coupled with the pressure for parents to provide for their family often leads to child abandonment. Unfortunately, Guatemala poses an even larger threat for children in this situation as international adoption is currently closed, and orphaned and abandoned children have to remain in orphanages. Desi hopes EPD can open doors for families by providing them with the necessities to better themselves and their communities, and preventing child abandonment.
Desi’s adoption not only inspired her to make a difference, but also motivated her to continue sharing her story. In 2008, Desi visited her birth country to film a documentary called “Love Knows No Borders.” The film showcases the hopeful changes in Bulgaria’s adoption process and an emotional visit to Desi’s orphanage.
“It was a good experience but of course a very emotional experience,” said Desi. “It was a past that I am glad I don’t live in—heartbreaking to see child after child laying in a crib without a family. That would bring anyone to tears.” Desi feels strongly that once people understand the implications of child homelessness and abandonment, it will make an impact on society and create an understanding of how adoption can change lives forever. “Children just want to know they are loved,” says Desi.
With the support of local leaders, Desi plans to expand EPD into other countries in the near future.
“My first dream was to work at the international level of government,” said Desi. “Then, after taking my first trip to Sudan I realized how many people had untold and unthinkable stories…I knew I wanted to work in the field and help people in some way—I never thought it would all start in Guatemala.”
Volunteer at Holt Ilsan Town
Each year Holt Ilsan Town is in need to volunteers to stay for extended periods of time to help with the day-to-day operations of Ilsan Town. Holt asks that volunteers can commit to stay for 1 to 3 months. It’s a great way to spend a couple months of your summer or break from school. All volunteers are welcome; however, adoptees are given preference.
Please email Courtney Young for more information or an application packet at: Courtneyy@holtinternational.org
The Volunteer Spirit at Holt Ilsan Town
The volunteer spirit is very much alive in Korea. You will see church groups, women’s clubs, company organizations, students, soldiers and individuals all giving their time to assist Holt Ilsan. They volunteer weekly, monthly, or sometimes just once. Their contribution is invaluable to Holt. Volunteers from overseas who can commit to1 to 3 months of work are especially welcome. They enable Holt to operate valuable programs that require daily supervision.
Presently our volunteers are mainly responsible for the Activity Center, which allows some of our disabled residents the opportunity to get out and about, as they may not otherwise have the opportunity. This program is run in the morning and afternoon. As this does not fill up the working day, volunteers’ extra time may be spent helping to correct English translations for the office, physical therapy, vocational therapies, or whatever your talents/interests are. You will need to ask our volunteer coordinator to help you get involved in these extra activities and any contribution is much appreciated.
Who is Welcome? Everyone is welcome to visit Holt Ilsan Town although adoptees are given preference. However, in the case of overseas volunteers who would like to stay here for one to three months, we are looking for certain qualities that will assure us that the volunteer’s stay will be mutually beneficial, productive, and fulfilling. Dedication, flexibility, and adaptability to surroundings and situations are necessary qualities in any volunteer. If you come to Korea with an open, adaptable mind, your stay at Ilsan will be much more comfortable and enjoyable. It is most important to be self-directed and use initiative, as no one will be looking over your shoulder. You need to be able to speak English or Korean and to be able to care for yourself, your money, and be able to perform difficult physical duties, like pushing a wheelchair up a steep hill. (We have many here at Ilsan).If you have ideas about how to implement or improve programs, just let us know. We are also looking for people who will respect the very real differences that exist between Western culture and the conservative culture of Korea. In addition, Holt Korea is mainly a Christian organization and thus we ask that you respect our standards.
Volunteer at Zion International School
A wonderful opportunity waits for a missionary from the United States who is looking to volunteer as a teacher at Zion International School in Korea. This position would be great for an adult adoptee who wants to see Korea and help kids who have found the answer to their identity questions in God’s Word.
This position is full time and volunteer work is necessary. There are options for room and board and the scheduling can be flexible so that there is time for you to have other opportunities to earn money.
The classes are 2-5 kids and everyday they will be learning a serious Christian curriculum. We need a teacher confident in teaching middle/high school curriculum to them all in English.
The opportunity for you to learn Korean is also a possibility through a KSL teacher or by an MDiv program through Hanyoung Theological U that is located in town.
Learn more about this great chance at www.zisglory.org
For more inforamtion contact:
Tim Veach at: 82-10-9419-9704 or Courtney Young at: Courtneyy@holtinternational.org
CLICK HERE TO REGISTER NOW!
Participants: This tour is designed specifically for Korean adult adoptees to visit Korea as a group–to share the commonality of their adoption experience as they return to the land of their birth. Recognizing that those who now share our lives also benefit from sharing our early beginnings in Korea, adoptees are welcome to bring their spouse, partner, adult children, adoptive parents, siblings, or other significant friends or loved ones age 21 and older.
Adoption Heritage: A special part of the tour is visiting the Holt office and Reception Center in Seoul. We will visit the Post-Adoption Department where adoptees can see their adoption file, go to Holt’s Ilsan Center where the work of Holt began and enjoy a casual Korean BBQ in the countryside with Molly Holt and the residents of IlSan. The trip includes a visit to a Maternity and Child Care center where you will meet birth moms and children in Holt’s care. Dr. Byung Kuk Cho, the Holt pediatrician who provided medical services and pre-flight physicals to thousands of adoptees from the early 1960’s – 1990’s is joining parts of the tour to be available to answer questions and tell wonderful stories of her many years working with children. Her amazing spirit and dedication is an inspiration to everyone she meets. (If you were adopted from Holt Korea, look on your child intake material to see if she was your pediatrician)
Tour Highlights: The itinerary is a mix of Korea culture, heritage and our own adoption heritage. You will have time to explore on your own and with new friends. The Somerset hotel is located in the Insadong district of Seoul, which is filled with galleries, tea houses, shops and restaurants. On the weekends the main street is closed to traffic and there are often street festivals and music. Sightseeing activities will include traditional Korean Folk Village, the National Palace, Seoul City tour, Chunggyechun water-walk, the tower at Namsan Tower, Panmunjeom (DMZ), local markets, shopping districts and much more.
CLICK FOR 2012 TOUR HIGHLIGHTS
*courtesy of Sarah Neumayer
The first 30 individuals will be accepted as tour participants and anyone number 30 and after will be assigned to a waiting list. Final payment of the balance on the tour cost is due no later than April 1, 2013.
Land package per person for shared double room: $3,000.00
Land package per person for single room: $3,500.00
Included in Tour Cost/Land Package:
Airport shuttle and ground transportation, in-country travel, hotel with breakfast, sightseeing entrance fees, tour guides and tips, and most meals.
Not Included in Tour Cost:
International airfare, additional or optional tours and admissions, items of a personal nature such a laundry or telephone calls, passport costs, alcoholic beverages, hotel maid and porter gratuity, or anything else not specifically in official tour itinerary.
For more information and questions please contact Courtney Young at
firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-687-2202.
Holt Alumni Fall Tour to Korea October 2013
Final dates are pending and will be sent out shortly. Please contact Courtney Young for more information at Courtneyy@holtinternational.org or 541-687-2202.
Holt International Omaha Gala and Auction
~A Benefit for Special Needs Adoption and Children in the Philippines~
Saturday, April 20, 2013 | 5:30 p.m.
Embassy Suites Omaha-La Vista
Located in Honolulu on the island of Oahu
Co-President, Kristina Alger: 503-380-8151 or email@example.com
Co-President, Charlie Teixiera: 808-391-0774 or firstname.lastname@example.org
KAHI 6th Anniversary Dinner and Noreabang
Monday, March 25, 2013 | 7 p.m.
KAHI Monthly Dinner(s)
Monday, March 25, 2013 | 7 to 9 p.m.
Lucky Belly Restaurant
Monday, April 29, 2013
Soul De Cuba | 5 to 6:30 p.m.
Earth Day Hike
Saturday, April 20, 2013 | Time and Location TBD
Adoptee Circle Movie Night (Operation Babylift)
Monday, April 29, 2013 (after monthly dinner)
Bambu Two | 7 to 9 p.m.
Saturday, May 18, 2013 | Time and Location TBD
AAAWashed Monthly Dinner
Thursday, March 28, 2013 | 6:30 p.m.
Phnom Penh Noodle House, 660 S King St. Seattle, WA 98104
AAAW Dialogue Series
Sunday, March 10, 2013 | 4 to 6 p.m.
Please RSVP to email@example.com and to receive directions
Annual Spring Potluck
Saturday, May 11, 2013 | 4 p.m.
Asian Adult adoptees, spouses and their children welcome!
AAAW Gala Benefit dinner!
Saturday, October 5, 2013
AAAW is kicking off a Youth and Mentorship Program this year! Join in on the fun that is planned for this year and beyond! For more information please email firstname.lastname@example.org .