Kazapalooza (“Kazakh Party”)! Palooza means “party”!
This past weekend Beth Turnock and I had the honor and privilege to be part of a great annual event held this year at the Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, Ohio. It was a gathering of over a hundred families who have adopted at least once from Kazakhstan. Many of the families have made the trip to Kazakhstan several times in order to complete their family. Adopting from Kazakhstan is a long drawn out process and a testimony to the dedication these parents have for their children. It was a delight to see children glowing and thriving in their adoptive families.
The women bringing Kazapalooza together are adoptive mothers themselves. (Gretchen, from TN, mom of 3, Muriel, from IL, Mom of 2, Lori, from Ohio, Mom of 6, Kristan, from FL, Mom of 3, Karen, from KY, Mom of 1, Michelle, from WI, Mom of 2) They dedicated hundreds of volunteer hours organizing and preparing for this event. It was fabulous!! (to see more pictures from this event)
The experience of traveling half way around the world to bring home their precious children united them with a common experience. Their desire for their children to feel a connection to their birth families and to their birth country, as well as to see other children just like themselves, is the driving force for this event.
Friday night was a family cook-out with games for the children. A pie eating contest topped off the evening. My heart loved seeing all these precious children running around having so much fun. I kept looking into their faces wondering if any had siblings I knew back in Taraz. As much as my heart loved seeing these happy children, it also ached for all those children left behind. Their futures do not look as bright as these at Kazapalooza. Those left behind have no one to advocate for them when they struggle in school. They have no one to comfort them when they are hurt or to hold them in their arms when they are overwhelmed with life.
A luncheon and raffle was held Saturday. The families not only wanted to celebrate and enjoy one another, they also desired to give back to those children left behind. Each year the event planning committee chooses a non-profit working with orphans in Kazakhstan to donate funds raised during this event. This year Ark Village, a wonderful private orphanage outside Almaty run by an Italian man, was chosen. Papa Guido has been running Ark Village for 12 years. Each family brought an item to be raffled off. There were some wonderful gifts which raised monies for Ark Village.
What amazed me is that these families not only adopted their child but are staying actively involved and giving back to children that remain in the orphanage system in Kazakhstan. These adoptive parents’ hearts have been touched and transformed.
I heard many stories of treasured memories the families have. Their desire is to expose their children to the rich heritage of Kazakhstan. Many talked of wanting to return with their children when they are older so they can see Kazakhstan and learn about their birth country. The desire for their children to be healthy, well-rounded and joyful was abundantly evident in all.
There were also stories of their child’s struggles to overcome past traumas and the surprise they had when learning about issues they had no clue about previously. I was encouraged to hear each parent’s determination to find the resources needed to help their children be the best they can be no matter what. They could laugh at the struggles, at themselves and at things they had never thought funny before. There was a comfort each family felt being surrounded by people who didn’t react or look strangely when a child had a melt down because they were in a new place, out of routine and over stimulated. It was accepted that these precious children fight a battle against terrors and traumas most could never imagine. The lack of a loving parent during those first critical years of life has left scars that may not be seen by the eye but are present nevertheless. Only in a loving, caring environment will these children learn to overcome what they weren’t given at the beginning of their lives. Each of the children at Kazapalooza now have parents who are dedicated to loving and nurturing them. What joy that was to see! Families came from as far away as Texas, Virginia, and Canada.
The desire of my heart is see the children on the J127 ranch thriving and learning to overcome the traumas in their lives as they build a future and become contributing members of the society they will live in. J127 Ranch will be a place for each child to engage with others and in that process be enriched and empowered to become all he or she was created to be.