Adoptee Katelyn Marks reflects on identity and community — and how adoptees begin to find it at Holt Adoptee Camp.
On February 14, 1990, my 9-month-old self landed at the Seattle-Tacoma airport. My adoptive family video-recorded my arrival, and later in my childhood I would watch it every so often. As time went on, life happened and eventually the VHS was lost — as well as some of my memories of the things on that tape. There is one specific thing I remember, though, and that was my face while being carried by an escort that had helped bring me over from Korea. It was curious, fearful, but mostly, unsure.
I just celebrated my 28th birthday. I grew up among a generation of rapid transitions, whether it be in technology, the internet, social norms or new ways of communicating. With all of these ways to connect, I found myself trying to find something but not sure what that something was. In a world where you could find facts or opinions about anything via a quick Google search, nothing seemed to be enough. It wasn’t until I started working at Holt International three years ago that an unexpected thing happened.
Through working at Holt, I met adoptees, which led to meeting even more adoptees — all of them also curious, also wandering in life, and finding meaning in their own ways. What I spent most of my life searching for, with those unanswerable and indefinable questions, was found in connection with other adoptees. Often, adoptees are spread out throughout the United States — throughout the world — and there are hundreds of thousands of us.
So why is it so hard to connect?
I knew one international adoptee growing up (that I know of), but I didn’t realize the potential to develop a community of adoptees until I started at Holt. As the Holt Adoptee Camp director, I’ve seen the impact that a connected community has on adopted kids. I’ve also seen how this connection continues and sustains itself through an adoptee college group I help facilitate. This community validates each other, supports each other, has fun together, and understands. But you don’t have to take it on my word alone. Other adoptees have also expressed what an adoptee community has meant to them, specifically at Holt Adoptee Camp:
“Camp has helped me understand that there are people out there all over the world just like me… Every adoptee comes from a different walk of life, but sharing these experiences and exploring these feelings is just the beginning to self and community exploration.”— Leah, previous camper and staffer
“Going to camp really expanded my adoptive community. It’s helpful because then you know you’re not alone in your unique experiences. As you grow older, you can keep those connections [from camp] and have really good lifelong friends. Having people that you share such similar experiences with is really awesome.”— Megan, previous camper and counselor
“Holt camp is a place where Adoptees are free to be themselves, but more importantly, they’re free to explore what it means to be themselves with the support of others who are like them.”Steve Kalb, Director of Holt Post Adoption Services
I appreciate all aspects of my life — I feel like I worked hard to get where I’m at. I’m educated, healthy, I love my family and I know they love me, and I’m proud that I mustered up enough courage to search for what all of my feelings mean. The image of an unsure 9-month-old is crystal clear in my head, but now, at 28, I feel more certain about my place in the world. And I have the tools and support to explore my adoptee identity. If I could turn back time and go to Holt Adoptee Camp as a young camper, I would. It’s a fun place, just like any other summer camp. What makes it so special are the connections, the immediate understanding, and the lifelong community that adoptees gain.
Katelyn Marks | Adoptee and former Holt team member
Registration for Holt Adoptee Camp 2023 is now open!
At camp, adoptees have the chance to try new things, make new friends and share their experiences with other adoptees! This program is available to all domestic, international, transracial or transcultural adoptees, ages 9-17.