Orphan advocacy takes up a large part of my life, now. Consequently, I was unexpectedly shaken by a notification of the death of someone I never met. She wasn’t a mover or a shaker. She never went far from where she was born. Mostly she was a big sister who did what so many oldest siblings do in her situation. She neglected herself and took on a protector roll for her younger siblings, when there was no home, no apparent mother in the family. Lena was a minor, though key character in a book that told the true story of a harrowing adoption and orphan advocacy in her home country. She and her two younger brothers grew up separately in the orphanages of Ukraine. She was fifteen when two families from the United States moved separately to adopt her two younger brothers. At fifteen, Lena had no interest in being adopted into a new family and moving away from the country where she was one of a few to move successfully from institutional orphanage life and on to society. Even so, when adoption became a possibility for her two younger brothers, she did everything in her power to give them homes and families.
Statistics say that she should have lived to be thirty.
Fortunately, this young girl found familial love that most in her situation don’t. Parents that adopted one of her brothers took her under their far-reaching wings and called her their daughter. When they learned that she had been diagnosed with tuberculosis, they raised funds, found help, and the mother even flew back to Ukraine to make sure that Lena got treatment in one of Odessa’s tuberculosis hospitals. Despite the extra care, and treatment that most young people in Lena’s demographic never get, she succumbed to her disease last week, at the age of twenty-one, about two years after her diagnosis. Even as a person who aged out of an orphanage in Eastern Europe, Lena was young to die. Statistics say she should have lived to be thirty. I guess that means another one of her peers will live to the ripe old age of thirty-nine, to balance out The Reaper’s score card.
Why, as people, don’t we do more to stop this tragedy? Why is so comparatively little time spent on orphan advocacy?
I don’t know why I have shed so many tears over the death of this orphan. Maybe it’s because they never cry for themselves. More likely, it’s because she reminds me of three young girls who came to tell my daughter, Sarah, goodbye, minutes before we took her away forever, to her own new home and family. It was only a few years before they would age out of the orphanage, without help, without love, and without family. Orphan advocacy had done nothing that would save those girls. I would like to say I wonder what happened to them. My mind is too practical for that. To me, statistics talk in the realm of orphan advocacy. They are real representations of people, names and faces. Perhaps news of the death of an orphan who I never knew devastated me because it told my analytical brain what might happen to those three teenaged girls who told my daughter goodbye. One might die at thirty. Another could die young, only a few short years after I last saw her, at the age of twenty-one. And the lucky one (if you choose to look at it that way) might live to be an old woman of thirty-nine. Why, as people, don’t we do more to stop this tragedy? Why is so comparatively little time spent on orphan advocacy? Isn’t fixing such situations worth doing hard things? I believe it is.
We are trying to change the world with orphan advocacy.
And if you want to know just how far we should go when faced with giving an orphan a chance at their own home and family, a chance at life, buy a copy of the book that tells the story of those close to Lena and read it. If it doesn’t motivate you to do more to get orphans into homes and families, get a heart transplant and trade in the stone for flesh. Until We All Come Home is one of my favorite books on adoption and it is a true story. You can find it here: http://goo.gl/H6tB0r Lena, though you never would have read my words in this life, if you can read them now, know that I care. Many of us who knew you or people like you have been changed by your lives. Because of that, we are trying to change the world with orphan advocacy. It is hard. But you and those like you are worth any hard thing we can do, to change lives like yours for the better.
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