Prairie Wife of the Week June 13th, 2014
Posted June 13, 2014 by Prairie Wife - 2 comments
Even though Casper, Wyoming is tied for the largest city in Wyoming with a population of 50,000, it always amazes me how much of a small town it is! We have a saying in Wyoming, you know one person from Wyoming you know them all. This week’s Prairie Wife was brought to my attention by a friend of a friend. When I heard the story of her desire to help some of the 143 million…yes million…orphans in the world, I knew I had to help spread the word. Imagine my surprise when the same day of our interview I met another one of the woman (there are five families in our area) who has become involved in the program. I was so excited to chat with her that I probably scared her a little bit, sorry Allison!
While I have shared stories of adoption before on our site, I personally have never felt moved to become involved on more than a support and sharing of information level, until now. After hearing about the amazing organization called Project 143 I immediately put a bug in The Cowboy’s ear that I thought our family would be participating in this program in the future. Sarah’s determination to give hope to orphans, to share with them the vision of what their future can and should be, and her selfless act of opening her home up to a child from across the world, makes her the perfect Prairie Wife of the Week.
Prairie Wife (PW): First tell us a little bit about your family.
Sarah (S): I grew up in Laramie, Wyoming and I met my husband when attending college at the University of Wyoming. I am a special education teacher at a local Elementary school and Ryan is an optometrist. We’ve been married 11 years and we currently live in Casper, Wyoming with our four children. Bodie is 8, Laird is 6, Jude is 4 and our youngest Tatum is 3.
PW: Your youngest, Tatum, is adopted what led your family to make that choice?
S: I personally am adopted, and it was something we always knew we would do once we had our own family. We had the three boys and my last pregnancy was really complicated. When we began to think about having another child we felt that God was showing us that it was time to adopt.
During the beginning of the adoption process we looked both overseas and domestically. Heart and Soul, a Utah-based agency, contacted us so we finished all of our paperwork and turned it in to the agency…about 3 hours later we were matched! This is no small miracle for those of you who are familiar with the adoption process. Tatum was ours immediately after she was born. We were even there when she was born! It was absolutely amazing.
PW: How did you first get involved with the Project 143 organization?
S: I am a part of a small group bible study and we recently read a book Restless by Jennie Allen. As you read this book, you look at your threads, your passions and your drive, and you learn to link them all together. Eventually, through this process, you learn about what your true calling from God is. As a result of this process I really felt like it was time for me to do more for the adoption community. I was asked to speak at the Adoption Alliance Conference and at a local school to pregnant teenagers about adoption. I am also involved in the Wyoming Adoption and Foster Care Alliance. It was through this organization that I first heard about Project 143. Through much prayer, Ryan and I felt that this was something we were being called to do.
PW: You can find out more about Project 143 by going to projectonefortythree.org but, here is an overview from the site…
“Project One Forty Three, Inc., runs the Project 143 Orphan Host (HOPE) Program. Hosting is inviting an orphan child to live in your home and experience your family for 4-8 weeks over the summer or winter holidays. Host families have the opportunity to share their values, beliefs and culture as well as learn something new from their host child. Hosting is ideal for families with a heart for the 143+ million orphans worldwide. The orphans available for hosting are chosen by our interview team, who travel overseas to meet each child in person. Project 143 has a special emphasis on hosting older children, children with special needs and sibling sets, as these kids are often the most forgotten or overlooked. Host children range in age from 6-16 and each host family is allowed to choose the child that fits best with their family dynamic after viewing the children’s photos and reading their biographies online. Without hosting, most of these children will eventually ‘age out’ of the system and never experience the life giving, life changing love that family provides. Hosting can also serve as a connection between an orphan and his or her ‘forever family’. However, you absolutely do not have to be interested in adoption to participate in hosting a child. The focus of the host program is cultural exchange and exposing the children to life outside an orphanage. Adoption is sometimes the by-product of the program, but not the only goal.”
S: I started to look at the site and spent a ton of time looking at pictures. But, my husband felt that because of financial reasons it would be more practical to wait until 2015.
PW: What is the cost for participating?
S: In order to participate it is $3,000 per child. The cost covers their fees coming to America as well as the assistance of a chaperone. The kids come with a backpack, and host families are allowed to send other necessities in a suitcase. Most times they come with very little, so there are some more costs involved (clothes and other necessities for the child) during the two month stay.
PW: Your guest arrives in a few weeks…what happened to waiting?!
S: Well my husband had decided it was best to wait, and I knew that it wouldn’t be right or fair to push him so I let it be. Then, a few days later, my husband called me. For some reason, he felt that it was suddenly the right thing to do. It turns out that he had actually been praying and thinking about it and had heard a song on the radio that just really struck his heart. He decided that we needed to immediately do this and not wait until next year. We involved our four children in helping us find the right match for our family. Project 143 works with orphans in China, Latvia, and the Ukraine. We eventually picked Vitaliy, a 10 year old boy from the Ukraine.
PW: What are your plans for Vitaliy when he is here?
S: He wants to learn to ride a bike and loves to hike and be outdoors. We hope to take him camping, to the lake, and to the rodeo! I can’t wait to celebrate the 4th of July with him in Driggs, ID which is a family tradition! I can’t wait to show him the fireworks and the traditional American BBQ and Western lifestyle which is what we all love about Wyoming. I just want to show him what a loving, caring family is like. He is only here for 8 weeks, but we are going to squeeze in as much fun family time as we can!
PW: What if there is a problem, or it turns out he isn’t a good fit for your family?
S: The chaperons come here to the US with the orphans, and they actually stay in the region the whole time. For example, there is one chaperon for the Colorado and Wyoming area. They check in with you every week, and they are there to help with any challenges. There is even a medical insurance policy, in case any of the children get sick or injured. They really do hand select the children that they feel would be the best fit for the program, but it is nice to know that there is support if it’s needed.
PW: What impact has this decision had on your life?
S: I feel that there has been a peacefulness in my husband and I after we decided to participate in this program. It feels like the right choice for our family, and an amazing way for us to continue on our journey of helping the adoption community. One of my sons have said how excited he is to share his world with Vitaliy. We really believe this will have a profound effect on our own children as well. My hope is that this will help them to grow up knowing that there is a whole world out there, and that it isn’t just about where you are and what you have, but what you can contribute.
PW: Have you seen any impact in your local community because of your participation in the project?
S: There are currently five other families in our local community that are participating in Project 143 as well. I think that knowing other families are there to share the story of these children, makes me hopeful that we will have a bigger impact for these children and the program as a whole.
PW: Some people may say that this seems like it would cause more pain than help to these children. Giving them the life they dream of for a few months, and then sending them back to an orphanage. What is your response to this?
S: It is described to the children as something similar to a foreign exchange program, except it is about experiencing a family more than a country. Everyone has had an experience that has gone into making them who they are today. I feel that this is an opportunity for these children to have hope for their future, a chance for them to see what life could be, and maybe even encourage them to break the cycle of what brought them to an orphanage. Most of them are orphans as a result of drug and alcohol abuse. These children are orphans through no fault of their own. We hope to show Vitaliy that there is hope for the future, the love of a family, and the love of God. Those things won’t end when he gets on the airplane.
I know that it will be hard for our whole family for Vitaliy to go back, but I have faith that this is God’s plan for us and it will all turn out wonderfully. It is always a possibility that we may choose to adopt this child, though it can’t be done through the program. Maybe instead of adopting this child, we are supposed to be helping many children through Project 143. I have confidence that when the time comes to make these decisions, we will know what is right for our family.
PW: Not everyone is called to adopt, what advice do you have for families that want to be supportive of others involved in the adoption process?
S: I think that people should never underestimate the power of prayer. I think that being sensitive and supportive to people’s reasons for adopting is important. Just like having a new baby, adopting a child is full of ups and downs.
PW: How can our readers help you and Project 143?
S: There is a way to donate to the project in general on the site. To donate to local Wyoming families that are in need of funding please take the time to check out the Wyoming Adoption and Foster Care Alliance. Kris Katzman coordinates this alliance along with the fundraising involved. We personally are having a community garage sale at a friend’s house Saturday, June 14. It will be a multi-family sale with something for everyone! Stop by from 8am-1pm tomorrow at 4036 Bretton Drive Casper, Wyoming!
PW: Any final Prairie Wife words of wisdom?
S: Be the change you wish to see in the world.
Read our second interview with Sarah and learn about her hosting experience!