I’ve been in this place before.
In March 2017, I visited this same orphanage to help prepare older children for adoption. Those children, both age 13, flipped through photo albums and letters to learn more about their adoptive families. One boy wasn’t yet matched with an adoptive family but looked over the shoulders of his friends as this happened. My heart broke for him and I returned from that trip determined to find a family for him.
I saw him again during my second visit to this orphanage in September 2018, and I was happy to hear that he remembered me. I gave him a small gift and letter from his own adoptive family. They’ll be traveling very soon, and my heart was settled to know that he won’t be left in the orphanage.
It was an eerie feeling of déjà vu when, in September, I again sat down, with two older children at this same orphanage to go over their photo albums and letters. I was thrilled for these children and loved seeing the looks on their faces as they took in the images of their new parents, their rooms, their siblings, their homes. Those children left the room with wide smiles on their faces, chatting away in Mandarin about, I’m guessing, what’s to come for them.
Then I met a boy I hadn’t seen during my first visit. Charleson.
Charleson is the only older child left at this orphanage without a family of his own. I was shocked to hear this. My heart — so full and happy just minutes before — sank as I realized this child is the only one left. I imagined how he must feel when he sees his peers flip through photos, receive letters and video chat with their American families. What does he think about? I wondered if he tries to figure out why a family hasn’t come forward for him yet, and felt sad thinking of the reasons he might tell himself in his head.
Charleson seemed so sweet. One of the orphanage caregivers told a story about how the teachers at his public school trust him so much that he’s allowed to sharpen pencils for himself and the other students — something that isn’t usually permitted. Another story was about how, at school, the children are sometimes given a small amount of pocket money to shop. Apparently Charleson spends very little and gives the rest back to his teacher, saying that the orphanage provides for what he needs.
He told me loves to study and his caregivers said he usually scores around a 90 in math. He was able to immediately recite English words for a few foods, without being prompted. He was described as very sensitive and he helps take care of the younger children in the orphanage. My impression of Charleson is that he is a quiet, but brave boy. He said he didn’t have any concerns or worries about being adopted into an American family. He’s seen lots of different types of families and living environments through his friends’ photo albums. He wants to live in a smaller town surrounded by nature, in a family with many siblings and a small dog.
He said he wants to do more sport activities in the future, especially running. It’s his hope to run really fast rather than run long distances. I smiled as I pictured Charleson surrounded by a large family — cheering him on at track meets.
Always, my goal is to find a family for every child I meet. But I also know the sad reality that this isn’t always possible. I am, however, determined to find a family for the only older child left at this orphanage. I am determined to find a family for Charleson.
Amy Castle, LMSW | Social Worker, China & Oregon Branch
Could you or someone you know be the right family for Charleson? For more information about this sweet boy, please view his photolisting on the Holt website, or contact Alycia Fahr-Zarlons at firstname.lastname@example.org.