by Leslee Jaeger
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There are 2 mothers in this world who will go unrecognized on Sunday. One lives in Korea and one in China. They gave birth to my 13 and 15 year old daughters and have not seen them since days after their birth. Their stories are presumably very different. In Korea, most children that are placed for adoption are born to single mothers. Public acceptance of unwed mothers is low and the family often hides the pregnant woman from the outside world. Adoption paperwork is completed in the first few days after birth, as was the case with our daughter. If the woman later marries, she often does not inform her husband of the first child and her family never talks about the child. This is only one of the many reasons that searching for birth parents can be frustrating.
The reasons that children in China are placed for adoption has changed over the last few years with the relaxing of the one child policy and the increase in economic prosperity of the people. When our daughter was born in 2000, the one child policy allowed for a second child if the first child was a girl. We do not know her exact circumstances, but she was probably the second daughter of a rural family who needed a son to continue to farm the land. Her mother would not have had much input into her abandonment (placing children for adoption in China is illegal) as this is often the decision of the husband and mother-in-law.
I am not judging either of these women. If in the same circumstances, I can’t say that I would have made a different decision. I would love to reach out to each of them and communicate how much their daughters are loved and flourishing in their current environments. However, this needs to be a personal decision by each of my daughters. So much of their early story was out of their control that this is one important choice that they can control. They are aware of my feelings about openness in adoption, but have heard enough stories about family searches that have not ended well, that they have put any ideas about searching into the future.
Currently, open adoption is very common in the United States and preferred by both adoptive parents and birth parents. International adoption is traditionally closed, with adoptive parents receiving very little information about the circumstances of the birth family. This is slowly starting to change as the world is getting smaller. More adoptive families are traveling to their child’s country of origin and meeting extended family members. Social service agencies are facilitating communication between families after the adoption is completed. I can only see this as a positive as it helps a child have a history of less “unknowns” regarding the circumstances of their early years.
As much as I love my daughters and cannot imagine life without them in our crazy family, I still sometimes wish that they could have grown up within their birth countries. They will both be strong woman and they may have been able to change some of the strong social mores in Korea and China that led to their adoption stories. Individualism is a strong force in America, unlike Asia where more of the focus is on the family. My daughters were sacrificed for the overall betterment of their birth family. They were received in American to benefit an individuals desire.
In my work in the developing world, I have seen some families make even harder decisions. When there is not enough food for everyone, which child will need to go hungry? When there is only limited funds for school, which children will benefit from an education? If a child is sick, does it warrent the expense of a medical visit? These are choices most of us cannot imagine making once, let daily or weekly. These are the moms that most deserve our thoughts on Sunday if we have a quiet moment. On Sunday, I will be thinking of the stories I have heard both in Africa and Haiti and giving thanks to a special mom in Korea and China.
Honor loved ones on Mother’s Day, a birthday, or any occasion with a Helping Haiti Work greeting card! A card with your donation of $5 or more can be mailed to you or directly to your honoree– Please make your donation and email Karen using the Contact form. Include your name and mailing address and we will mail you an unsigned card and envelope. If you prefer it sent directly to the recipient, email Karen your honoree’s name and mailing address, along with your inscription. Either way, you will receive an email confirmation that your card has been sent.
By helping supply sanitary napkins to girls and women in the developing world, you can make a real difference– Girls can attend school more regularly, women have fewer infections, and sewing reusable pads is a sustainable women’s business possibility for our Helping Haiti Work clients! Read Leslee Jaeger’s blog article: The Last Taboo– Menstruation!
HHW has started a microcredit program in the remote town of Ranquitte. The following is an update from Marg Brickman on the first batch of loans:
“I met three of the micro loan women while I was in Ranquitte. They seem very excited about their new venture. One is selling gas, another rice and beans, while the third one is selling t- shirts and sandals. Monique is the “principal” of the group, Father Charles said. It is a wonderful program that you have started, Leslee. I pray the program continues to go well for you. You are making a big impact on many women’s lives, along with that of their families!”
– Marg Brickman
Following are book selections that provide a glimpse into life for the average Haitian woman.
- “Mountains Beyond Mountains” by Paul Farmer At the center of “Mountains Beyond Mountains” stands Paul Farmer. Doctor, Harvard professor, renowned infectious-disease specialist, anthropologist, the recipient of a MacArthur “genius” grant, world-class Robin Hood, Farmer was brought up in a bus and on a boat, and in medical school found his life’s calling: To diagnose and cure infectious diseases and to bring the lifesaving tools of modern medicine to those who need them most. This magnificent book shows how radical change can be fostered in situations that seem insurmountable, and it also shows how a meaningful life can be created, as Farmer—brilliant, charismatic, charming, both a leader in international health and a doctor who finds time to make house calls in Boston and the mountains of Haiti—blasts through convention to get results.
- “A Wedding in Haiti” by Julia Alvarez In a story that travels beyond borders and between families, acclaimed Dominican novelist and poet Julia Alvarez reflects on the joys and burdens of love for her parents, for her husband, and for a young Haitian boy known as Piti. In this intimate true account of a promise kept, Alvarez takes us on a journey into experiences that challenge our way of thinking about history and how it can be reimagined when people from two countries traditional enemies and strangers become friends.
- “Island Beneath the Sea” by Isabele Allende Take the rich historical settings of Haiti and New Orleans. Toss in voodoo ceremonies, zombies, bloody slave uprising s, forbidden loves, pirates, spies, fortune-tellers, hurricanes, epidemics, and a pinch of scandal. Place all of this is Isabel Allende’s gifted hands, and what’s not to love?
- “Farewell, Fred Voodoo” by Amy Wilentz Haiti emerged from the dust of the 2010 earthquake like a powerful spirit, and this stunning book describes the country’s day-to-day struggle and its relationship to outsiders who come to help out. There are human-rights reporters gone awry, movie stars turned aid workers, priests and musicians running for president, doctors turned diplomats. A former U.S. president works as a house builder and voodoo priests try to control elections.
- “The Big Truck That Went By” by Jonathan Katz More than half of American adults gave money for Haiti, part of a monumental response totaling $16.3 billion in pledges. But three years later the relief effort has foundered. It’s most basic promises—to build safer housing for the homeless, alleviate severe poverty, and strengthen Haiti to face future disasters—remain unfulfilled.
“The Big Truck That Went By” presents a sharp critique of international aid that defies today’s conventional wisdom; that the way wealthy countries give aid makes poor countries seem irredeemably hopeless, while trapping millions in cycles of privation and catastrophe. Katz follows the money to uncover startling truths about how good intentions go wrong, and what can be done to make aid “smarter.”