Thursday, June 27, 2013

Final post on DRC Adoption Law (part 5; 2009 Supplement)

If you have not been following along on this series of posts, then please read this post first.  I had the DRC Family Code (as it pertained to adoption) translated from french and have been slowly putting it up on the blog.  I feel like it is extremely important that we know the law ourselves.  This last part is the May 2009 Supplement.  It is short.  I'm going to leave my comments to a minimum.  Please read my referenced post above.  The rest of the links to the first four posts can be found here.  Please, know the law in DRC!

Article 17:

Every child has the right to a family environment, an ideal situation where his/her material, moral and emotional needs are taken care of for his/her thriving.

Article 18:

Every child has the right to be adopted.  Without prejudice to the provisions of Articles 65- to 691 of the Family Code, adoption of a child by a foreigner may only occur if the competent authorities in the country of origin:
       Certify, after having duly examined the dispositions of the child’s placement in his/her country of origin, that the adoption is in the higher interest of the child;

      Are assured that:
     The consent was not obtained through payment or any sort of compensation and that it was not taken back;
    The wishes and opinions of the child are taken into consideration according to his/her age and level of maturity;
    The consent of the child to the adoption, when required, is given freely, in the legally required forms, and that this consent is given or recorded in writing.

Article 19:

Adoption may only be granted if the competent authorities of the host country can state that:
   The future adoptive parents are qualified and fit to adopt
    The child is authorized to enter and to live in the country permanently.

Article 20:
                  Adoption of a child by a homosexual person or couple, a pedophile, or a person suffering from psychiatric troubles is forbidden.

Article 21:
                  Every child has the right to enjoy the best health possible. This right includes healthcare, breast milk as well as a healthy, sufficient, balanced, and varied diet.

I love the last article (#21)--every child has the right to enjoy the best health possible.  The right includes healthcare, breast milk as well as a healthy, sufficient, balanced, and varied diet. I may not agree with every single part of the adoption law (please see previous four posts), but I sure agree 100% with many of them; especially the very last one.  

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Our first ever giveaway!

I'm doing a small giveaway here on my blog tonight on behalf of Reeds of Hope.  We would love to have more people learn about what we are doing in eastern DRC as we work alongside Congolese women and men as they care for vulnerable children in their midst.  I'm slowly learning how to navigate social media and I'm hoping that it can be one way others can join us.

During my recent trip to DRC, I bought a beautiful basket from some local artists.  I wanted to share it with you.  We have had some similar baskets for some years and they hold up well.  Also included in the giveaway are two bars of dark chocolate from cocoa that was grown by farmers in eastern DRC.  You can find out more about this amazing work at Eastern Congo Initiative and Theo chocolates here.  Finally, Jason Stearns of Congo Siasa recently wrote a book about eastern DRC where we work.  His recent book, Dancing with Monsters will be included.  If you want to begin to understand the complexity and depth of DRC, his book is the place to start.  It not only impacts eastern DRC, but all of Congo.

The giveway will be open for one week.  Thank you!

***Huge congratulations to Lindsay Morris, the winner of our first every Reeds of Hope giveaway.  Thank you for being a part of our work in eastern DRC, Lindsay and everyone who participated!*** 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, June 21, 2013

mystery, horses, and life in the country

Our middle little one (she is between the twins and her older sister) has been having some grumpy days.  She is our most creative with her words and has been using them beautifully in throwing some impressive tantrums.  There is a lot of change happening in her world and when you're little it's hard to figure it all out.  The other day she was upset most of the day and nothing would make her happy.  Then I found her outside.  Standing in front of the horses.  Quiet.  Listening.

We are so fortunate to live next to a farm that boards horses.  Literally our backyard connects to the field where the horses spend their days (about 50 yards from my backdoor).  They are friendly and so are the girls.

Often I find the girls standing by them, talking to them.  And just as often I see them walk up to the girls, nickering softly.  I've learned that horses have a special mystery to them, the ability to transfer peace, healing, and calm.  A gift to me as much as to my girls.

*Please check back tomorrow for a giveaway here on the blog!*

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

a review (of my most recent trip to DR Congo)

I've been sitting on this post for over a week now.  I can't quite find the words to write.  I decided today that I will just write the few that come to mind and show you lovely, hopeful faces in place of the many words that are somewhere holed up in my heart.

Overall, the trip went amazingly well.  I was blessed to have a woman join me in my travels.  She had followed my blog for awhile and we had been in contact a year or so ago.  She wrote to me and asked me if she could come.  After trying to scare her off (you know, by saying that I am not responsible for what could happen to her in eastern DRC), I realized she wasn't scared off and really wanted to come.  I said yes.  I'm so glad I did!  She was such a great help and it was so nice to have a friend (as she became!) to join me on my journey.  We were just talking last night and we agreed that the trip had been so fast that it's hard to believe we were in eastern DRC two weeks ago, walking on dusty streets (it's dry season there and very dusty), taking taxies around town, sitting in meetings, playing with children, visiting heroes, and generally experiencing (and enjoying) eastern DRC.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart for joining me on the trip, Marcia!

Marcia, babies just kept showing up around her while she sat there!

Overall, the kids all looked good.  Only one or two of the infants looked malnourished, the rest appeared in good health and well nourished.  The orphanage looked well taken care of and there were some improvements since I had been there which were encouraging to see.  




We felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of small children (infants and toddlers) there were and what an insurmountable task it is to take care of so many and do it well.  And I realized how we really need to make it a priority to hire more mamas to care for the children.  

A little overwhelming!  

Greeting old friends.  There are no words to describe that moment for me.

I appreciate the amazing women who care for the children at the orphanage.  And it was so very good to see them again.  Their job is not easy and in addition to providing physical care they become the mothers for them as well.  This is a precious photo to me.  In it, the women are looking at photos of children that were adopted over the past 3 years.  They were thrilled to see those photos and know the children are doing well.  The photos will also be given to the families of the children.  In the background are donations we received.  Fleece footed pajamas, bottles and much needed bumbo seats.  Thank you to all those who donated.

I am so grateful I had the opportunity to go back to DRC.  I am left humbled by the people and the country and grateful for an opportunity to have a small part in the incredible work the congolese are doing to help the vulnerable children in their midst.  

***Stay tuned for a giveaway coming soon!****

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Some thoughts on Father's Day (he is called baba)

One of the "worlds" I inhabit is the world of international adoption.  My kids are adopted internationally (this is the most important link I have, my children are "child" adoptees and one day will be adult adoptees).  I have volunteered my time in the past to help adoptions.  I have many good friends who are also adoptive parents and friends who are adult adoptees.  I do a lot of advocacy around the subject of ethical international adoptions in DRC.  I am inspired and encouraged by the friends I have made.  And I have learned a lot from them and from their own stories and journeys.

I find we are a group of people that are trying to do what is right by our kids.  Part of that is figuring out the best way to love and respect the first families of our children and their pasts.  We know we cannot separate our children from their deep ties to their family nor their stories, as difficult as some of their stories may be before they came to live with us.  We all navigate this in different ways and as our children age we try to be there beside them as they find their own way and words.

On Mother's Day this year I think most of us tried in some ways to acknowledge or honor our children's mothers.  Certainly I thought of her most of the day; I think of her most days actually.  I think we identify and sympathize with mothers.  Knowing the story of my girls' mother changed my life in so many ways.  I see her everyday in my girls' eyes, faces, and laughter.

Sometimes, I forget their father.  Today I wondered why.  Why do I acknowledge their father less, try to honor him less?  Why is he forgotten today?  Why are there very few to no facebook acknowledgements of our childrens' fathers (given there are so many for their mothers on Mother's Day)?   I can only speak for myself, but for me, the relationship is so complicated.  And if I am honest, I have judged him from day one.  Over the past three years, I have seen in my own heart a subtle judgement of fathers in DRC, in the U.S., in the world.  It's a judgement that first says "you are to blame somehow" for the situation my child has found herself in today or the situation of all hurting children.  It says, "you must not really love this child, not like her mother loves her."  It judges before listening.  It speaks before hearing, before understanding.

I was confronted with this ugliness within me when we met our girls' father for the first time.  I had all kinds of "opinions" (judgements) about why they needed a second family (and it wasn't because of poverty).  I made all kinds of assumptions.  I walked away humbled and a bit disgusted with myself. And realizing I understood nothing.  And I  had so much to learn (and still do).

The first and last thing he said to me that meeting (and it was not "will you give me money"!), "I just want to make sure you love my girls like you love your girls you already have."  What?  I was in silent in disbelief.

Who was the greater person in that moment?  Me with my assumptions, prejudices and judgments?  Or their father, (who has never once asked me for money), who wanted to make sure they were loved more than any thing else?

Who was waiting for me when I arrived in DRC the first day we got there almost two weeks ago?  Their father.  What were his first questions?  "How are the girls? Do you have photos?"

The relationship is not easy, it's actually had a fair share of disappointments and frustrations.  There are some very hard and complicated reasons why he couldn't (or wouldn't) care for his girls.  I cannot idealize him or pretend that the relationship will be good in the future.  But I will not throw away this relationship because of the hard, or the complicated, or the difficult.  Because if I did, I would also be throwing out the good, the beautiful, and the love.  Aren't most relationships a mix of all of it anyway?  Aren't we all a mix of the hard and the lovely?  Also, it is not my relationship to throw away.  He is their father, it is their relationship.  And most of all, I can hold onto hope and mercy, and walk in forgiveness, committed to reconciliation.  Hope for change, for a good relationship one day.

So, he is called baba.  The swahili name for father.  The girls know they have two fathers.  Daddy and baba.  Most of all, we have each other, for whatever the future days bring.

And perhaps you came here because of Reeds of Hope.  Let me leave you with a few thoughts.

When I arrived at the orphanage a couple weeks ago, I was asked "do you have photos of the children that have been adopted, because their fathers and families come and ask and ask for updates, news and photos?"

Most of the children that have left the orphanage, have left with their fathers.  Fathers who lost their wives.  Fathers who are now caring for all of their children.  Fathers who love their children, all of them.  Fathers, most of whom, who brought their infants to the orphanage to save their lives because they couldn't afford the milk to keep them alive.  Fathers who plan to come back and get their babies.

So, today, I honor fathers in Congo.  I choose to believe in them as well as the mothers.  Because I want strong families in Congo, strong families with mothers and fathers who love, care, and support their children.

Today and everyday, I am thankful for the first father of my girls.  For their baba.  

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A very special auction to benefit Reeds of Hope

I'm back in the U.S.  My trip to eastern DRC went so well.  Thank you for all the prayers and support.  Given it was only 5 days in country, we were able to get a surprising amount done.  I have many things to share in the days ahead about my trip.  This morning however I wanted to give you the chance to participate in an auction that benefits Reeds of Hope.  I met the creator behind Emily Moon Dolls because of my blog and her interest in Congo.  I have been fortunate in that over the last 2-3 years, I have developed some amazing friendships because of my blog and our shared interest in working beside those in DRC.  My friendship with the woman behind Emily Moon Dolls has been one of those.  She has come behind our work with vulnerable children in eastern DRC and has consistently been a faithful source of encouragement and support.  There have been so many times when I have been overwhelmed by the obstacles and challenges facing our work in eastern DRC over the last couple years.  If it wasn't for friends like Lana, I don't know if I would still be continuing forward in the work we are doing.

Sometimes you meet unexpected friends and then you find out they have a gift of such creativity that it blows you away.   Such is Lana's gift and she has decided to share her gift with us to raise money for Reeds of Hope.  100% of the proceeds will go to support Reeds of Hope.  I feel quite humbled by the work she has done for this auction, it is incredible.  Please check it out.  Here is from a blog post she wrote as she introduced the inspiration behind this project.

It is the character-filled tarnish that is acquired by precious surfaces as they age:  patina; the accumulated changes of texture and colour, signifying the natural, even unavoidable, experience of life.  Patina is a thing of beauty - proof that life has indeed had an impact over time.  Look closely at the fine lines, the discoloration, the imperfections.  What stories they tell! 

I am thrilled to tell you more about a project I have been working on for the last many weeks.  I am creating a fairy tale set inspired by a lovely group of vintage, foundling and handcrafted items.  Each item has a story to tell, its own unique patina.  It is up to us to take the time to appreciate the items' uniqueness, their flaws and their allure in order to learn their stories.... 
The story of the Congo is deep, intricate and tragic.  And yet, the indelible impact of that story has left the most beautiful patina on the country and its people.  
Here are two posts about the auction from Emily Moon Dolls-

The site where you can bid is here (bidding starts June 12 at 10 am EDT)-

Thank you, Emily Moon Dolls, for your love and support of the vulnerable children in eastern DRC.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Travel adventures

I left this morning for my trip to DRC.  I had to take a bus to get to JFK (which is where I am now).  I have to laugh at the ridiculous things that have happened to me so far.  It probably all started when I realized I had 10 (!) bumbo seats to take with me.  Though they aren't heavy, most of you probably realize that they are big and awkward.  My husband was awesome and helped me.  We figured giant duffel bags were the way to go.  So, he packed them up along with some of the other donations.  I packed a roller and a backpack to carry on (all important details for later), like most travelers do these days.

All week I have found myself waffling between "I have to make the house totally clean, do all the laundry, shop, and plan all the childcare" and "I am way to overwhelmed right now, who cares about the disaster that is the house, and Mike can do laundry just as well as I can."   In my more crazy/insane worried moments, I would think "well if something happens to me, at least the house will be clean and the kids will have clean clothes!".  In my more pulling myself together with a good shake rational moments I would think "of course it can all wait until I get back, just hang out with your kids and husband."  Anyway, somehow in the craziness, I couldn't find my camera.  Which is a big deal when you are going visit a bunch of little children and women whom you support!  Sort of one of the most important things to NOT forget.

This morning I left early to take the bus to JFK (about a 5 hour trip), yes, sans camera.  That was fine, I slept through most of the trip.  My first problem arrived when I came to the bus terminal.  Which was 3 flights above where I was supposed to get another bus to take me to JFK.  And there were no luggage carts.  And no staff to help.  Though I have done a lot of traveling, I had no idea how to carry two gigantic 50 lb (well, not quite 50 lbs---important to story later) duffel bags (one of which I had forgotten to grab the big overarm strap), a roller and my back pack out of the indoor garage place I had been dropped off, inside, to the elevator, down 3 floors, outside to the shuttle.  These duffels are so big I could get it them. And no one asked to help.  I should have asked.  Instead, I dragged the two duffels through the terminal, one on top of the other while I also pulled the roller, backpack on back.  I suppose that if it had been one month ago, it (maybe) would have been no big deal, but given I have been sick for 3 weeks, I barely made it through that terminal in one piece.

After I had collapsed in the next bus that would take me to JFK, I think it took me about 15 minutes to catch my breath again.  I am so out of shape!  What happened next, is just magic.  I think I believe all those things you hear about the kindness of New Yorkers.  When I got to JFK, everyone exited the bus, got their luggage and left.  I was left on the curb on the sidewalk with my bags and no luggage carts (again).  I wasn't about to drag them across the sidewalk and face them splitting open everywhere.  I was just beginning to contemplate how long it would take me to drag them some 50 ft and then come back for the others and so on, when the bus driver who was about to take off, came out of his bus and said "wait here".  He left his bus, went across the street and down the sidewalk, paid for a luggage cart and brought it back.  And wouldn't take money to pay for the cart saying, "for you, it's free".  A bit of an angel I think.

Then, I went to check in.  Now, I haven't flown internationally in two years, so maybe I missed a big change of rules, but since when do they weigh your carry ons???  Mine weighed 42 lbs together.  They were supposed to weigh 26 lbs together.   Who ever checks these things?  So, of course, the manager comes over and says, "sorry, you need to empty out almost 15-20 lbs.  Lucky for you that your luggage is about 15 lbs underweight."  Lucky me.  So, you know when you travel and you see those poor people digging through all their clothes at the check in counter and you think that you are SO glad it's not you.  You thank God that you always meticulously weigh your bags to avoid the embarrassment and frustration.  Well, I became that person.  The poor sweating lady digging through her roller trying to get rid of heavy things.

Of course the heaviest thing I have in all of my stuff is my ancient old computer that probably weighs more than anything else I have in those two bags.  And no way was I going to throw it in those duffels. (I can now see that one of the many benefits of a smart phone is leaving the computer at home.  Alas, I am still the owner of a flip phone.)  So, as the manager is peering over my shoulder (and all the people in the line stare), I go through all my clothes and snacks and get rid of them all (into giant duffels full of bumbos).   Letting go of my snacks was almost impossible.  In the end, as I was about to pull out all my underwear in front of the whole world and put them in my giant duffels, she took pity on me and said "leave it."

So, yes, I am pulling an near empty roller through the airport, filled only with underwear.  Awesome.  Wonder what else is going to happen on this trip!  (And somehow I suspect that no one else was forced to empty their rollers!)