An Afternoon with FRUA, INC

Recently our International Visitor Program hosted a delegation of government and adoption officials from Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Moldova, and Ukraine to examine international adoptions and child welfare issues. Their program was packed full of great conversations and connections, but without a doubt one of the highlights of the trip was their afternoon with Families for Russian and Ukrainian Adoption, Including Neighboring Countries (FRUA, INC). We caught up with Sharon Kiddle, regional President of FRUA, INC to get her thoughts on their visit.

When you’re offered the chance to influence the future of international adoption, you welcome the opportunity.  It seems unreal to think that, just a few days ago, we hosted these delegates for an afternoon and evening.   

 

The first part of the day was a potluck lunch with local FRUA, INC families.  Not only were we thrilled that it attracted 75 people, but found it fascinating that the ‘high caliber’ subject matter was deemed important by some families who we seldom see at events.  Although we only had adoptive families from 3 of the 6 delegate countries, it was the big picture that shone.  We demonstrated our emphasis on cultural support (including culture camp, food, music and posters), ran a slideshow of ‘then and now’ photos, had kids’ crafts, games, and encouraged families to chat to delegates while we ate.   And their comments?  “These kids are thriving.  They are happy and well cared for in families.  The food and their heritage is honored.”  It was a special moment for one of the delegates from the Ukraine when she realized that the child she was looking at had been the adoption she had approved only months before.  The family’s other two bio kids were respectfully in national dress—that’s memorable and precious in anyone’s books.  

 

From there, our local board took the delegate group to tour our family farm.   I think it was a welcome change to hotels and conference rooms.  Small town rural America.  We had considered holding the whole event at the farm, but this is the Pacific Northwest—there’s a reason it’s green!  Luckily, the weather was great.  They roamed the fields, and some of the delegates said they either lived in, or were raised in the countryside, so felt right at home.  One of the ladies walked on ahead with tears in her eyes, because it had made her homesick.  It took a while to explain the odd rural American idea of a corn maze; they declined to give it a try…..

 

Our home is very close to the farm, so we gathered there for dessert.  We tried to make it a ‘farm to table’ experience with fruit pies made from blackberries picked a few weeks before, honey, and pastry made from wheat also grown on the farm.  Other Washington fruits and walnuts were included.  We toasted with vodka made from our farm grain, and local Washington beer and wines.  This is when we saw them relaxed and chatty.  We were told that the media and government reports they will give when they return home will be very positive about the well-being of adopted kids living in the USA, and they told us that FRUA, INC does an excellent job.  

 

It was around our dining room table that the Kazakh delegate fought back tears as a child showed her the photos of Kazakhstan in her lifebook.  These are gems that the government officials will take back with them.  

 

Of course, there were other touching moments throughout the day, both for the delegates and adoptive families.  I’m sure I only heard of a few.  Imagine the impact of a Ukrainian young man, adopted at 14 years old, able to discuss his positive adoption experience with a Ukrainian delegate in his native tongue, and to show his adoption based research project.  Or the teenager explaining her gift bag orphanage support fundraiser project.  Win, win.

 

A special thanks to all the families who traveled to recognize the magnitude of this event, and to our tireless local board members who worked to make it happen.  Mission accomplished.  

 

Thank you to FRUA, INC for hosting our visitors for such a memorable and impactful day.  Moments like these underscore the importance of citizen diplomacy and the power of international exchange. We are privileged to facilitate such connections through the International Visitor Program. For more information and ways to get involved, click here.