Friday, October 25, 2013

Bandundu House, Sunshine House, and Congo Update

We can hardly believe how fast this has happened!

A couple of weeks ago we informed you of a house we had secured in the Bandundu region.  Today we are happy to announce supplies have arrived, including beds, furniture, a generator, kitchen appliances... and most importantly, children have arrived!  The social worker has told us the kids are acting like they are walking into the Taj Mahal!  Obviously, the conditions are not that grand, but compared to what they are used to we are very happy they are loving their new (temporary) living conditions!  We say "temporary" only for the fact this is not their final destination, rather the first stop towards the possibility of finding a home to call their own one day!  We really hope this home offers them some glimmer of hope as to what their futures hold.

The kids are meeting with the social worker, eating well, taking their vitamins and most have had an opportunity to visit the doctor for initial exams.  The social worker, Jean Noel, is doing an amazing job meeting the needs of the children.  Here are some photos of the home and children:

Sunshine House
Things continue to go well at Sunshine House!  As the number of children grows, daily, we will be separating the children by ages.  The older children will more than likely move to Rainbow House.  Rainbow House offers excellent care, a large yard, bikes, swing sets, and a playhouse.  These activities are more suited for older kids and we think they will really enjoy the opportunity.  Both houses will continue to benefit from our recent hires of social workers who will be on hand during the week.  They are doing a great job of addressing the childrens needs... or simply offering a hug when a child needs one!

Here are a few photos from Sunshine House:

We want to address the recent report from the embassy.  We are saddened beyond belief  for the singles in the EAC Congo program.  Some will make it through and be able to complete their adoption, some we will continue to fight for depending on the stage of their adoption, and some will be switching to our Uganda and Haiti programs.  We know a lot of you have expressed concerns for those who find themselves in this unfortunate situation.  Please know, the night the notice was issued we were on the phone with all families affected talking about the situation and their options. We will continue to work with them until each of them is able to bring the child, that was meant for them, home.
EAC has formed an alliance with 6 other major agency's operating in Congo to improve communication between the agency's and the Congolese authorities.  We hope to be able to provide additional updates as this further develops.

The DGM continues to limit the number of exit visas issued, however, we remain confident a resolution will come soon.  We are working with our in country staff on an daily (sometimes hourly) basis.
We hope this update brings a smile to your heart - it does to ours!
Debra and Robin

Friday, October 11, 2013

You've heard enough from us about how wonderful we think our Africa programs are...

... hear it directly from an EAC family!

This testimonial was sent to us by a family who just returned from Congo.  We absolutely love hearing this kind of feedback as it confirms the efforts we have put into establishing our programs.  We hope this information reassures you as well!  EAC has always taken great pride in providing first class in-country service!

(We have elected to withhold the families name at this point as they have not yet completed their adoption)

"We weren’t sure what to expect when we first touched down in Kinshasa, DRC.  The nice passengers who warmed up to us during our eight hour flight quickly freshened up, changed their clothes, applied make-up, and pushed and shoved to the exit and down the steps onto the runway. We walked and shuttled to the airport, got into a line at immigration, and went to baggage claim to pick up our luggage. Thankfully EAC’s attorney Patrick and his associate were there to navigate us through the chaos and barriers that come from being in a third world country where most do not speak English. We waited for almost two hours for each of our bags to be placed onto the belt by hand. Patrick made sure no one took our bags, helped us to the parking lot, and drove us to the Sunny Day Guest House. The drive over was an adventure in and of itself. Millions of people lined the streets. Motor bikes - the equivalent of our “taxi system” and vans (which we later came to realize was the bus system) packed full of people hanging out of windows, on top, and out the back doors, swerved in and out of the non-existent lanes. 

We arrived at Sunny Day late into the night but were graciously shown our room. Sunny Day is the most popular place for adopting families to stay in DRC. This compound is very clean and completely enclosed. All of the adopted children play together in the graveled courtyard and pool and a driver is always available to take you wherever you need to go. What we liked most was that Sunny Day is very accommodating to the needs of these families and never made us feel bad for ruining more than our fair share of towels and bedding. The workers always talked and smiled at the children and we always felt safe…something that’s very import when you’re visiting a culture so different from your own.

The morning after we arrived Patrick along with EAC’s new Social Workers, Linda and Daniel, brought over our children. For two days, we were able to love on them and give them much needed medical attention. We were blessed with the opportunity to speak to eight other families adopting. All of these families expressed issues with their agencies and attorneys handling their adoptions. We felt very thankful that we had chosen EAC and that EAC was working with Patrick – someone who is knowledgeable about the adoption process, conditions in the DRC, and extremely dedicated to orphan care.


While we were there we had several opportunities to meet with Linda, EAC’s new social worker. She is very sweet and the children love her. She visits the orphanages several times a week and will be in charge of dispersing the clothes, vitamins, and formula we brought for the children. She has also done a great job in monitoring the health of our children, taking them to doctor appointments, and making sure they have the medicines they need. Everyone was impressed by EAC’s dedication to their children.

The hardest part about our trip was having to say goodbye to our children who had just started warming up to us. Although it was wonderful to spend this time with them, they had little understanding of who we were or why they could not return with us. We gave our baby boy a kiss and placed him in Linda’s arms, knowing he would not be held constantly when he returned home as he had been with us and we hugged our little girl who had been sitting in front of the door, new sandals on, holding a stuffed puppy, tears falling from her face, because she knew we leaving. No words were necessary for her to understand goodbye.

After the children were taken back, Patrick and his associate came back to get us. We talked them into showing us around and we soaked in the culture. As professionals ourselves, we had the opportunity to grill them both and walked away with a deep level of respect for them and peace that we had chosen the right agency and that our children were in good hands.
But to be honest, what won us over was that their willingness to walk us through the airport departure. No attorney in the United States would have put themselves through that type of chaos. Patrick and his associate walked us through the airport procedure and waited for several hours while we stood in line to check bags in a hundred degrees. They kept officials from accepting bribes, people from cutting in line, and were always there to translate and point us in the right direction. When we finally got our bags checked they walked us to a lounge where we could safely wait to board the plane. When officials wouldn’t accept our crisp newer than 2006 bills, Patrick traded his own bills with us so that we could wait in comfort.

Words can’t adequately describe our experience on this trip but suffice it to say, we are beyond words impressed with EAC, Patrick, in-country staff, and their dedication to these children and to the adoptive families who provide these children with a forever home"

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

It's video time!

A short video of some of the children we met in Congo...

The video is a collage of all the beautiful children Debra and Robin were blessed to interact with while in the Congo a few weeks ago.  It is amazing to see the smiles on all of the children's faces.  Through all the despair and uncertainty of what life has shown them... their smiles depict HOPE!  Hope that one day they will be blessed to have a family to call their own.  A family who will love them unconditionally.  A family who will provide them with a sense of security.

We would like to send a very special thank you to Debra Parris' son, Matthew.  Matthew, while fighting his own daily struggle with cancer, created this video.  Matthew is receiving another treatment of chemotherapy today... fighting the good fight... keeping hope... with a smile on his face too!

Please continue to pray for the children of Congo, and we ask you also include Matthew in your prayers today as well!

 Enjoy the video!  "Faces of EAC Congo" video

Robin and Debra

Monday, October 7, 2013

An update... Now that we are reacclimated!

What a crazy couple of weeks it has been...

since we returned from Congo!  So where do we start?  As we are sure you are all aware, the DGM has suspended issuing exit visas to adopting families.  What appeared to be catastrophic at first, now appears to be a "speed bump" and we hope this issue will be resolved very soon (more on this later in this blog).

Regarding things we can control, we are so excited to announce we have secured a home for children in the Bandundu Region.  This house, to you or I, may appear to be ordinary.  To the orphaned children (and EAC representatives) this home is a God send.  It has doors, windows, indoor plumbing, and plenty of bedrooms.

In addition to providing a home, EAC is also assisting children, who are older than 3 years, to attend school!  Our new social worker arrived in region and during his first week he was greeted with many children suffering from Measles.  His first week was spent escorting 14 children back and forth from the hospital for evaluations and treatments.  We are pleased to announce the children responded well to treatment and all are well now.  For those of you with children from this region, you should feel blessed they have a really nice home to live in, an opportunity to attend school and a social worker who is extremely caring and concerned for the well being of all the children.  Some of the children have passed court and will be moving to Kinshasa to stay in the foster care facility.  Soon after that their families will be arriving to bring them home to the U.S.! 

Here are some wonderful updated pictures of the children of the Bandundu region:


 In Kinshasa, the children staying at Sunshine House are doing very well at this time.  Aside from a few who developed upset tummies due to Measles vaccinations, health and spirits are good!  EAC had a family visit this past week and we are happy to report they took over formula, vitamins and nearly 200 lbs of clothes for the children!  It is important when each family travels to take at least one or 2 suitcases full of supplies as this is the most cost effective way to deliver aid to the children. The family could not say enough wonderful things about our social worker, Linda, who is responsible for the well being of their children.  Linda came to the guest house to visit them 3-4 times during their stay just to make sure things were going well.  Linda visits the center at least 5 times a week and has been taking pictures of the children for all parents!
Another social worker, Daniel, has also been receiving glowing reports for his caring nature.  In particular, the little girl who had broken her arm has been receiving extra attention, and then the next minute he is playing kickball with some of the older children.  Daniel, a father of 4 children, is the ultimate father figure to these children - they all love him!
Both Linda and Daniel continue to do a wonderful job of updating us on each of the children in their care - the number at the center has now reached 55 children!  This is how we at EAC know so much about the daily lives of your children. We care and we know you do too!  We hope you enjoy the updates we have been providing.

As we mentioned earlier in this blog, the DGM has issued a suspension of exit visas from Congo.  We feel truly blessed to have the in-country attorney we do as he has been on top of this situation from the beginning - and he has helped us to keep our sanity! He spearheaded weekend long meetings with 19 attorneys, involved with adoption, who are analyzing the validity of the suspension and what issues may have caused such action to be taken.  He remains confident the suspension will be lifted shortly and that it should only have minor, if any, effects on any EAC adoptions.  We will continue to keep you updated as we learn more.

Please keep up the prayers and patience!
Debra and Robin


Friday, September 20, 2013

Before we head home...

Wow, its been an exciting couple of weeks!

As we wind up our unbelievably awesome trip to Congo there was a couple of things we wanted to accomplish.

First, we wanted to personally take part in escorting two little boys from their orphanage to Sunshine House.  They have officially passed court and are now waiting for their final destination - their home in the U.S.A.!  As we were driving with the boys, we started to wonder what the boys must be thinking - had they ever been in a car, how many of these sights were new to them, where are these crazy ladies taking us, etc!  Do they know their world is about to blossom more than they could have ever imagined!  Armand, and Kado, the two boys, were so excited to be reunited with a little friend from their orphanage!    There is something so incredibly inspiring about being a part of the process first hand.  Such beautiful little boys with a future of so much hope!

Secondly, we wanted to follow up on the status of a little girl who had fallen and injured her arm.  Our staff had taken her to the doctor to have her arm x-rayed.  Her arm was indeed broken and they set the arm in a cast.  We were expecting to see a cute little lightweight cast, maybe in hot pink color - NOT! - this cast is full plaster!  They had to tie a string around her neck to help support the weight of this cast.  It looks like something we made in art class, paper mache', when we were younger!  But she is doing wonderfully and is in good spirits.

The two little boys we spoke of above, I (Debra) am blessed to know the families these children will be joining.  My heart is so happy because they have the brightest futures waiting for them.

This is why we do adoptions.  To change the lives of YOUR children and provide them hope for a future.  To change YOUR lives in a way you have never expected. 

Each of YOUR children that leaves the orphanage makes our lives have meaning... so selfishly, this is our reward..

We arrive back in the U.S. Friday evening, but will be counting the days until January when we return.  In the meantime, we look forward to sharing our experiences with each of you.  We also look forward to each of you sharing your experiences of your completed adoption with us over the next few months!  EXCITING!!!

Please keep spreading the word - there are so many beautiful children, many we were able to meet, many more we have not met, that need loving homes.  We need more EAC families.

We cannot begin to express our sincere thanks to each of you who has supported, prayed for, and followed us on this amazing journey.

As the French Congolese say... au revoir!
Debra and Robin
The wonderful staff at Sunshine House

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

We Need Families!

We have recovered from all the hugs!

It took us a day or so to come down from the emotional high we received while visiting Sunshine House.  What a truly awesome blessing!

Another blessing was that we found a great Chinese restaurant last night - yes, a Chinese restaurant in Africa!

Yesterday was a training day for the new EAC social workers (Linda, Daniel, and Johnue).  We took the three of them to two of the orphanages where we recently received new referrals.  Robin spent time training  them on all aspects of gathering information and documents for our attorney and the EAC U.S. staff.  This information is vitally important so that we can make referrals to families.  Today, Robin is working with the social workers and orphanage staff on the process of taking our new referrals to the doctor for medical review.  This process will be the same should any of YOUR children become ill.  These processes can become quite complex as we must remain compliant with the guidelines of both countries.

During our visits at the 2 orphanages, Debra spent a lot of time loving on the kids and taking pictures. (Some of you who have been waiting for referrals may have received "sneak peeks" of a child).  We love being able to contact families to share such wonderful information!  If you havent received an email or call as of yet, you probably will shortly, as we are receiving many new referrals and processing their documents and getting the medicals completed.

Based on the increase in the number of referrals we have been receiving we are in NEED FOR MORE FAMILIES!  Please continue to spread the word in your communities, churches, support groups, schools, etc.  We want to find homes for each of these children!  They deserve a family of their own!
Today we are visiting the DRC Department of Social Ministries and the DGM.  These are very important meetings, as it is EAC's opportunity to proudly display our commitment to the Congo adoption process as well as our humanitarian aid efforts to date.

Thank you for your prayers and continued support.  It is so wonderful to receive emails from each of you while we are in Africa!
Debra and Robin
(We wish we could post more photos, but we are limited due to broadband speed)

This orphanage aid had some help while she was cleaning! (She was actually hand scrubbing the floor with this little angel on her back!)