But when they arrived, they were happily surprised to find a great orphanage, a place very similar to the schools for the deaf and blind in the United States, except this boarding school and orphanage was for kids with physical disabilities like cerebral palsy, arthrogryposis, dwarfism, spina bifida and missing limbs. They found out that the kids here are happy, fun-loving, smart and in most ways live a normal life- except many of them don't have families.
The first week the couple was at the orphanage, many visitors came in. One of them was a young woman who taught several classes at the school including English. She politely asked the couple if they'd be willing to come speak to her English class to help encourage them to study and work hard to learn the language. The couple agreed.
One day, the couple entered the classroom. They had prepared a slideshow of pictures of people with disabilities in the US living a normal life. They shared those pictures- of people in wheelchairs, and using walkers, getting married, going to prom, driving cars, riding buses, being attorneys, going to amusement parks, skateboarding and performing on stage. The kids were amazed- the ones in wheelchairs especially. They asked lots of questions to the couple and discussed what they saw amongst themselves. The girls oooed and ahhhed over the romantic pictures, and the boys cheered when they saw the wheelchair basketball pictures. There was good conversation and shared snacks.
But one boy's angst stood out in stark contrast. Where some of the children were entertained and even encouraged, this young man was very persistent in his questioning. He was direct, and determined as he queried the couple about their knowledge of the opportunities available in America for people with disabilities. The couple figured he must have been in a wheelchair, although they couldn't see past the desk top, so they shared what they knew. The boy in the red shirt was very curious about the couple's soon-to-be daughter, of how she would be treated and what she would get to do. He asked to see pictures of the couple's home and wanted to understand if they lived in an apartment.
The couple was open and honest with him- because there was something about him, this charm, this honesty, this realness about him that drew them to him. He was funny but serious. It was obvious from talking with him that he was intelligent, and that the wheels were turning in his head as they chatted.
The couple enjoyed their conversation with the kids, and left the classroom to go visit their daughter. They couldn't get the boy in the red shirt off their minds though, and asked their facilitator about him. She didn't know him and she reiterated that the director had already pointed out the kids that were available and he wasn't in them.
But the couple still couldn't get the boy off their minds. They prayed, and he still kept coming up. So they asked again, this time to see what could be found out. They prayed for him, and bought him a soccer ball, since he had talked of his futbol passion. Actually, he asked the couple lots of questions about sports, specifically soccer, and was a bit disappointed that the couple wasn't so into sports as he was.
One day, they passed the boy in the hallway- walking. He had a very athletic build and appeared very much like any other normal teenage boy. His only apparent disability was in the shape and presence of his fingers.
Then, on the last day, the facilitator came back and said she had found out more info about the boy. The couple went into the director's office and she shared more- that this boy was very special to her, and that she had arranged for him to go a soccer camp in Poland, and that he was very good at soccer. The psychologist visited as well, and the staff shared that the boy had been very sad several months ago because he did not have a family. He wanted adults to care about him- ones that personally would help him and talk to him and encourage and support him, parents to share his dreams with and his hurts. He wanted to be understood. He felt like a misfit here, because he walked while others rode. Others struggled to care for themselves, and he had no such struggles. He wasn't disabled in the same way as the others, and he felt different. He knew the outside world in EE would make no place for him because his fingers were different, and he just felt so alone.
The staff told him to be happy, that he was in a good place for now and that he had many friends.
But he felt alone and different.
He knew his 16th birthday was coming up soon, and he stressed about what would become of him. Jobs were scarce for able-bodied citizens, and those with disabilities would lack even the most basic of opportunities. At 16, he would be sent out, unable to rely on the support of family, as they had rejected him already.
Alone, but with a burning desire to be a part of a family.
On that last day, the family got to see him again.
We are that family. The boy is Sam. On that last day we were there at the orphanage 39, we met with Sam. I stood upstairs, waiting for his computer class to end so I could see him. He came out and smiled and gave me a huge hug. I gave him the soccer ball, and he thanked me very much.
And our facilitator talked to him, with the psychologist. He talked of wanting to go to America to come visit us, to see the world, to experience life. He has no worries about leaving EE- he recognizes the lack of opportunity he will have. He wants to go to college. He wants to play futbol. He shared of his feelings of isolation, of not being where he feels he should be. He shares that he has developed good coping skills- that he doesn't do bad activities, but when he feels stressed, he goes and practices futbol/soccer to help him deal with his stress. He relies on his faith. He would love to be a part of a family that would support him in his faith, help him grow, and help him grow in his soccer skills. He was humble in his wishes- he just wants to be loved and to have a chance to be something. He is willing to work hard, but just needs a chance.
And as we talked, other kids came up. One is waiting for her adoptive family to get approval to come over and get her- she was hosted and these are friends of her host family that have decided to adopt her. Another girl is her friend. Another boy just came and was standing by, after the psychologist spoke to him for a minute. That boy is Duncan.
Duncan is a funny, charming young man. Like Sam, he is months away from turning 16 and being too old to find a family. Unlike Sam, who is confident in his abilities if he could just catch a break and be somewhere that could see past his fingers, Duncan has felt the rejection of his country and family more. When I went to take pictures, Duncan slid down, trying to hide and not be in the picture. Duncan worried that if a family saw him, they wouldn't want him, because he has believed the lies of his country that a physical disability like CP makes you unattractive. Duncan wants a family- Duncan needs a family- Duncan is a loving, caring kid, he just needs someone to want him.
There has been a lot of interest in Sam, but not so much in Duncan. And neither boy has a committed family yet despite the inquiries. So today, despite having 6 suitcases full of clothes to be washed and a daughter to play with and dogs to pick up from the kennel, I want to tell you about Sam and Duncan, and share what I have about them.
Sam needs a family that enjoys sports, preferably one that is athletic themselves. If you follow European futbol, even better! He wants a family strong in their faith. Sam is intelligent. He likes to have conversations. He knows some English and will likely learn more very quickly. He understands and has been taught about English grammar and the alphabet, and can read and write English and understand it better than he can speak it. From my perspective, if I were making the placement, I would be looking for a family that takes pride in their appearance, and dresses well, and that is successful in their achievements, willing to work around obstacles in order to achieve their goals. Sam has a lot of inner motivation to succeed. As with any older child adoption, Sam will likely need ESL classes and will need to transition to the different curriculum. I don't see any sensory issues with Sam. He is eager for a family. Because he is older, he will need time to bond with them and get to know them, but you can see the desire to be loved in his eyes. He was very responsive to jokes and hugs. He is a sensitive child, eager to please those that care about him, but at the same time, has the desire for some independence as is normal for a young teen. I would hope that his future family has good experience with teenagers, either as parents who have maintained a good relationship with their kids through the teen years or as people who have worked with teens as teachers or youth leaders in their church. His family would be great if they could appreciate and support a teen's desire to succeed while giving guidance and love and acceptance.
Duncan is also used to being pretty independent and self-sufficient, as that is part of the upbringing here at 39. Duncan would do great in a family that has friends or family members or other children who have Cerebral Palsy or physical disabilities but have thrived. He needs to see that acceptance and witness firsthand that a person's worth is in no way determined by the way you look when you walk. Duncan is a laidback, easygoing kid. Unlike Sam, who exudes energy and drive, Duncan is the kind of kid that will hang out with you, and enjoy just "being". He's also a smart kid, and quite social. Duncan would easily blend in a large family, and gets along well with younger and older kids as well as adults. I could easily see Duncan homeschooled as well, although he'd do fine in a school system as well provided there were kids there who also have physical disabilities. Duncan is comfortable and well liked at the orphanage, but the staff really worries for him since he is so close to 16 (early this summer) and he has no future in EE. Because he could not easily navigate many stairs, he could not live in an apartment in EE. If you can't do well in an apartment, and you can't get a job (he would not be able to), then the other option is transfer to an adult mental institution. It is unfathomable that a kid like Duncan, normal in intelligence, social and friendly, eager and willing to work, would be sent to a mental institution. He is an optimistic kid, but just doesn't see his own worth physically thanks to the country that has encouraged that mentality.
However, I want to point out- this isn't about finding the "perfect" family. This is about finding a family. I've never been much like my family- they like activities I can't stand, I like to read and play musical instruments and none of them feel the same way. We're as different as daylight and dark. But they are MY family. The love comes from the acceptance, not from being identical. Several have asked me what the personalities of Sam and Duncan are like, and I've described them and what I can see happening. God knows best- if God is putting these boys on your heart, then go for it. Maybe you want to adopt them both- maybe the mom in your family is outgoing and the dad is more introspective. Maybe your family is a big blended one or a small one with no kids at home. Regardless, if you are able and willing to support these boys, to encourage and love them, to teach them and stand by them, then you are able to be their family.
As you look through the pictures, please remember- these aren't vacation pictures. They aren't pictures taken at the local high school. They aren't just reminders of fun memories with friends of our family.
These pictures were taken, intiated by the kids, because they believe we can find their families.
These pictures represent the hopes and dreams of two boys who realize their time of safety in Orphanage 39 is rapidly coming to a close, and the future for them after than is grim.
These pictures may be your first glimpse of your future son, and I pray if you look at these and see your son, that you will contact RR at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or me at email@example.com and ask for more info. There is no time to waste.
I have to be honest, looking at these pictures brings me so much joy- I loved meeting and getting to know Sam and Duncan and the other kids.
But they also bring me sadness. Sam has 63 days to find a family. 63 days.
Duncan has about 100 days.
I remember when we found out my dad had stage IV colon cancer. He was diagnosed and they gave him 2-3 weeks to live. We were stunned- shocked- horrified. He had been healthy and suddenly, that was it.
It is hard to meet someone you know is so healthy and thriving, like Sam and Duncan, and know that they, like my dad, are forecast only a few weeks.
My dad made it 2.5 years after that fateful diagnosis, before the cancer won.
There's no extra window of time after Sam and Duncan turn 16. At 16, if they didn't have a family committed, it's over.
It's like the last Christmas I saw my dad, the one where the cancer had taken its toll, his body ravaged and weak, when I knew I probably wouldn't see him again this side of heaven.
I keep thinking, will I see Sam and Duncan again, this side of heaven? If they get adopted by an American family, hubby and I have already decided if the family is willing, we plan to see them again. We'll travel wherever they are, just to say hello and hug them.
If they don't get a family in the next few weeks, so there is time to do the paperwork, it's over. They'll be transferred, and I won't see them again. Not this side of heaven.
Will they even go to heaven? Will they have a chance to hear the gospel? I don't know if they are Christians now, if they understand what Jesus did for them. If they aren't adopted, and are sent to a mental institution or turned out on the street, will they meet someone who will share the gospel with them?
I may never seen Sam and Duncan again, on either side of heaven.
Sam has 63 days.
Duncan has approximately 100 days.
The family needs to be committed and get USCIS approval before their 16th birthdays.
There are many on RR who have committed to helping fundraise.
They just need someone for sure to commit to them.
Many of you have commented and emailed me thanking me for blogging this adventure. I'll admit it's been hard at times. I'm by nature a very private person. This has taken me way out of my comfort zone.
But seeing Alexis get a committed family made it worth it for me.
Seeing the others, especially Sam and Duncan and Bernadette, get families asap will be even better.
This was taken after the English class. That's Sam in the red shirt. The other kids are his friends but not available. Many in this class have families who stay involved in their life. The girl with the black hair to Sam's right is my good friend- she has CP, but knows English very well. At this time, she is not available.
In this picture, Duncan halfway smiled. He tried to look his best, hoping a family would think he looked good enough to be their son. Can you imagine how "on pins and needles" he must feel? Knowing we took his picture, fearing he's too ugly to get a family, and seeing every day go by without the psychologist telling him someone is coming for him? It's worse than being matched on a blind date. Can you imagine how badly he will feel if no one chooses him? I think back to my childhood, of being picked last for kickball (I was a clumsy, 4 eyed little girl) and feeling like a loser. I cannot imagine the way Duncan feels- hoping for a family, but wondering every day if I was right, that I was too ugly, too deformed, to be chosen.
Wow. Please re-post. Sam and Duncan need families! Help Duncan know that he is handsome! As Renee said, Duncan was HIDING from the camera, because he thought he was too ugly to get adopted. If you can't adopt, re-post. Raise money. Raise awareness.
The link to Sam's page. He has $339 in his account. Let's make it $25,000 and bring him home!
The link to Duncan's page. He has $148 in his account. Let's make it $25,000 and bring him home!