Holt adoptive parents Larry and Amy Soule reflect on the determination and strength of character that brought their daughter Rachel to her graduation day.
Once upon a time, in Holt’s November/December 1995 HI Families magazine, there was an article written by Holt’s late communications director, John Aeby. This article was titled, “Tejaswini Progresses, Thanks to BSSK and Holt Supporters.” Beside the story was a picture of a sullen little girl with big, expressive eyes and wavy hair. Her name was Tejaswini. As the story went on, John wrote how this little toddler wasn’t flustered by roadblocks, but preferred to go right through them — as caregivers observed when another little one parked his body in front of her while she was on her bike. Since her arrival at Bharatiya Samaj Seva Kendra (BSSK), Holt’s legacy partner agency in India, she had become quite “determined” and had “grown a lot in confidence and ability,” the article stated. Even then, Tejaswini was noted to go after what she wanted until she got it.
After reading her story, we knew that God had called us to bring this child home to be a part of our forever family.
This description of our daughter as a toddler is an absolutely accurate reflection of our daughter Rachel Tejaswini today. Rachel came home to us in
November 1996 at 35 months old. She was escorted over by a wonderful volunteer from Holt. Unfortunately, she got very sick on the flight, and upon arrival, was sucking her fingers upside down! Although she was sick, she was very aware of her surroundings. She didn’t utter a peep! She didn’t need to — those expressive eyes said it all. When we found out she had developed pneumonia, she was admitted to the hospital for a week. Even there, she never uttered a thing. She didn’t cry or fuss. She was an excellent patient — allowing the doctors to poke and prod her. It was as if she knew she needed to get healthy to be able to race into her new life.
And boy did she race into life! When we came home from the hospital, she decided to let loose with all her pent-up emotions. She yelled and squealed, sometimes in happiness, other times with frustration — but always with determination. Over the years, Rachel required multiple surgeries on her face to correct her midline dysplasia; she was born without a nasal bridge or septum in her beautiful face. Several of the surgeries were to correct cleft lip and palate, as well as fistulas, which are holes in the hard palate of her mouth. She had rib cartilage placed within her midline to create a nasal bridge and a tiny piece of ear cartilage to make a columella — or “tip” to her nose — both of which were necessary to help her breathe through her nose. Most importantly, the surgeries would help her breathe well.
All in all, Rachel has had over 12 surgeries in her 19 years of life, and each time, her resolute nature and strength of character has amazed both us and her doctors.
This strength in attitude has taken Rachel through many difficult times. She struggles with a pretty significant learning disability. She also received speech language services to help not only with learning English, but also to help with resonance (sound) differences she had due to her midline dysplasia. She has become a very eloquent, clear speaker today. Whenever Rachel encounters a “block,” she always looks for a way to get over it — refusing to go around or take another route. She is determined to reach all of her goals — even if they seem unobtainable. Nothing will stop our beautiful, strong daughter! When she becomes frustrated, we remind her of the obstacles that she has already overcome. She has come so far and grown so much.
Rachel has been part of soccer, cheerleading, dance and drama clubs. She loves to be the center of attention, and she loves things to be structured and consistent. Rachel is at her best when she knows what is expected of her and what she can expect from others. She deserves it! Rachel puts her best self forward each day, expecting roadblocks that she will simply move through.
As we prepared for Rachel to graduate from high school, we reflected on the many things this young woman has gone through in her short life. There were points in time where we weren’t sure this day would come. Rachel, however, never wavered during these times. She wanted to graduate, even though it meant she would have to work much harder, attend school a little longer and receive much more support. Of course she succeeded! When Rachel sets her mind to something, she will not be deterred. She will find a way through!
We’ve been blessed to have the resources to help make Rachel Tejaswini’s life as successful as possible. We pray that she finds further success in whatever direction she chooses. Rachel wants to work, have friends, drive her own car and have her own apartment some day. With support, we know she can accomplish these self-set goals.
Many, many thanks go out to all the support staff at Holt as well as BSSK for caring for this young lady and for allowing her to become a part of our family — a family five children strong, all from BSSK, that has grown to know each other, support each other and most of all love each other. Rachel has had a strong support system in her family, from her schools and most of all from God. She is now expected to enter a blended work program where she can flourish and move through road blocks with determination! Her determination has led her to achieving many milestones and her high school graduation is certainly one of the biggest!
We are reminded in Luke 18:16 to, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Rachel will not be hindered. Life belongs to her!
Amy Soule | Bloomville, New York