When we were doing our daily orphanage visits, we had the opportunity to spend some time with Iris. She would be eagerly waiting by the door, peering hopefully into the narrow hallway, as Bella was wheeled out on her cart. I would motion to her "come on out!" - some workers allowed it and some did not. On the days when they said yes she was clearly thrilled to be out there with us. She loved taking part in whatever we were doing - whether it was coloring, punching balloons around, playing with dolls, or dancing to music. My bio daughter, Bou, loved Iris. In fact she just said to me yesterday, "I wish we could have adopted Iris too." That's not the first time I've heard this.
Which brings me to another point. I believe Iris would be a good big sister. Why is that important? Because many families are wary of bringing an older post-institutionalized child into a home with younger children. It's a valid concern, one that certainly has to be considered. After all, as parents we are responsible for the well-being of ALL the children in our homes. That's why I want to share my experiences with Iris. She played appropriately with both Bella, who is completely helpless, and my 6 year old Bou. She was kind, fetching toys for them. She was affectionate, giving kisses on the cheek to Bella and hugs to us. She was gentle, sweet, timid at times. It seemed clear to me that this child does not receive alot of the love, affection, and praise that she so craves - clear because she lacks self-assurance. And still, she knows how to give what she receives so little of. She told Bella that she loved her. She called me mama at first. After she was chastised by the workers for that, she began to call me "Bella Mama".
On the day we took Bella out of the orphanage, Iris stood at the head of the bed the entire time, watching Bella get dressed and ready to go. I wondered what she thought as she watched her best friend, the center of a flurry of happy activity, that day. Was she excited, scared, angry? She looked nervous to me. She gave me a few sweet smiles and Bella Mama's, but was quiet for the most part. Honestly I couldn't look at her very much. I was afraid I might cry. I gave her a big hug on the way out and told her I loved her. Then I closed the door - the last thing I saw was was Iris, still standing there hopefully, just as she had every day for the five weeks I'd visited.
When I learned a couple of weeks ago that Iris had been listed on Reece's Rainbow I was thrilled. I knew this time, THIS TIME, I had to follow through on my intentions to advocate for a child. But still, I didn't get to it, and I was feeling very guilty and sorry about that. But someone else, a fellow adoptive mom and author of a wonderful blog called Tiny Green Elephants, had already taken the ball and run with it! Like me, she has adopted an older child. Like me, her heart breaks for those kids left behind. When she began advocating, there was only $85 in Iris' adoption grant. Knowing that finances often present an obstacle for families, and that a family is more likely to step forward and take a leap of faith for Iris if her adoption is fully funded, the Tiny Team issued a challenge: for 200 people to donate $100 to Iris' grant. If that happens, it frees a family of the financial worry associated with stepping forward, because they will have $20,000 dollars available - enough to fund Iris' adoption!
Since that challenge was issued on January 28th, Iris' grant has increased to $4000! So she no longer needs 200 people to give $100 - she just needs 160 people to do it.
Many families (most I would say) need to fundraise in order to pay for their international adoption. We were very blessed to be in a position to pay for ours. We never had to ask for a single dollar. But now I am asking - for $100 from my friends who have been so richly blessed and can afford it. I am talking to MY friends, the ones I know in real life. Let's look around us. Look at our beautiful homes, lovingly furnished. Look at our cars, our nice tech gadgets, our closets bursting with clothes. Look at our children, who want for nothing. They live in houses full of food, warmth, and love. They attend schools and participate in activities. Let's all look around us and ask ourselves, how can we NOT afford a few dollars for a child who has nothing I just listed? If not $100, then whatever you can. I am shamelessly imploring you to do this because I know how crucial it is for Iris to have a family. I have seen the kind of place she will spend her life in if she is not adopted. I do not want my daughter's best friend to go there. It is wrong.
If you want to know more about Iris, please watch this beautiful video that my friend (a missionary who spent 6 months volunteering at their orphanage last year) made:
You can also see Iris here, playing with Bella and Bou. Although my video isn't as elegantly done or as moving, I like it because you can see her personality: smiling, clapping, swaying to the music, giving Bella a kiss...At the end Bella asks in Russian "Do you love me?" to which Iris replies "Yes!"