Running to Keep Ethiopian Families Together

On August 17, exactly 3 months from today, my daughter Aselefech, adopted at 6 years old from Ethiopia, will run a half-marathon near where she was born. She is doing this to raise money so more children in Ethiopia will have safe, loving families.

Please join her on this journey. You can donate or join her team by clicking here. All donations are tax-deductible, and the money goes directly to the charity she has chosen: Bring Love In, an organization in Ethiopia that unites widows and orphans to create new families, and prevents children from going into orphanages.

Zariyah and I will be with Aselefech in Ethiopia to cheer her on; we are hoping that members of her Ethiopian family will be there too! The half-marathon is sponsored by Ethiotrails, and will take place at the Abijatta-Shalla Lakes National Park, in the Rift Valley.

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Our family was created through adoption. My children are my joy, and I love them more than I can ever say. I believe in adoption, and want all children to have safe, loving families.

I also believe that, whenever possible, children should stay with their families, and in their home country. Bring Love In helps children who have lost their parents to AIDS or other causes to have families again, and they help widows to love and care for children who need moms. The children can keep their language, culture, and heritage, and grow up safe and strong. Families are created and preserved in a powerful way, breaking a cycle of poverty and providing hope and possibility.

Family is a big deal, and is created through ties of blood, adoption, and love.

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Please support Aselefech in her efforts to keep families together, to create new families from widows and orphans, so that all children might grow up safe and loved. Many thanks!

 

A New Writer at Gazillion Voices

I’m thrilled to announce that I will be a contributing writer to Gazillion Voices, the first and only adoptee-led, adoptee-centric on-line magazine.

The mission of the magazine is to “create a platform for adoptees and their allies to bring topics important to the adoption community to life through rich, compelling, and thought-provoking content that will be accessible to the broader community and will ultimately reframe and reshape the conversation about adoption.”

As an adoptive parent, I don’t take lightly the realities of adoption. I have written a lot about adoption here on my blog, and my views have evolved quite a bit over the last 20+ years. I look forward to writing about my perspective as a contributor to Gazillion Voices. You can (and should!) follow the magazine on Facebook.

I have known Land of Gazilllion Adoptees founder Kevin Haebeom Vollmers since we worked together at CHSFS-East in Maryland in 2006. We both stopped working professionally in adoption around that time, and we’ve both thought at great length about what adoption means to us. We don’t always agree, and we are good friends.

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I admire the work that Kevin and others have done at Gazillion Voices. Full disclosure: my daughter Aselefech is a columnist for Gazillion Voices. I am biased, I know, but Aselefech is an insightful, talented writer. She and I don’t always agree either lol, but we are both open to hard, challenging conversations.

And that’s what I admire and enjoy about Gazillion Voices: provocative, insightful, and real voices and ideas. On my blog, I’ve written my own views about adoption, and have used my position as an adoptive parent (we have held the microphone in adoption for far too long) to urge others to listen to adopted adults and first/birth/original parents. I look forward to contributing to GV, and to furthering the mission of Gazillion Voices to reshape and reframe the conversation about adoption.

I’m looking forward to the adventure.

 

 

Going Back, Giving Back: An Ethiopian Adoptee Runs For Ethiopian Orphans

My daughter Aselefech–an Ethiopian adoptee, part of the African diaspora, a mother herself–will be running a half-marathon in Ethiopia this August. And head’s up–she is doing so to give back to her country, by raising funds for an organization that is dedicated to family preservation, finding families in Ethiopia for Ethiopian orphans.

How beautiful and wonderful is that?

Aselefech and her twin sister, adopted at 6 years old, now 25 years old, have reconnected with their first family in Ethiopia. Aselefech wrote about her journey here: Far Away, Always in My Heart.

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One of their older Ethiopian brothers now lives in Seattle; the siblings have gotten to know each other well, again.

Aselefech with her brother (reunited in 2009) and her daughter. Photo: December 2012

Aselefech with her brother (reunited in 2009) and her daughter. Photo: December 2012

Aselefech is finishing up her undergraduate degree, and moving toward a master’s in social work. She writes honestly and powerfully as a columnist for Gazillion Voices, sharing her experiences with racism, with grief, with love, with loss. She’s done webinars, YouTube videos, conference workshops, and adoptee seminars, talking about the joys and the challenges of being adopted, internationally and transracially.

And now she will return to Ethiopia for the third time. Her daughter and I will be there too. We will visit with her Ethiopian family. My granddaughter will meet her Ethiopian grandmother, and play with her cousins there. Aselefech will run 13 miles with Ethiopians and others in her home country, to raise funds (via Crowdrise; please stay tuned) for Ethiopian family preservation.

Konjo. Beautiful. From sorrow and loss, we can find joy and hope.

U.S., Canadian, Ethiopian Adoptees: Now on YouTube

It was a wonderful conversation among two Canadians and two Americans, Ethiopian adoptees and white adoptive parents.  Where and how do Ethiopian adoptees “fit in” with immigrants, Africans, and their adoptive families? What does “being adopted” mean at different ages? How does being raised in a rural, French-speaking area compare with being raised in the most affluent black county in the US? Can you have a happy childhood, and still be angry or sad about adoption?

My goal was to let Ethiopian adoptees Annette Kassaye MacDonald, in Montreal, and Aselefech Evans, in Cheverly, Maryland, be the primary speakers, and they were powerful and candid, speaking from their hearts.

Hosting the conversation with me was Chris Ardern, a Canadian adoptive mom of two young Ethiopian children, now living in Toronto, Ontario.

My thanks to Chris, Annette, and Aselefech. Amaseganallo. You were all thoughtful and insightful, and it was a great conversation.

I hope it is just the beginning of our talking together. We could have talked much more. We hope to add more and diverse voices (including men, for example). Two future topics may be “Unpacking Anger in Adoption” and “Helping Ethiopian Families (Especially Birth/First Families) Financially and Otherwise.” There is so much to talk about.

Please stay tuned for more upcoming conversations!

You can watch the conversation on YouTube by clicking here.

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Canadian, American, Ethiopian, Adopted: A Conversation

I’m happy to announce I’ll be hosting a conversation (which will be available on YouTube) among 2 Canadians and 2 Americans, Ethiopian adoptees and white adoptive parents. In some ways, the US and Canada are similar, but there are significant political, cultural, and historical differences. Is there common ground between Ethiopian adoptees raised in different countries? What does it feel like to be an Ethiopian raised in a French-speaking part of Canada? Does growing up in a majority-black US county help form racial identity? Where and how do Ethiopian adoptees “fit in” with immigrants, Africans, and their adoptive families? Let’s start the conversation.

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One conversationalist will be Annette Kassaye MacDonald, a 28-year-old Ethiopian adoptee born outside of Gondar, adopted at one year old, raised by white parents in the Eastern Townships, Quebec, and now living in Montreal. She has 4 older siblings born to her adoptive parents and one younger adopted sibling. Annette graduated from Concordia University (Montreal) in 2013 with a B.A. in political science and human rights studies. She speaks English, French, and Spanish.

Annette Kassaye MacDonald

Annette Kassaye MacDonald

Annette will be joined by Aselefech Evans,  a 25-year-old Ethiopian adoptee born in Shashemene, adopted at 6 years old with her twin sister, raised by white parents just outside Washington, DC, and now living in Prince George’s County, Maryland. She is finishing up her degree in sociology from Bowie State University, and plans to go on for her MSW. Aselefech is a columnist for the online adoptee-centric magazine Gazillion Voices, and also is a contributing writer on family preservation issues for Lost Daughters, an independent collaborative writing project edited and authored by adult women who were adopted as children.

Aselefech Evans

Aselefech Evans

Hosting the conversation with me will be Chris Ardern, a Canadian adoptive mom of two young Ethiopian children, now living in Toronto, Ontario. Chris’s son is 3 years old, and her daughter is 6. Chris, her husband, and their children travel to Ethiopia annually to visit with friends and family. She and her family are very involved with the Ethiopian community in Toronto, from playgroups to Amharic classes.

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I’m the writer of this blog, an American adoptive mom of four now-young adults (including Aselefech), and the grandmother of a wonderful 7-year-old. I’m looking forward to my third trip to Ethiopia this July. I live in Seattle, where I am a freelance writer and artist.

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Our topics:

  • Race (What does it mean to be black in America? In Canada? In Quebec? In Washington, DC? What do the terms Ethiopian-American or Canadian-Ethiopian mean?)
  • Openness in adoption (Connections with birth families and Ethiopians: what’s possible, and what is useful?),

and, if we have time,

  • The impact of the Internet (sharing adopted children’s information and stories, accessing birth families, and more).

Please feel free to leave a message below with any questions you’d like to suggest. You can also email me at Maureen (at) Lightofdaystories.com.

We will be taping the conversation Sunday, February 23, and I will post a link to it as soon as possible. My thanks to Chris, Annette, and Aselefech.

And please stay tuned for more upcoming conversations!

New Gazillion Voices: Powerful and Free

Gazillion Voices, the only online adoptee-led, adoptee-centric magazine, published its 6th edition today–and all content is free for the week. There are essays, videos, a podcast, and articles about Positive Adoption Language, the LGBT community, poetry, and much more. Congratulations to everyone affiliated with Gazillion Voices for the successful launch and now 6 months’ worth of publication. Well done.

Among the articles is one by my daughter Aselefech, “On Closure and Loss.”  Click here to access that essay, and the rest of the magazine. You’ll see why I, as an adoptive parent, feel so strongly about the need for the voices of adopted persons and of original/first parents to be heard and honored. The journey of adoption is complicated, ongoing, and profound. My thanks to Aselefech, and to each of the writers who share their stories and tip their hearts so generously.

Aselefech with (part of) her Ethiopian family: her father and two brothers.

Aselefech with (part of) her Ethiopian family: her father and two brothers.

Aselefech and Fang: The Conversation on YouTube

Many thanks to Aselefech Evans and Jenni Fang Lee for an amazing conversation tonight on our Google+ Hangout.

You can watch the YouTube video here of the conversation, in which they discussed identity, adoption agencies, race, family preservation, Gazillion Voices, ways to create a common narrative among adoptees, adoption fatigue, “angry adoptees,” and more.

My thanks to Cindy Rasicot of Talking Heart to Heart, for organizing and hosting the conversation.

And special deep thanks to Aselefech and Fang for sharing their stories, their insights, and their realities. Wow.

As Fang says in the conversation, this was groundbreaking: an Asian adoptee and an African adoptee, talking about what they have (and don’t have) in common, what’s been ok and what needs to change in adoption, while 2 white, older adoptive moms (mostly) listen.

Aselefech Evans and Jenni Fang Lee
Aselefech Evans and Jenni Fang Lee

Additional information about Aselefech and Fang is available here from a previous post.

Hangout with Jenni Fang Lee and Aselefech Evans

Here’s the Youtube link for the conversation:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDC3NlSI60I&feature=share

 

Hope you saved the date (tonight!) for this conversation between Jenni Fang Lee, a Chinese adoptee who was featured in the acclaimed documentary Somewhere Between, and Aselefech Evans, an Ethiopian adoptee who is a columnist with Gazillion Voices.

The Google+ Hangout is Monday, December 9, at 6pm pacific, 9pm eastern. More info about Aselefech and Fang is available here.

I am honored to be co-hosting this conversation with my dear friend and colleague Cindy Rasicot.

For the Hangout, you’ll need a Gmail address, and your computer/Mac needs to be Google+ ready.  For information on Google+ Hangouts, click here.

Once you have the address and any needed plug-ins for your computer/Mac, you can click on this link, and that will give you the link to tonight’s conversation.

If you aren’t able to join us, we are recording the conversation and will upload it to YouTube. I’ll post the YouTube link as soon as it is available.

Many thanks to Cindy Rasicot for all her work, energy, and insights! Can’t wait to hear from Aselefech and Fang! Huge thanks to them as well!

Aselefech Evans and Jenni Fang Lee

Aselefech Evans and Jenni Fang Lee

A Conversation Between Jenni Fang Lee and Aselefech Evans

Update: Here’s the YouTube link for the conversation.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDC3NlSI60I&feature=share

Save the Date–December 9, 9pm edt

Google+ Hangout

An Adoptee Conversation

Join Cindy Rasicot, MFT,  of the wonderful blog Talking Heart to Heart, and me on Monday, December 9, at 9pm eastern (6pm pacific) for a conversation between Jenni Fang Lee and Aselefech Evans.

Aselefech Evans and Jenni Fang Lee

Aselefech Evans and Jenni Fang Lee

Jenni Fang Lee was adopted from China when she was 5 years old, and raised in Berkeley, California. She is one of the young women featured in the acclaimed documentary Somewhere Between, and is now studying sociology and economics at Mt. Holyoke College in Massachusetts. She returns to China each summer to volunteer at an orphanage, and has created a start-up designed to teach Mandarin and Chinese culture to Chinese adoptees and their families. According to her blog fangtopia.wordpress.com, Jenni’s passions lie in both entrepreneurship and non-profit work, specifically directed towards women and children.

Aselefech Evans was adopted from Ethiopia, along with her twin sister Adanech, when she was 6 years old. Like Jenni, she is a columnist for Gazillion Voices. Aselefech has presented numerous workshops and webinars about transracial adoption, racial identity,  hair care for adopted African-American children, her search for and reunion with her Ethiopian family, and more. She is a candidate for a BSW at Bowie State University in Maryland, and plans to go on for her master’s in social work, potentially working in post-adoption services.

Aselefech and Jenni met recently in person at the adoptee-led, adoptee-centric conference “Reframing the Adoption Discourse” held in Minnesota. Both young women share much in common, and also have had distinct differences growing up as transracial adoptees in the US. This will be a fascinating discussion.

Cindy and I are looking forward very much to hosting this conversation. Please plan to join us.

I’ll be posting more details soon as to how to join the Hangout. In the meantime, please save the date.

We will be recording the conversation and posting it on YouTube as well!