Thursday, October 22, 2009

Older Orphans

Our adoption journey in itself has been life changing, but there have been precious experiences along the way each in themselves, life changing.

One of those experiences was my visit to AHOPE orphanage in Addis. AHOPE houses children with HIV and one of their compounds was within walking distance of our guest house.

I'll start at the beginning...

I met an amazing woman online who is in the process of adopting 2 of these children. Her son, who I believe is 8 years old, was in the compound near our guest house. She asked if I would take pictures of him if I had the opportunity to visit AHOPE. I was very honored she asked and knowing how much this would mean to her, I was very willing to take on the task. You may remember that I have another online friend who traveled weeks before us and gave our Samson a hug from our family and told him we loved him. So, I know how priceless this connection can be.

Our week in Ethiopia was packed full of activities and each day we were there, my trip to AHOPE looked uncertain. I feared that I would not be able to carry out the task that I so honorably accepted.

But on our last day, a few of us from our travel group, through our guest house manager, were able to arrange a visit. And I am so glad I didn't let our week there end without this opportunity.
Upon arriving at the orphanage, we were first greeted by a guard at the gate between the walls of corrugated metal. Once inside the gate, we received a warm welcome from a few of the children who were playing in the courtyard.
After a brief orientation and tour from the director, I asked about my friend's son and it didn't take long before I was introduced to this amazing and handsome young man. The director explained to him that we wanted to take pictures of him to bring back to his new family in the US.

His big, beautiful, kind eyes lit up and the next thing he did was tuck in his shirt. At this point, I just melted. I was so touched by his kindness and desire to make a good impression. I took a few pictures of him and thanks to Julie, who was touring the compound with me, we were also able to get video of him.

During our adoption process, we have received numerous comments about how we are doing such a good thing for our son, like we are rescuing him. I never want to be admired for doing this "good thing". He is a gift to us as a result of a tragedy in his life. I would never consider him as the lucky one - we are the lucky ones. I could say more about how I feel about these comments but hopefully you get the picture.

However, I admire the families, like my friend's, who are willing to open their hearts and homes to older children, children who have a slim chance at being placed with a forever family.

Before I left for Ethiopia, I thought about all the older children who are orphaned. Their biggest wish is to be chosen by a family before it's too late, before they are too old to be adopted. (By the way, what I mean by older children are children who have been waiting because of their age.) There are tons of families open to children Samson's age. He was orphaned for 4 months before we brought him home. We waited 12 months for his referral. But there are older children who wait several years for their family.

I have read countless stories of older children praying in their orphanage bunks each night, that a family will come for them. I have also read on other adoptive parents' blogs letters they received from children, in the orphanage, who were not matched with a family. These letters were written as a plea for the family to please find them a family to call their own. My heart just aches for these children=(

Before I left for Ethiopia, I also thought about what a blessing a family and a home would be to an older, orphaned child. Then after I met my friend's son, I realized what a blessing this young man will be for his future family. I do not have first hand experience myself bringing an older child into my home, but do know from reading others' blogs that older children can bring as much joy, laughter and blessings to a family as a younger child. At least I would not be afraid of jumping into an older child adoption if that is where God leads us.

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