For most of us, this was the first non-adoption related trip we took to Kazakhstan. Traveling to adopt and traveling on a mission trip are two completely different experiences. We were not concentrating on just one baby, but many. It was so hard to walk around the two orphanages we visited and know that most of these kids would not find homes because of paperwork issues. It was hard to watch the older kids and the "Lord of The Flies" mentality take place. When kids are in a large group there is going to be a natural leader and there is going to be a weaker child. We just wanted to swoop in and start explaining right from wrong but that is not our place.
At one of the orphanages it was very difficult to watch the caregivers sitting in the "break room" having chai while 10 little babies screamed and were in desperate need of a clean diaper. It went against everything we feel as parents not to intervene on their behalf but could not. These experiences really make you stop and think about how much needs to be changed. While we wish we could do it all, our goal remains to provide small acts to better the lives of those orphans still waiting for their forever families. This trip truly made us realize that a hug, a smile, and a 5 minute conversation means the world to a child who has to fight for attention every day of their life.
Each time we looked at a child and knew that they most likely have spent the majority of their life in an institution our hearts broke. In reality adoption can't be the answer for all the children, not even half but by giving back and simply being there for a few days, seeds begin to grow. For a child to know that someone cares can be the difference between a life of crime or better choices. We were lucky to be able to meet lots of people working alongside orphans to ensure their lives turn out better than a life of crime or prostitution.
Here are a few thoughts from some on our trip:
From Sean, 12 years old: It made me realize that there are so many real kids out there and kids are kids no matter the language they speak or where they live.
From Susan, adoptive mom: It definitely "opened the eyes of my heart" and made me want to continue to do whatever we can to help make any kind of a difference. Looking at the pictures of all those sweet faces and remembering their personalities, from the older kids in Almaty to the under stimulated babies in Karakastek, brings me to tears when I realize that their reality doesn't include parents who love them and tuck them in at night, or even to discipline them and yell at them to "take a shower." As I felt on our first trip to Kazakhstan, the love I have for the country and it's people only intensified. I am so amazed at how they live with so much less than we have, yet are so resourceful and gracious. I love their commitment to relationships. I just wish the that the economics of it all weren't so brutal so that many children have to grow up in an orphanage instead of with their family. I feel blessed 10 fold that we were able to adopt Leeza and because of her we've come to the country she was born in. I know that this is not the last the country of Kazakhstan will see from the Serra Family.
From Ann, adoptive mom: My heart was opened to the older kids and a huge part of my heart remains in Kaz because of the sweet teens I spent time with. I love that smiles, hugs and love are the same in every language. Spending time in the Children's Home has made me want to do much more for them and help their dreams come true. They deserve to have a family just as much as a baby does and if nothing else we can do something to help them achieve their dreams so they do not become a statistic. Words cannot describe how this trip has changed my life. Tears are always there when I think of the kids, which has been all day everyday since leaving. My love for Kaz has grown and intensified as well and I hope to be able to do much much more for the orphans of Kaz and make a difference in their livers so they know they are loved.
From Alaina, adoptive mom: This trip was fantastically life changing. My passion and commitment to adoption and raising awareness only strengthened. My heart broke hundreds of times as I met and interacted with all of these children. So many beautiful children needing homes and families - the older kids questioning why they haven't been chosen, the babies needing stimulating and love, and all of the children vying for attention. It challenged me to never forget, to advocate, and to keep going back. My love for the country and people of Kazakhstan was deepened. What an amazing team and amazing trip.
It's hard to be back here going about our day to day life after spending a week in Kaz. While we were there it felt like the center of the earth. Most people have no idea where Kazakhstan is but to us it is where a piece of our heart shall remain always.