In October of this year, Jordan Love traveled to Korea as part of the Happy Together tour for adoptees with special needs. This was his second time traveling on the Happy Together tour. And this time, he brought back with him some fresh insight about the experience, including a deeper understanding of why it’s so important to have a birth country tour just for adoptees with special needs.
At the end of October this year, I had the great opportunity to travel to Korea on the Happy Together tour. This tour is designed specifically for Korean adoptees who have a special need — giving them the opportunity to experience the Korean culture in a variety of activities and also have opportunities to explore their adoption. I first traveled on this tour back in 2011, which was also the first time I returned to Korea since I was adopted at 4 and a half years old. Looking back on my trip in 2011, the whole week seemed like a whirlwind of new experience and discovery. This trip, I felt a lot more comfort and was able to be more relaxed as I knew what to expect.
Upon reflection, I think there are two main things I brought back with me from the Happy Together tour to Korea.
The first was an experience. When I went back in 2011, I was able to see my teachers, my physical therapist and my caretakers who helped me when I was in care at Holt’s Ilsan Center. These lovely ladies shared with me so much love and stories from when I was at the orphanage and showed me how much love I had while I was in care there. When I found out I was going to be able to go back, my only request was to be able to see these ladies again. The day that we toured Ilsan, I was able to stay at Molly Holt’s house so I could spend some time with Molly, who was one of my caretakers, as well as Ilsan’s long-time resident doctor, Dr. Cho. The short visit with all of them was such a great experience. In the middle of the visit, one of the residents that was staying with Molly and had been at the orphanage for decades shared that she remembered me from when I was a child. Even though this was such a small thought for her, it really did touch my heart as it gave me another small piece of the puzzle about my past.
The second thing I brought back with me was how important it is to have a tour like Happy Together that helps Korean adoptees who have special needs visit their birth country. I can only speak for myself, but having a special need, I know there are a lot of programs and activities that I am hesitant to go on because of limitations I have. Some concerns I have — concerns that are common among those with special needs — are whether I would be able to do all the activities involved or whether I would be a hindrance to the group by participating.
Having gone on this tour twice now, I feel an obligation to express how amazing it is for anyone, regardless of their special need. Everyone involved with the trip is very aware of everyone’s ability and facilitates their needs without spotlighting their limitation. I would encourage any adoptee with special needs (or family that has a child with special needs) to consider this trip. Going on the Happy Together tours, I have been able to connect missing pieces of my life story. I know for me, these trips have also given me the ability to thank my caretakers and those who were vital to my adoption story.
I would love to talk to anyone who is considering going on this trip. I believe it is a very special program and has been truly a gift to me.
Jordan Love | Eugene, Oregon
The dates for the 2017 Happy Together tour of Korea are July 11-20! Applications are due April 15. To learn more and apply, email firstname.lastname@example.org.