P143 Inspiration & News
Though the language translation from Kryg to English in the article attached isn’t perfect, the story of lies, deception and cold calculated greed in the world of orphan children, hosting and adoptions is a tragic refrain. Unfortunately this isn’t a fictional script for a new Hollywood crime thriller, this story is all too real, where the despicable actions of a small number of miscreants has caused (is causing) irreparable harm to the lives of the very children they were supposed to be protecting. This story of deceit and greed broke wide open when a lengthy video was published to Youtube of two woman discussing their corrupt bribery and payoff plans on how to control and maneuver orphan children in Kyrgyzstan for their own profit. The video is over 30 minutes in length with a very clear recording of the two conspirators discussing in exacting details how they expect financial payoffs and will move children within the orphanage system for their own economic benefit. The details revealed in this video are heart breaking for the children, host families and team at Project 143 (P143), but the video provides overwhelming evidence of the nefarious activities that had been suspected for over a year. In short, P143’s highly successful orphan hosting program was totally undermined, disrupted and ultimately suspended due to completely false and slanderous lies by the very people in this video caught detailing their illegal actions. Equally remarkable is the fact that the very person committing these illegal acts accused P143 and their Kryg sponsor of the very illegal acts that she was spearheading. You can’t make this stuff up. Since this video emerged, a more wide sweeping investigation is reported to be underway and it has been reported that there have been some initial firings and job reassignments. Details about the depth of the investigation are not easy to come by and to date no official representative has reported on the future of hosting or adoptions in Kyrgyzstan. Naturally, everyone at P143 is praying for thorough and just investigation that will bring prosecution to the criminals and more importantly, bring hope to the children and host families that have been impacted.
Hello New Host Families!
I thought I’d write specifically to all new host families as some of you may be feeling quite nervous. This is absolutely normal. You may be wondering now or at some point next week what did I get myself into? You aren’t alone. These are normal feelings. Even experienced host parents have these feelings time and again.
You are doing an amazing thing by hosting these children. Some of you may have an easier hosting and others may be a bit more challenged. Some of you may see the fruits of your labor while others might never see the full impact of your gifts to these children. Whatever your path, know that there is a team of experienced P143 host families willing to chat with you. Do not hesitate to utilize the chaperones too—that’s what they are here for.
Here are a few reminders:
- -Go through your home once more and look for items of value or sentiment. Put those away. Resign yourself to the fact that something will get broken. These children are curious and remember that one way of learning is through touch. We’ve had something break every year and it has been an accident every time.
- -Now go through your home once more and look for items that could pose a danger to the child or may just be something that they shouldn’t have their hands on. For example just the other day my host kids emptied a travel sized aerosol bottle of hairspray in a room thinking it was perfume. They thought they were cleaning and making the room smell fresh. Don’t assume that if they don’t know what it is, they won’t touch it—they are kids. Put away any permanent markers; make sure all cleaning products are put well out of reach. Ensure that if you have any laundry pods that those too are put away.
Once the kids arrive:
- -If you have pets make sure you explain what can and can’t be fed to the animals. Some kids think nothing of giving a chicken bone to a dog because that might be acceptable in their country.
- -Physically walk them around your property and explain the boundaries. For those with younger kids, I’ll walk around the perimeter and say yes and take a step off my property or past the sidewalk and say no. Oftentimes children have fewer boundaries than American kids so please don’t take this as a sign of disrespect. Remember, they are coming from a foreign country with different rules.
- -Don’t expect physical affection at the airport. You’ve had months to get excited whereas the children have only recently learned who you are and where they are going. Plus they are going to be exhausted.
- -Don’t assume they know how to swim. We had one host child who was adamant that she could swim. She sank faster than a box of rocks.
- -Please inventory all items that the children come with as everything must return with them even if it gets broken or you buy a replacement. What I do is throw everything in a labeled trash bag and put it away in my closet. This way I’m not scurrying around the night before departure trying to find that rogue sock or missing trinket that was shoved in between the cushions of a couch.
- -Don’t forget to take pictures of even the little things. More important than material items is the time you spend with them. They will look through the picture books you send home for months to come. Take a photo of you reading them stories or tucking them in to bed at night. Take a photo of making a meal together. Don’t forget the simple things.
One other word of wisdom–when you have the option of a reaction choose to look for the positive. When my host daughter ran to me offering me my choice of a plate of freshly frosted and highly sprinkled cupcakes I chose laughter when I was cleaning them all off the floor after she had tripped and dropped the entire plate. Sure, inside I was thinking of the millions of little sprinkles that now covered my floor and the frosting that was crusting in between the boards but I chose gratefulness that someone cared to let me choose a cupcake. Even last night as my bare foot found a leftover sprinkle I chose to be thankful versus irritated.
At times this hosting might be challenging for you. I guarantee that in some respect you will grow as a person, couple or as a family. Remember, not to compare your hosting to someone’s highlight reel on Facebook. That photo another family posted of their smiling child might be the only good shot from the day. Remember that you don’t know the whole story.
Another thing I need to remind myself is that I have had eleven years to mold my bio child into the boy that he is today. I can not expect my host children to immediately catch up to his level of behavior. Parenting with grace and laughter is a good thing.
Be sure to take the time to look at your world through the eyes of the children. Share their joy in the new experiences. Look at the things they see as amazing that you might take for granted or overlook due to seeing it all the time. I know that all of you have family and extended family who love you greatly. Remind yourselves of your blessings. If you take the time to jump in a mud puddle or catch fireflies I think you’ll do just fine. Here are two links which might give you a few ideas for fun experiences to share with the kids.
I’m hopeful that this e-mail has been helpful instead of making you even more nervous. P143 interviews hundreds of children and we try to be very careful when selecting the children for the listing who we think would be best fitted for this program.
Remember, have fun. Enjoy this amazing experience and know that you are changing lives.
Project 143 Midwest Coordinator, Latvia
Hey Dads & Guys … Can I have a word with you?
Last December, my wife and I celebrated 26 years of marriage. Being the hopeless romantics that we are, our plans included indoor rock climbing followed up by ice cream. Why? Because the night was really centered on our host daughters — “A” (14) and “V” (8). “A” really took to the experience and her athleticism and competitiveness had a place to shine. There was no climb that she would refuse. On the last and toughest climb, she was stuck about 75% of the way up, but would not give up. She just kept taking a break, catching her breath and chalking up. Finally, she made it to the top! When she got back down to the floor I had the chance to put my arm around her shoulder and tell her, “That was pretty cool! We really enjoyed watching you climb tonight. We are very proud of and admire the fact that you never gave up. I hope we can do that again some time.”
To me, that right there, is hosting in a nutshell. When’s the last time anybody said anything like that to her? When’s the next time anybody will say something like that again? Or has it ever happened? Maybe she’s fortunate enough to have good caregivers in her life that encourage her in that way. But in an orphanage setting, the chances are, at the very least, diminished … if not non-existent.
If you’re anything like me, your head is full of questions about hosting and you’re a bit reluctant (okay, maybe more than just a bit). If so, I can relate because I was once that guy. Believe me. I get it. I’ve heard it said that one person in a marriage relationship is generally more free in spirit and the other is in charge of all of the “but what about this” questions. Once again, I can relate because I was once that guy. I still fill those shoes and likely always will to some extent. I’m hard-wired that way. I have noticed that more men than women tend to be hindered by the same list of questions that I had.
A few weeks ago, a friend posted a link to a blog by Jason Johnson. He perfectly described what life has looked like in our home over the last 6 years and the one thing that vividly stood out to me was this:
There will never be a right time for us to do this; there will always be a reason not to. But … there are kids out there that need us now. The time is now. (-Jason Johnson)
Yes, you should ask questions. Yes, you should be wise. Yes, you should do what you think is in the best interest of the host child and your family. Just don’t let your questions and reluctance stop you in your tracks. Don’t let them hold you up from stepping into this space and saying yes to hosting. We have now hosted 17 children (some more than once) during nine different host periods since the summer of 2010. This last summer we had the honor and privilege to re-host “A” and “V” along with five of their other siblings “K” (13), “D” (12), “A” (11), “S” (7) and “M” (6). (Yes! Seven at one time! That’s a whole different story and blog post.) I am confident that we have had a positive impact in some way on each of the children we’ve hosted.
Was hosting always easy? No. Sometimes it was downright messy and hard. But you know what? I think our own family has been downright messy and hard at times. I’m also confident that this has had a positive impact on our family. It has permanently changed us for the better. It has absolutely softened my heart. Something very deep, distinct and permanent happened in my heart during these last two hosting periods. Again … Easy? Not always. But the beautiful moments far outweigh the others.
Thank you Collette family for your role as a Project 143 host family for so many seasons!
Blog referenced can be found here: https://jasonjohnsonblog.com/blog/for-the-unsure-husband
Fourteen years …
Fourteen years ago a mother gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. I don’t know her. I don’t know her circumstances, whether she was overcome with love for him or terrified of the implications that giving birth to another child would have on her life and the lives of her three older children. I don’t know if the boy’s father was there to scoop him up and marvel at how pink, perfect and precious every finger and toe was. I only know that 14 years ago a mother gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, and that changed my life forever.
Fourteen years went by, and I was oblivious. I didn’t know. I didn’t know that in another country a mother was struggling to care for her beautiful boy, that every day things were getting harder for her and harder for him. I didn’t know that every day the two of them were one day closer to being torn apart. And then they were.
I don’t know what it feels like to lose my mother, or to live with a mother that is present but still lost. I don’t know what it is like to live at home for years until one day something happens that changes everything so much that I can never go back. I didn’t know that this was happening to a mother’s beautiful boy. But it did.
Without the intervention of Project 143 in the life of this boy I would never have known that my heart could ache for another mother the way it does for her. I would never have known that my heart could be so compelled that I would ask my husband and family to change everything about our lives so much that we could never go back. I didn’t know that hosting a boy would make me feel like I had been a mother who is present but also a little bit lost, or that becoming a host mother would make me a better mother. But it did.
I still don’t know everything about him, what his soft baby hair smelled like, how he toddled or tumbled taking his first steps. I didn’t hear him speak his first word, and I never had the opportunity to walk him to school on his first day. But as I knock on his bedroom door, sit on the side of his bed gently stroking his hair and asking him to wake up, I want to scoop him up. I marvel at how big and long his body is, how soft and quietly he breathes in sleep. I see his scars and it shatters my heart worrying about the scars I cannot see. And then he opens his eyes and smiles. He bear-hugs me and laughs, “I love you, my little mommy.” And I am.
Thank you Kostic family for sharing your story from Summer Hosting 2016. We appreciate you and your role as a Project 143 host family!
Summer 2015 was our first experience with hosting. We learned about hosting from friends. My wife and I always wanted to adopt but figured that was not going to be possible after our special needs child was born. However, five weeks of hosting a child seemed like something our family could handle. We eagerly anticipated arrival day, which was both exciting and terrifying at the same time. With only a picture and short description of your host child, your mind can create all sorts of scenarios. When the host children finally arrived, it was really hard to identify our host daughter but when we finally made eye contact, she immediately looked away and down to the ground. Our hearts sank, she was clearly scared and lacked confidence. She spoke very little the first few days, but as the summer went on she opened up. Her walls closely guarded her heart. When we returned to the airport for summer hosting departure day, she did not shed a single tear. We, however, shed many that day.
After summer hosting, her orphanage allowed us to set up weekly Skype calls. Those calls were so beneficial in keeping communication open. We had mentioned to our host daughter about returning to our home for Christmas. She grew more excited as the time grew closer and we could see her confidence was growing as well.
Winter arrivals finally came and we were much more comfortable this time around. We were able to spend time getting to know others and encouraging all those nervous first time host families. We were also anxious, not really sure what to expect for our own rehost experience. When our girl arrived, it was clear that she was a much more confident girl. She was actively looking for us and when we made eye contact, she was all smiles. It was truly wonderful. When we got home it was as if she had never left and she went straight to her room to get settled. Her English was much improved from the summer and conversations were easier. Because this was Christmas hosting, she met extended family and our shy summer host girl had officially come out of her shell. She understood she was welcome and loved and she blossomed with that knowledge.
Even in the times of testing, our host daughter was able to see that she was treated no differently that our other children. We were always careful to show her the reason for the rules was because of our love for her and desire to protect her. Even those times were very important to build her trust. Winter host departures finally came and we were dreading the day. We began to see her walls once again but when it was time to depart, she grabbed us both and began to cry. She had never cried. She could finally let her heart be vulnerable. That is the difference a rehost makes.
Our thanks to the Ellis family for sharing their winter hosting 2015-2016 rehost testimonial!
Our family became familiar with Project 143 just in time for winter hosting 2015-2016. I searched all of the available children’s information and discussed everything with my family. However, I was instantly drawn to a girl who was hearing impaired. I sincerely hoped to help her with a hearing evaluation and possibly hearing aids while she was here for hosting. Eventually, our family did select her for winter hosting and we were excited to participate.
I started reaching out in my local area for help but really couldn’t get too much traction until she arrived for evaluation. Finally, once she arrived into our home, we were able to complete her evaluation in the first week and start more research about her needs. Suddenly, we only had two more weeks of hosting remaining and I ‘threw out the net’ so to speak, contacting audiologists and ENT practices, along with a post on Facebook. The response was nothing short of amazing. The wonderful volunteers from Project 143 exhausted all of their resources to help meet the need of this young girl.
A friend who works for the Pediatric Ear, Nose and Throat of Atlanta (PENTA) as a nurse practitioner came to our rescue. A wonderful audiologist in the practice found a hearing aid that could be donated and soon we were in the office getting the ear molds. The following week, our host daughter was fitted with the new hearing aid just in time for the close of hosting.
Our host daughter was very excited about the hearing aids and, for the first time, told us to turn down the music in the car after her appointment!
The audiologist and nurse practitioner from PENTA made a huge difference in the life of our host child with a hearing need. The compassion and generosity that I witnessed in the brief period of time I was a host parent was overwhelming. Once you start this journey with Project 143 and the host children they help, you are never the same… and more than likely you will become a volunteer!
Thank you to the Sawyer family for choosing to host a child in order to help with her medical needs.
The world works in very odd and mysterious ways. I am fairly involved in the adoption and foster care community, yet I had never heard of orphan hosting. My introduction came when a friend shared a post on Facebook. She herself hadn’t even hosted but was simply helping to spread the word. Without that one Facebook share, our host daughter wouldn’t have found her future family.
A wise man once said that it takes a village to raise a child. Hosting isn’t inexpensive and I felt a little odd asking for help to fund the hosting endeavor. However, watching all generosity was touching. We were able to reconnect with prior real estate clients who were Ukrainian who were all eager to talk, give advice, cook Ukrainian meals and shop for our host daughter. Children’s Dental Center donated a free exam, Wendy Schutt donated her photography services, friends took her shopping, gave us discount coupons for bowling and donated a gift certificate for a manicure (teen girl heaven). The most wonderful aspect of hosting is all the awareness that has been generated. We’ve been contacted by so many who want to know more and are interested in helping, united by our compassion to care for children we have never met.
I don’t think it makes sense to most kids, or adults, that she is stuck in an orphanage in the middle of a war zone with about 500 other kids. We’re not sure exactly how many kids are there because they keep adding more kids as they evacuate other orphanages caught up in the conflict. She shares a room with 6 other girls. In the summer, the orphanages closes and if the kids aren’t in a summer hosting program or other summer opportunity, they’re turned out on to the streets to fend for themselves. I asked our host daughter if we should pack some extra things for the orphanage, she suggested sponges to clean, laundry detergent and soap. We also bought a few other necessities, like underwear, socks, toothbrushes and school supplies.
At the airport, I walked along with the kids and other families towards security. And, just like that, our host daughter was on her way back home. Heartbreaking because we do wonder what the next few months will be like for her. My husband and I had said from the beginning that our primary goal was to connect a child with a potential forever family. A friend has contacted us with plans to hosting her this summer and we were able to facilitate introductions before hosting ended.
In four short weeks, this beautiful girl came into our lives and we are the better for it, not her. Imagine this, Project 143 is an avenue to enrich the lives of orphans from a war torn country and yet, it’s us who are fuller of heart and mind.
Project 143 is an amazing organization with volunteers who spent hours on the phone learning about my family and trying to find a great match. Because of the host experience, I’ve now joined P143 as a volunteer coordinator and will assist in recruiting and matching families for future hosting sessions. I cannot wait to see how many more children we can help experience this same joy.
Thank you to Michelle Yoo for sharing her winter 2015-2016 testimonial and becoming one of our newest P143 volunteers!
This past Christmas, my family decided to host for the very first time. Through a series of events, we were matched with a beautiful 13 year old girl. While we might not have originally intended to host a teen girl, God knew she was meant for our family and we immediately fell in love with her upon arrival.
The biggest blessing of the hosting experience was watching our host daughter begin understanding what it means to have a relationship with God. My family viewed hosting as an opportunity to do mission work in our home. Our church family ordered a Russian bible and, at night, my husband and the older girls would sit down and read their bibles together. She had a real desire to participate and would follow along and listen intently.
She initiated a conversation with us very early the first week about baptism.
We did not know what, if any, religious background she had and decided to hold off until we understood her intentions better. Towards the end of the hosting month we were able to get together with some missionary friends and realized our host daughter knew many bible stories and was able to recite several to us. She asked us again about baptism and, this time, we knew she understood and was ready.
On a chilly Sunday morning, she was so very proud to be baptized in front of our church. In fact, I’m not sure if I have ever seen a child more proud of their own baptism. She was beaming and told everyone that she saw for the rest of the week about her baptism. I believe she understands in a way that my own children do not. As an orphaned child, she has seen firsthand what life holds without God. Now, she is experiencing God for herself. Our family prays daily that she has been able to continue reading, learning and gaining encouragement from that gift bible.
Hosting is not something I can easily explain, but it is both rewarding and difficult. Carrying the burdens of a child who has already lost so much is tough. Showing our own children what mission work looks like was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had. We initially planned to host once, but we are forever changed and hosting will be part of our lives for the foreseeable future.
Project 143 thanks to the Hooper family for sharing their wonderful winter hosting 2015-2016 testimonial!
Part 1: Change of Plans
Ten years and, literally, everything has changed. But, before we get to that, here is how quickly 31 years can pass:
- Birth to 17 years old, I was kept safe and deeply loved. I took this for granted. God would eventually show me how so many others did not have such privilege.
- At 17 years old, I walked an aisle in a church in small town Kentucky and told the preacher, who happened to be my dad, that I felt called to children and missions. I didn’t have a clue what that meant or why I even went forward to say it.
- At 18+ years old, I left for college, got a fancy science degree, met a boy, got married, worked in corporate America, paid off student loans and had something called disposable income.
- At 30 years old, in April 2006, God allowed the rug to get pulled out from under me after suffering a miscarriage. I questioned everything I had ever been taught about God and found myself angry and wrestling with God for months to come. My little-girl relationship with Jesus was suddenly forced to grow up.
- At days shy of 31 years old, in July 2006, God sent me to an orphanage in China. The only reason I went was because I heard one of the most profound, clear messages in my spirit. I was broken, spent, depressed, angry, sad and clueless. (None of which I listed on my mission trip application, of course.)
- At 31 years old, home and reeling from the experiences of China, it would appear that God was calling me (once again) to children and missions. This time, that “concept” had a name — orphans.
Part 2: What is Hosting?
The only problem that came out of my trip to China was what to do with the information. How could I help these children long-term? I could not ignore what I had just experienced; God made sure of that. I could still hear the little blind boy who sang us a song in the courtyard. I could still hear myself the day they asked someone to sing a song for the children and the words, “Shout to the Lord all the earth let us sing,” came pouring from my mouth. I could still see the 12-year-old sitting beside me making rings for our fingers out of weeds and grass. I could still see the 3-year-old with club feet watching everyone else play because she could not get up and walk on her own. I had enough sights and sounds to make it impossible to move forward with life unchanged.
I knew if everyone else could experience some time with these amazing kids, they wouldn’t be stuck in orphanages forever. Alas, everyone can’t go to China for two weeks. So, could these children come to America? What a ridiculous notion, right? How do we solve problems in the 21st century? We google them, of course. This ridiculous notion existed and had a name — orphan hosting. Children from orphanages in other countries, not China at that time, were coming to the USA for a few weeks at a time.
In December 2006, I first saw orphan hosting on United States soil. I still remember the faces of children here for the first time and hearing several languages swirling around me all at once. God was answering my question of how to help overseas orphans. With that, my (perceived) little stint of mission work to orphans began in 2006.
Part 3: Change of Heart
Once upon a time, I circled a sentence in a Bible study book that said, “Break my heart for what breaks yours.” I wasn’t at all prepared for God’s response. This photo is a moment inside an orphanage that God used to change me forever. It just happened to be captured on film.
On this particular day, a girl, who looked to be about 10 or 11, came and sat down on the floor near my chair. I vaguely remember humming a song and she took notice of that and started inching her way closer and closer until she was within my reach. I started rubbing her head, just sort of playing with her hair a bit, and continued humming. Next thing I know, she wants in my lap. So, I just hold her, rock her, continue to hum, stroke her head and rub her back. She tries to hum and plays with that little doll, all the while, sitting happily in my lap.
At one point, she stops rocking, sits up and engages in conversation with the translator who is a few feet away. I can tell by the look on the translator’s face that she is little confused and there is more conversation. Then, the translator’s face changes completely and she starts to tear up. The explanation to me went like this:
“She asked me what ‘this’ is called. I didn’t understand what she meant. She said she feels something, sitting here with you, that she’s never felt before and she asked me what that’s called. I told her it’s called love.”
Satisfied with the translator’s explanation, she simply placed her head on my shoulder. I was wrecked. With a click of a camera from across the room, that moment was captured. I could not fathom how a child could exist for a decade and need to ask such a question. There would be many more hard questions, including, “Can I come to your house?” and “Are you my new mom?” Of course, there are lighter moments and more amusing questions like, “Why are your eyes so big?” That one usually only occurs in China.
Part 4: Perpetual Student
No one is more surprised than me to still be part of this mission field of orphan ministry and orphan hosting 10 years later. Before you think such a journey is always a positive and affirming one, when you travel overseas repeatedly into dozens of orphanages and establish relationships with hundreds of kids, you also experience some of the lowest lows. Remember the beginning when I mentioned being safe and loved for my first 18 years of life? Because of that, I am able to make life adjustments, problem solve, examine relationships and heal from emotional wounds more readily. Virtually all the children I encounter weren’t given such a childhood. Because of that, many make choices out of brokenness instead of wholeness. I’d never encountered suicide or feared for children being recruited for trafficking or becoming homeless or even realized the true merit of a basic education before I personally worked with older and special needs orphans. Both the highs and the lows of ministry are teachable moments and I am a perpetual student.
Ten years later and I still believe wholeheartedly in the miracle of orphan hosting for older and special needs children. I’ve seen thousands of children make their way out of the shadows of an institution and into forever families.
As for some of those questions I mentioned above, the little one who didn’t know the word love now experiences it fully with her permanent family, the little one who asked if I was his new mom recently returned home with his very own new mom and the one who asked to come to my house, he did and we now share the same last name.
I’d like to encourage you to take a step. Don’t wait until you feel ready, don’t question the impact of your presence, don’t question your sanity, don’t be stingy, don’t rank the effectiveness of one thing over another and, no matter what, don’t give up. But, do give. Give freely of your time, give love knowing there is no guarantee it will be reciprocated by the wounded and injured and give sacrificially because there really is no other way to experience God’s full measure of provision. A decade later and I would not have the relationship with the Lord that I do without an amazing, persevering group of children labeled ‘orphans.’ Whatever passion the Lord is planting in you, accept it with your whole heart and follow after Him in obedience. Carry all the courage you can muster and offer it wholeheartedly to the One who is shaping the desires of your heart.
Thank you Michelle Vernon – Project One Forty Three, New Development and Communications Coordinator
Many of us think of international work and travel as exciting and glamorous, right?
Skipping through airports, passports in hand, dressed sleekly in black with a simple leather bag and looking fabulous. Well, those people may exist in Vogue, but they sure aren’t part of the P143 interview team.
At this point, I’ve been on three P143 interview trips and, while it is exciting, it’s certainly not very glamorous. Packing and repacking carry-ons, carrying a high quality camera and lens, phone, laptop, notes, multiple chargers, international converters and all the other needs leaves little room for maneuvering easily with a stylish leather bag. Schlepping is a more appropriate term. The team also has to figure out a way to pack the little gifts that we give each child after interviews, along with enough wash-and-wear clothing for two weeks of international travel. Interview trips are bare-bones. We share tiny European hotel rooms in safe hotels, but not luxurious ones. There’s nothing like sleeping 6 inches from a stranger to make you strangers no more! Add in the travel across countries in tiny cars and, suddenly, the need for black coffee is amplified to a previously unimaginable level.
Interview teams typically are comprised of a P143 interviewer, photographer and translator. During winter interview trips, teams are scheduled to arrive at orphanages and orphan courts in the mid-to-late afternoon because the children are in school during the day. Factor in travel distances and time on rough roads in winter weather and it all makes for some really long days. We usually have several appointments scheduled per day, and it’s always a rush from one to the next. Then, an orphanage may have thought they only had five children for us to interview, but we arrive to find 15 children ready to meet us.
The children are nervous and shy during their interviews. Some are excited about a potential visit to America, while others may have interviewed several times and have yet to be chosen for hosting. The interviewer works with a translator, asking specific questions and trying to make a unique connection with the child beyond the language barrier. The interviewer is listening and typing the responses in real-time from the translator. I am extremely thankful for my high school typing teacher in times like these! We do our best to ask open-ended questions to yield answers that give us a glimpse into the child’s personalities and interests. There is an art to connecting with a child you have just met to glean what makes them special. I have been fortunate to observe some of the best interviewers P143 has and frequently imitate them when I am on my own. During these interviews, the P143 team also gets additional information that orphanage directors are willing to share with us regarding personality, behavior and medical information. Interviewing potential host children is wonderful and each child is a blessing, bringing his or her own gifts to life and to the P143 program. However, each child is being interviewed by P143 due to a history of great loss and grief in their lives. This can be difficult for the interview team to absorb over and over again, day after day. It’s hard to hear these stories of sadness in these beautiful children’s lives and to see the toll it has taken on their personalities and outlook on the future.
But there’s another factor to the interviews and that’s what we all see on the photolisting — the photos! It is an understatement to say how important great photos are to our organization. Each of us connects visually to some degree, and a photo does make a difference in a child’s chance of being chosen for hosting. Americans enjoy great big smiles, however, the rest of the world is uncomfortable with toothy grins. Trying to get a child you’ve just met to smile genuinely is not a task for the faint of heart. It sometimes turns into something resembling a toddler photo shoot, with funny faces and props but also terrible industrial lighting. There is no end to what a P143 photographer is willing to do to get that winning shot.
After visits to interview the children, the information and photos all need to be uploaded to the database. Database information needs to be updated, double-checked, triple-checked — and this is often all done on the road (literally) on laptops. Often, the interview teams return to the hotel late in the evening with hours of work ahead to update children’s information and label photos for the U.S. team to place into the photolisting. Teams work into the wee hours of the morning (think 2 or 3 a.m.) and occasionally even later to get the information compiled before starting a new day of interviews. Five to six hours of sleep is a dream for an interview team member. Sound glamorous yet? We haven’t mentioned eating. The team needs to eat. We are great connoisseurs of gas station food where “delicious” sandwiches, smoothies, and unhealthy candy options sometimes fuel us to the next interview destination. At least there is coffee at every gas station.
Interview trips rarely run smoothly — whether it’s a cancelled appointment once we’re halfway there or a blown tire between orphanages on a pothole-ridden road with three women who have never changed a tire before. The interview teams need to stay flexible, alert and ready to make adjustments hourly.
In the end, each of the interviewed children deserves hope. Hope is what P143 offers through our hosting programs. Hope for a break from their orphanage life. Hope for finding a family to love them and cherish them. Hope for learning new positive ways of connecting to other human beings and learning how to be part of a functional family. It is that hope that keeps the interview teams going and fuels us through weeks of overseas interviews. Project 143 offers HOPE for orphans through HOSTING!
Thank you to Project 143 volunteer Barbara Engeriser for her tireless work on our interview trips and for contributing to this article.