Recently, Jessica Zeeb — Holt’s child match coordinator for the China program — met Nigel,* a boy who has just two years to find a family before he becomes ineligible for international adoption. Below, she shares about their visit, what impressed her about Nigel and why it’s Nigel’s turn to join a loving family. Please share his story!
Born January 16, 2003, China
The little girl I am interviewing smiles as she names several other children her age. Then she pauses for a moment, and her face breaks into a huge grin. “And Big Brother Nigel!” she finishes with a flourish, gesturing toward the 12-year-old boy sitting quietly to my left. Nigel smiles back at her and then lowers his gaze to the floor, perhaps a little embarrassed by all the attention. She is not the first child who has named him as one of their favorite friends.
At 12 years old, Nigel is one of the oldest children in the orphanage, and he has lived here all his life. He is a role model and big brother figure to many of the other children, and it’s hard to imagine a boy better suited to this role. Steady and kind, Nigel gets good grades at the public school he attends and cooperates well with his caregivers, teachers and friends.
Nigel has cerebral palsy, which results in weakness on the right side of his body. I was able to meet with his physical therapist, who spoke in glowing terms of his determination during therapy and the progress he has made. Because of his perseverance, Nigel can now ride a bicycle, shoot hoops left-handed with his friends at school, and dance to his favorite song. Indeed, when asked about his favorite activities, sports are at the top of his list.
During our interview, I ask Nigel if he would like to be adopted someday. He nods his head yes with a big smile. His caregivers confirm that he is eager to have a family. Recently, he was taken to a bookstore and given the opportunity to choose a book. The book he chose was bilingual — English and Mandarin. He wants to be prepared in case his turn comes to join a family in the U.S.
Over the years, Nigel has said goodbye to many friends as they left to begin new lives with their forever families. Every time a child leaves, the orphanage throws a farewell party to celebrate their friendships and the new family they are joining. Nigel’s caregivers noticed that after these parties, he often became very quiet and didn’t want to speak to anyone for the rest of the day. “Especially after some of his best friends left,” they told me, “we knew he was feeling anxious.” This remarkable orphanage has even provided a counselor to help Nigel work through his sadness over saying goodbye to so many friends. They feel he benefits from having someone to talk to about this. “We just want him to feel comfortable,” they said.
I am touched by the love and attention Nigel’s caregivers have shown in providing counseling for him. But it’s a lot to ask, I think as I look at the bright young man sitting beside me. How can we possibly ask him to watch each of his friends be embraced by a family and then taken away forever? How can we expect him to be comfortable always being the one left behind, never the chosen one?
As I am preparing to leave the orphanage, one of Nigel’s caregivers looks at me and says, “Now we leave him in your hands. He is 12 years old…” I understand what she is telling me. The older he gets, the less likely it is that a family will come for him, and on his 14th birthday, he will be considered ineligible for adoption by the CCCWA.
Please help us spread the word about “Big Brother Nigel.” It is Nigel’s turn to be embraced by a family of his own!
And check out these great videos of Nigel dancing (he is the boy in green) and speaking a few English words…
Nigel needs a family with experienced parents who will provide him with continued medical care for his cerebral palsy. If you would like more information about this special boy, please contact Jessica Zeeb at email@example.com.
* name changed