Adoptees discovering their homeland and heritage
by Robin Munro, senior writer
That day arrived this past summer, when she embarked on a two-week tour of China. She expected a cool adventure – an adventure that has since become a lifelong journey.
“I just feel like there’s so much more I could learn about me. Before, I never really thought about it,” Shannon says, “but now that I’ve had the experience, I don’t want to lose it.”
But for many of the girls, the most meaningful part of the trip occurred on separate journeys – journeys to their finding places, their orphanages and foster families. Here, they found a connection to their past.
Holt heritage tours are designed for adoptees and their families to experience the customs, culture and history of their birth country. Central to the tour philosophy is the adoptee’s personal story, and personal journey. To recreate this story, Holt strives to coordinate visits to adoptees’ orphanages and reunions with foster families, whenever possible.
Seeing the places and people significant to their adoption story also helps clarify, for many of the girls, why they were adopted. “It hit,” says adoptive mom Colleen Koester. “Wow, this is the building I lived in. This was the kind of situation I was in.”
Even the adoptive parents forge a special bond on the tour. “These other adoptive families have been through the same experience you’ve been through – the same emotions, the same understanding,” says Colleen. “These people can relate.”
For both Melanie and Colleen, another highlight was the chance to learn the little details of their daughters’ early lives in China – to learn that Hannah ran around a lot as a toddler, and Shannon was always “in the know” at the orphanage. And to observe their daughters reconnect with their past. “The highlight for me was how much [Shannon] got out of the experience,” says Melanie. To meet those who cared for her affirms the love and nurture she received before being adopted. “That is a really important connection for a child – to know that they were loved,” she says.
The sights visited, the memories created, the bonds forged, all amount to a monumental experience in the life of both adoptees and their families.
“What I would tell anybody who’s contemplating going is that it’s an absolute must,” says Colleen. “It was so worth it and so much more than I expected.”
Join one of next summer’s heritage tours today!
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