Friday, March 13, 2009


A few weeks back Faith, our Lighthouse Project translator, was in Russia visiting orphanages we work with. Looking for new kids and checking on children awaiting their family’s arrival, one of her stops included the institution my kids were in. Faith met with the children on her schedule and was going out the door when the orphanage director told her about Valentina. Most children who travel with Lighthouse are “social” orphans: kids who found themselves in an orphanage when their biological parents’ rights were terminated due to alcohol abuse and child neglect. As a true orphan with deceased biological parents, Valentina was a bit unusual. She arrived at the orphanage with four younger siblings, but when they were taken by Russian foster families, Valentina was left feeling she had no one in the world. As word spread that Faith was at the orphanage seeking kids for trips to America, Valentina urged her orphanage director, a rotund, Russian-blonde I met twice and liked well, to let her see Faith, pleading that she needed to seek a family in America as her parents were dead and her siblings were gone. Acquiescing, the orphanage director spoke to Faith, who agreed the eighth grader should be interviewed, though there wasn’t time to do so at the orphanage.

Valentina’s orphanage is a winding-roaded two hours away from the regional capital, where both Faith the director were imminently bound. Given an opportunity to be considered for a precious trip to America, Valentina seized the chance, though it meant she would endure a joyride to the capital to spend time with Faith. Like many Russian orphans who seldom leave the orphanage, she gets carsick. An ever-changing Russian landscape formed the backdrop of her interview, which proved she gutted out the white-knuckle ordeal heroically. Valentina displayed a reluctant charm, punctuated by laudable episodes spent willing her stomach to compose itself. When Faith worried she might not be able to persevere, the director offered a commendation of Valentina’s ability with younger children, who idolize her as a role model.

Most kids do not travel on Lighthouse trips so soon after they’re discovered, but Valentina’s story and age mandated special consideration. Turning fifteen during the Michigan trip, she’ll need to be adopted before her sixteenth birthday to enter the US on an orphan’s immigrant visa. Absent an adoptive family’s expeditious intervention, Valentina will return home and hopeless to no one in Russia. While her age makes it urgent she finds a family, and soon, it hampers my search for said hosting family. Even those who profess to be host-only, void of adoption intentions, ask no further questions once I mention her age.

I continue promoting her, fretting at my failure to find a family. Valentina says there is no one for her in Russia. Two weeks before her scheduled arrival, there is no one for her in America either.