As a baby in China, Callie Ware had a sponsor who helped care for her while she waited to come home to her adoptive family. Now 17, she’s continuing her sponsor’s act of kindness by sponsoring another child in need.
Being adopted is definitely the biggest part of my identity. Yes, I am Chinese, but I do not feel as connected to my heritage as I feel to my backstory. I was adopted at 9 months old to a single, hard-working woman, brave enough to take on the challenge of motherhood alone. My mother wanted me to know from the beginning that I was adopted and that my story is unique. When I was little, she would tell me stories told to her by the orphanage staff to remind me where I came from, and how I had arrived into her arms. Before coming home, I also stayed with a foster family for a time, and my foster mother also shared stories about me.
For all of us, our story of origin is so important. My story involves many acts of kindness. Holt International is one of these acts of kindness. When I was just around a month old, in southern China, I was taken to a post office and dropped in a basket right on the front steps. There was nothing with me but the fresh, new clothes on my back and a small, red, ripped piece of paper with the date I was born. From there, I ended up at an orphanage in Guigang. It was during this time that a sponsor began supporting me through Holt International. My sponsor made it possible for me to move from the orphanage to my foster family. Through my foster mother’s reports, I learned that I loved shopping in markets and watching commercials.
Similar to many other parts of my story, luck and timing played a role in my being able to learn I had a sponsor. When I had first come home, one of the mothers in our adoption group, via social media, discovered some of the infants from our orphanage were sponsored through Holt. My mother wrote to Holt and asked if anyone had sponsored me and if they still had the progress reports that Holt had periodically sent them while I was in care, providing updates about my health and wellbeing. My sponsor was kind enough to forward the reports along. To that person, we remain so grateful. Their funding helped feed and clothe me as an infant, and sharing the reports helped me feel connected to my life before adoption.
Going through life being adopted has been a rollercoaster, in the best way. Unlike many people I know, including my younger Guatemalan sister, I have never struggled with the fact that I am adopted. I have felt that I am where I am supposed to be my whole life, and I had never really pondered the “what ifs.” Last year, however, I went on a community service trip with my high school to Peru, where we worked in orphanages. The orphanage I volunteered in was very different from the one where I had lived in China. It was a strict, all-girls orphanage that housed girls around my age. They weren’t babies. They were able to tell us their stories. They understood what it meant to be in an orphanage.
Over the three weeks I was there, I developed an overwhelming case of survivor’s guilt. I struggled with why I was able to live in a nice town and go to a great school, when I knew that these girls would never get the same opportunities. I found myself unable to work in the orphanage every day. I would go every other day, taking breaks to cry and process in between days. Before we all got on the plane to go home, I was crying for a different reason. I was crying because I did not want to leave. I had learned so much about myself and about the challenges that can come from being adopted. I wanted to stay forever.
Since returning from Peru, I have become more involved with adoption — staying connected not just mentally to my story, but through taking action. To give back and to share my story, I started an adoption support and awareness club at my school. Every year, the club’s goal is to raise the funds to sponsor a child living in foster care or in an orphanage. This year, we chose to sponsor a baby girl from Korea, Da-Som Bak. What we really loved hearing about her was that she “smiles when [she] is massaged softly with baby lotion after bath.” It reminded me of the quirky bits of information that were in my sponsorship reports as a baby. I hope that in the future, Da-Som gets the same opportunities I have today. I hope she grows up to feel as strong and empowered by being adopted as I do.
Being adopted is the best journey and it is my journey. Because of it, I never take for granted where I am and how I got here.
Callie Ware | Holt Adoptee
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