The past few days I have had the opportunity to spend a lot of one on one with several children, but one child in particular is a 2 month old baby. Yes, 2 months old. Her story is incredibly devastating but unfortunately that is most of their stories. As I held her the other day and rocked her to sleep I couldn’t help but to look into her eyes and wonder about her life before she arrived at the orphanage. So small and completely dependent on others and now completely dependent on strangers. However, all of these children become dependent on strangers.
I try my best when I am here to take as many kids aside as I can and spend one on one time with them whether that be blowing bubbles, coloring, rocking on the porch or singing songs. Even if I won’t be here long term I think it is so important for these children to have time to feel important, loved and special.
Today, I taught one of the toddlers how to blow bubbles and the excitement on her face left me without words. Prior to this she was pretty expressionless and I really could not seem to figure her out. But this was a totally new experience for her and she was having the time of her life. Her little dimples, white teeth, and bright eyes lit up the room with every bubble she blew. I honestly could have sat in the office with her for hours doing this because it was truly priceless.
I think we all strive to find our calling, to fulfill our purpose and to truly discover what our passion is. Sometimes it takes a while to find your way and discover where you fit in this massive world though. But when I am here, here in Haiti, I know this is where I belong.
– Hilary Clemons, Haiti Adoption Specialist
I have had a blog post similar to the one I am about to write but I am hopeful that the following information may help families, individuals, volunteer teams, etc really understand what an orphanage in another country is actually like and how your involvement truly can impact these children’s lives.
The kids are amazing. But, honestly amazing does not even begin to describe them. They are so resilient, full of joy and so smart. Most of the children hope to have a family in America and because of that they work extremely hard to learn English or at least enough to help communicate with their families when they come. They are so selfless.. Several times you will see the older children helping with the younger children by providing redirection, helping the nannies care for the babies, or simply entertaining the younger children. It is one big family unit. They ALL want your attention, hugs and affection. Now, that can be overwhelming for someone who has never traveled to an orphanage in another country because the amount of children that run up to you, pull on you and beg for you to pick them up is not only overwhelming but heartbreaking. You also might hear a lot of the children yelling “blan” when you enter a room or walk up to an orphanage which means white in creole. Also, unless an orphanage has stateside help they are making it through everyday life by meeting the bare minimum and by meeting the bare mimimum they are surviving and actually doing very well for themselves. But, the bare minimum in another country looks very different than the bare minimum you might see in the states.
My journey in Haiti on my own has been a totally different experience than the first time here. I had to be more confident, totally independent and have a lot of faith in myself to succeed. But, the thing that kept me going was walking into the orphanage on day one and the kids actually remembering me… it felt as if I had never left. Immediately calling my name, giving me hugs, and holding my hand; I was home. Everyday I made a point to go to every room and say hello to all of the children because they ALL are important, kind and smart. Through this I continued to build rapport with the children and got to know some new kiddos along the way. A lot of things happened on this trip for my personal growth and the growth of the adoption program.
As I left Haiti I was accompanied by several little friends from the orphanage and other children screamed my name as I got in the car. It was hard. The hardest of hard and I could not help but to cry. For a second I contemplated just loosing my passport…
The work here is extremely difficult and it is never finished but being able to truly connect with these children is what keeps me going and honestly I think it may keep them going too. Half of my heart is always in Haiti and like I told the kids, “this is not goodbye this is just see you later.”
Till next time Haiti. ❤️🇭🇹
– Learn More About Bulgaria Adoption
– Contact a Bulgaria Adoption Specialist
– Visit the Waiting Child Photo Listing
First off, I would like to THANK everyone for all their thoughts and prayers through this wonderful journey!! Amy and I started this process over 14 months ago and God has blessed us all the way through the journey!!
Here is a little history of our journey: For many years Amy and I have wanted to adopt once our two boys, Stephen and Coen, were a little older. We have heard the call that we are to provide a home for orphaned children. We contemplated domestic and international adoption, and then after I went on two trips to India, I saw the need. After prayer, God led us to adopt from Bulgaria. Amy and I decided that we would like to adopt a child(ren) between the age of three years old and younger than Coen. We would also consider adopting a sibling group. In February, we received the “Waiting Child” list from our adoption agency (Children of All Nations – CAN). The Waiting Child is a list of children that are either a sibling group, getting close to ageing out of adoption, and/or have special needs. We reviewed the list and it only contained two Bulgarian profiles. The first was for three great looking brothers, but two of them were older than our boys and we wanted Stephen and Coen to be the older siblings. The second profile was for an almost 9 year old girl. We read through her profile and as we read we started to feel that indescribable feeling like she is the one. She had been in the orphanages since she was very young and is socially behind. We continued to review all we could and that is when Amy said the words I will never forget….”Sounds like she needs a teacher for a Mommy!” That is when it felt right!
Today was our third day to spend with “Z.” Again, “Z” was very excited to see us when we arrived at the orphanage. We looked into all our options on how to spend the day and decided not to do so much of the tourist stuff (though we have enjoyed doing that with “Z”). We started the day by just staying at the orphanage and played a game similar to the board game, Sorry. During the game we are trying to work with her on her counting and we can see she does pretty good as long as she/we stay focused. It is also helping Amy and I learn basic Bulgarian such as counting (though Amy is always correcting me). After playing the game we broke out the friendship bracelet supplies to teach her how to make one. Thank you Mamaw for buying these as they were a hit with “Z” and look like they will be for the rest of the children as well. “Z” made multiple braclets and gave one to her caregiver, Sonia. “Z” also wore about three or four of them throughout the day. But I sure do love the one she made for me (see photo below). Pretty sure I willl be wearing mine for a long time!
Today was our fourth with “Z” and as with our previous days, we are gaining more insight with her. We went to another monastery today, the Klisurski Monastery of St. Cyril and St. Methodius. On the way to the monastery we had to pass through Berkovitsa, the birthplace for “Z.” When asked if “Z” was ok with going through her birthplace, she was somewhat reluctant as she pretty much stated she does not care about Berkovitsa because that is where her biological mother lives. But she agreed to go since Mommo and Daddy were with her. “Z” asked if I could pick her up and hold her and I did so the entire time before leaving for the monastery. I may have pinched a nerve in my neck sleeping last night, but there is no way I am going to deny my precious daughter! I held her tight!. We all jumped in the vehicle and headed towards Berkovitsa and the monastery. The entire way, she held our hands.
At the monastery, we toured the courtyard and made our way to the temple. As with all the monasteries we visited, they sell items to raise funds. We asked Ivan what we should get “Z” as we felt like we should get her something from the monastery near her birthplace. So Ivan asked the nun what she felt would be a nice gift. She asked her name and we told her and she stated that her name means “To Live,” in which she said….”like the resurrection.” That sent chills down my spine. “Z” was not inclined to be near the place she was born as she was abandoned (death) but now God has brought her with Amy and I to give her a new life. How cool is that!! God Is Good!!
Friday, November 15, 2013 – Day 5 with ‘Z’
I decided to post about our last visit with “Z.”
We arrived at the orphanage around 10 am and we did our usual go through the photo album. I love how she opens to the first page and gives the picture of Amy and I a kiss. She says Mommo, and gives Amy’s picture a kiss, then says Daddy, and then kisses my picture. It is so cute! We are also glad that each page is protected with a plastic sleeve as some of the pictures would have kiss marks all over them. She also likes to pull out the origami heart Stephen made for her that says he loves her. She holds it to her cheek and says “Aaahhh!”
We then played our usual games, Sorry and Memory.
There were two different counselors at the orphanage today and they were very nice. They gave us their blessings and one said they will pray that our process will be swift and that we will be re-united with Z fast.
Then 11:20am arrived and it was time to start saying goodbye. You could tell “Z” was more somber, but as I mentioned yesterday, she has been in the orphanage all her life (9 years) and she knows the routine. She grabbed our hands as we walked to the door. I then picked her up and held her. She gave Amy and I our kisses, we told each other we loved each other, and we gave her our promise we will return as soon as we could to take her home! I held Z as long as I could…..until they said it was time to go! We walked towards the car, turned back and gave our final waves goodbye………and drove off towards Sofia. Amy and I stayed strong, but I can tell you we were missing her before we got a block away! Sure wish we could hold her for a little longer!!
Sunday, November 17, 2013 – Time to come home.
We have had a wonderful trip! God truly blessed us with a beautiful daughter! It is now time to head home. We miss Stephen and Coen so much and can’t wait to see them!
On our trip we met and gained a daughter. We also gained friends. Ivan (pronounced Eevon) was such a great guide and Bulgarian host! He was and is instrumental in our adoption process. Ivan has become family. Below is a picture of Ivan and his girl friend at dinner last night.
Please pray for smooth and safe travels. We have a very fast connection in London and we just found out one ticket is standby (girl at counter acted like it should be no big deal). We should be home Monday afternoon.
God Bless you all!
Friday, November 22, 2013 – The Little Things……
Amy and I were so glad to get home and see Stephen and Coen as we missed them so much and they are our pride and joys and we LOVE them with our whole heart! It was nice to walk in and get giant hugs from both of them! Again, we thank our parents for watching them while we were gone.It has now been a week since we last saw “Z” and it has been tough without her. Since being home, we have shared additional stories with our family about our time in Bulgaria. I can tell you…Amy and I keep remembering our time with “Z” and it is the little things that we miss.We miss………………..
when she would reach out to hold our hands
when she would roll her eyes, tilt her head and then shake her head with a sassy attitude
when she would kiss our cheek
soup……her favorite food was soup. Now every time we see a bowl of soup or a can of soup, I can hear her say “soupa”
Orange juice……she would drink a bottle of Cappy orange juice with every meal (Cappy, is Minute Maid).
Her infectious smile!
Her contagious laugh!
Her never ending jabber box…….And remember, we were told she did not speak much at all, but when we showed up, she could not stop. God Is Good!!
Well it has been quite some time since I last posted to the blog. For the most part, it is because Amy and I have been in wait mode. However, the process has been in motion since we returned from Bulgaria back in November.As soon as we returned from Bulgaria, Amy and I completed the I-800 application. This process was estimated to take 30 days, and almost to the date, we received the I-800 approval in the mail around Christmas time. Then the National Visa Center (NVC) letter came in the mail about 10 days later. We now had all the information necessary to complete the visa application (DS-260). The DS-260 was then submitted and within a week we received notification from Children of All Nations, our adoption agency, that the US Embassy in Bulgaria received all our documents. The next step was for our Bulgarian representative, AMOR, to make an appointment with the embassy for an interview on our behalf. AMOR was successful at scheduling an interview quickly and afterwards, heard the interview went well. The very next day, the embassy provided to AMOR our article 5 letter. The AMOR then took our file, including the article 5 letter and had it translated and legalized. On January 30th or 31st, the AMOR submitted our documentation to the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice.That brings us to today….As of now, we are waiting for the judge to make a final ruling on our adoption! This process generally takes one month, but it is dependent on the judge and his/her schedule. So it could be sooner, or it could be longer. The most important thing is that it is in God’s hands and we are nearing the end of our wait!We sure miss “Z”!! We cannot wait to hold her again and bring her home to her forever family!! I look at her picture(s) daily and am so excited to squeeze her in my arms and hold her tight!! Obicham Te “Z”!!!
Saturday, March 8, 2014 – Loving and Missing our Z
It has been 16 weeks since we last saw “Z” and we sure miss her! The adoption can seem like an endless process, but we know the adoption is in God’s hands and He has His perfect plan. In our last blog post, I shared that our file was given to the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice on January 31st to review our adoption. This process takes approximately 30 days. What we did not realize at the time is that after the Judge reviews the file and turns it to the court, it may take a couple of weeks to set a court date and that date may be 4 to 6 weeks later than that. Again though, the adoption is in God’s hand and He knew Amy is completing her Masters in Education and completing her dossier. Therefore, God is allowing her to focus on her studies before our next trip. Amy should have her dossier submitted and Masters completed by the end of March. She will be so relieved to have this behind her!! Based on time lines, there is the possibility our court date will be set around Easter. While, we do not have a court date, nor know if Easter will be the approximate date, but I received chills when I looked at the calendar and saw Easter. If you remember, or have read past blogs, our fourth day with Z, we toured the Klisurski Monastery of St. Cyril and St. Methodius. While there, we wanted to get a small present for Z as this monastery was near her birth place of Berkovitsa. When we asked what would be a nice gift from the monastery, the nun stated that Z’s name represented “To Live,” like the resurrection. How cool is that!
Our precious Z turned 10 on March 6. We hope she had a blessed birthday!! On her birthday, the Judge turned our file (Agreement to adopt Z) over to the courts. Now we just wait the week or two to get a court date. Once we have the date, we can plan our travel!! YAYYYYYYYYY!!
First, I am sorry for the delay in updating our blog. We have been waiting for final approvals and confirmations. Now, Amy, myself and the boys can say…”It is time!”
On March 28th, Amy and I received the Bulgarian court’s approval to adopt Z (Soon, we will be able to use her name). After approval, we only had to wait a week for the approval to be officially filed into the system. The next steps have been to prepare our trip to Sofia to finalize the adoption. With Easter and other Bulgarian holidays, we had to wait until May to travel.
I am so happy to say we have bought our airline tickets to leave the States on May 6th, and get to Sofia on May 7th. We then will go get Z from the orphanage and she will be with us the rest of our lives!!!!!! That is just so amazing to say!!
We must be in Sofia for ten days to complete all the necessary steps to finalize the adoption and the steps to allow her into the US. While I am not sure of all we have to do, we are confident our agency in Bulgaria will guide us all the way. We have also rented a two bedroom apartment in Sofia for our time there. We cannot wait to start bonding and being the loving and caring parents Z has always deserved!
May 6, 2014 seemed like it would never get here, and then the next thing we knew, it was upon us and we had to get prepared for the next step in our journey. We got the boys over to my parents late on the 5th and then we went home to finalize our preparations. I do thank God for the wake up call the next morning as we needed to leave town early and I apparently turned the alarm off instead of getting up when we originally planned. However, we did get on the road on time…..at 3:45am. Our drive to Dallas was smooth (Amy got some rest and I managed to stay awake the whole way). 25 hours after jumping in the car, we were at the Sofia airport picking up our luggage. Besides the happiness to see all our luggage arrive with us, it was so awesome to have to bring additional luggage; A suitcase with Zoya’s clothes and toys. We then met up with our translator, Ivan, and our driver, Dimo, and headed to our rented apartment. After settling in, Amy and I took advantage of some quiet time and caught up on some necessary rest!!
…..That leads us to the next chapter of our lives!!
Thursday, May 8: Ivan and Dimo picked us up from our apartment at 7:30am and we headed to the village of Gavril Genovo. After our 2 1/2 hour drive, we made the familiar turn down the road to Zoya’s orphanage. The butterflies really started to hit Amy and I as we headed through the gate and towards the door. That is when we see Zoya in the front window and we could see her familiar smile!! The door opened and out came Zoya…….A big hug erased all the butterflies! We finally have Zoya in our arms again!!
Amy and I are now finishing our 4th day being Zoya’s parents and while it has been a very blessed time, both Zoya and us have had a some adjusting to do. First, there is the language barrier. Amy has been doing a fairly good job retaining some words and phrases to help in communicating. I have been limited to a few words here and there, and Zoya just laughs at my attempts. Something else…Just as I had to learn in India, head nodding is opposite of what us Americans understand. Up and Down means “No,” and side to side means “Yes.” Again, Zoya laughs at my attempts to understand this difference.
Each day Zoya is learning more and more of what she can get away with, but the testing is continuous. When we must get onto her, she just laughs at us until she realizes the seriousness of our tone and face. All in all, I think we are being effective in teaching her that we are in charge as parents.
Friday, May 16, 2014 – It Is Final!
On May 15, Amy and I went to the US Embassy in Sofia for our Interview to get Zoya’s Visa to enter the U.S. approved. As soon as the interview was complete, we were told her visa would be ready the next day. As of abo
ut 4pm Sofia time, May 16, Zoya’s passport included her Visa and was picked up at the US Embassy. About an hour later we met up with Maya, our Bulgarian adoption representative, who had Zoya’s passport and we had a celebretory dinner. At the dinner, we received all the final documents regarding Zoya! Our adoption is complete! PRAISE GOD!!!!!
Amy, Zoya and I left our apartment in Sofia on May 17, at 5am (Friday, May 16, 8pm MST). Twenty-eight hours later, midnight in Carlsbad, we arrived at our house, Zoya’s forever home!
Now let me summarize our 28 hours of travel: All three of us did not get a full night of sleep before our early morning rise. Zoya was over excited and Amy and I were making sure all our bags were packed and ready to go. Our 4am wakeup came quick. Though Zoya should have been tired, she was up and ready to go. She repeated over and over that we were headed to America and she would see Stephen and Coen. When I say repeated, I mean repeated hundreds of times!! It was so cool. Maya and Ivan picked us up right at 5am and we headed to the Sofia airport. The airport was packed and of course the kiosks were having issue, but after several hiccups of getting in the system, we were checked in. Now it was time to say goodbye to Maya and Ivan. Again, we were so ready to come home, but it is always hard to say goodbye to friends. We then proceeded through security and passport check. The passport check was our first time to show proof that Zoya was our adopted child. All went well and we were so glad Maya showed us step by step process of what all the passport checks will need to see and what immigration in the states would need to process Zoya.
Hello!! I apologize for the delay in updating the blog. Our entire family has had a busy summer….you know; regular life and adopting a beautiful daughter and all! HAHAAll and all we have had a very busy summer. As soon as we returned from Bulgaria, we were in full swing of baseball and did not finish the season until mid-July. Then it was time to take some time off for a family vacation. Then next thing we knew Amy and all three kids were back in school (Amy teaching and the kids learning).Enough with the excuse of a busy summer! You all want to hear how Zoya is adjusting to being a Hollis.Where to start……oh yeah, from the end of the last blog.Our friends and family threw a shower for Zoya and it was a beautiful day! It was such a pleasure to see all the love and support for Zoya’s new beginning. She loved all the attention! She received many gifts of toys and decorations for her room. She would open a new gift and ask, “Ha Зоя?” (pronounced nă Zoya, and translated “for Zoya?”). You could see the excitement in her face when we would tell her yes, it is for Zoya. A child that pretty much had nothing of her own and had to share everything now has her own things. She even had to share her clothes at the orphanage. Not any more! All this was just for her! She is now a princess in her mind! She was very appreciative as well, telling everyone thank you. And I am pretty sure all those that attended received multiple hugs! Thanks to all that came see Zoya!
Throughout our adoption journey, I have written our blog based on our experience and time with Zoya. Our journey has been a glorious and blessed time. Over the past several months, we have seen so many milestones in Zoya’s life; The many “firsts” that Zoya has been able to experience. All the things we have taken for granted, Zoya has embraced them as if she was given the greatest treasures. Amy and I have taken some time lately and started looking back into our files and all the paperwork that went into adoption. Within the paperwork are Zoya’s reports from the courts and social workers. In addition to reading, Zoya has started to open up more about her life as an orphan. Some of her stories and depictions of growing up can just tear your heart open. Therefore, based on some research within the court papers that include a timeline of Zoya’s different placements in social care or orphanages and Zoya’s stories, I thought it would be nice to share Zoya’s journey. Disclaimer: I can write only what I have read and heard, I cannot depict what Zoya’s life was really like, nor have the emotional capacity to fathom what an orphan’s life is like. On that note, here is Zoya’s journey.March 6, 2004: Zoya Meglenova Angelova is born in Berkovitsa, District of Montana, and Country of Bulgaria. Zoya’s birth mother is known and father is unknown.June 9, 2004: Due to extreme poverty, a Social Assistance directorate is issued and Zoya is removed from her mother’s care and put into a home for medical and social care in the city of Berkovitsa. Courts rule that Zoya’s mother is unable to care for her because of extreme poverty.December 14, 2004: After 6 months, the Social Assistance directorate ceases and Zoya is placed back with her mother due to reintegration with her biological family and filing an application and statement with social services.Zoya lives with her mother for nearly two years, however on November 14, 2006 (nearly four month shy of her 3rd birthday), Zoya is placed back into the home for medical and social care in Berkovitsa due to her mother’s inability to raise her.
Our Haiti Adoption Specialist, Hilary, is heading back to Haiti tomorrow, and she couldn’t be more excited! This trip has been eagerly awaited as it will not only provide opportunities for program growth and development, but it also gives us the chance to bring the remainder of the items from our Haiti Holidays donation drive to the creches that we work with!
Each and every item that we received during our Haiti Holidays donation drive came from our incredible community of adoptive families, friends and advocates, and your support has meant the world to us. Thanks to all of you, Hilary will be bringing diapers, baby formula, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and SO much more to the children waiting in Haiti!
Be sure to visit our blog over the course of the next week to read updates from Haiti!
“I am going to Haiti….I. AM. GOING. TO. HAITI. AGAIN.
I am not too sure if I am still in a state of shock or the reality that my flight is booked, my bags are almost packed, donations have been disbursed, and my itinerary is in the works has not fully sunk in yet. Haiti is a place that stole my heart long before I had ever been given an opportunity to travel there, and since then it has greatly impacted my life. I have always known that I would get to go back to see the children, the people and explore more. But, I cannot get over the fact that the second trip that I have longed for since returning from the first trip is here and this time I will be traveling on my own.
This is my first time to travel internationally by myself and to say that I am not nervous would be a lie but I am also so excited to do this on my own. For many of you that have been on this journey with me since the beginning you may have followed along as I traveled to Haiti for the first time with one of my co-workers and you may have also watched me take over this program and develop it into what it has become today.
Haiti has always been my project and looking for ways to improve this program, do more in the country, and provide opportunities for individuals to get involved has been my passion since day one. I have some big plans in store for the months to come and this trip is key to turning those plans into an actual reality.
I hope that you all will walk beside me as I take a leap of faith and discover Haiti on my own.
And so the adventure begins…” -Hilary Clemons