TWENTY-ONE little girls aged four to six, dressed in lovely Sunday dresses, sat in two rows of small chairs facing the windows at the lecture room for another Saturday of reading sessions with 18-year-old Alexis Lopez at the White Cross Orphanage in San Juan city. But today was different. Aside from reading various children’s books, Ms. Lopez read her self-published children’s book to the little girls for the first time.
Volunteering since Grade 8, Ms. Lopez has been conducting reading sessions and theater workshops with the same group of little girls in the orphanage every two weeks.
Aside from actively volunteering, Ms. Lopez’s passion for writing inspired her to write a story on adoption. Her self-published book, Jodie’s Journey, tells the story of a young orphan who lives in St. Mary’s Orphanage, with her friends being her only family. Jodie’s life unexpectedly changes when she learns that she will be moving to Spain to live with new parents.
The children’s book contains both English and Filipino versions of the story, features illustrations by Ray Sunga.
The inspiration for the story came from one of the little girls in Ms. Lopez’s theater workshop. “After one of my theater workshops, I heard that one of the girls that I was teaching was going to move to Spain to be adopted and live with a family there,” Ms. Lopez told BusinessWorld after the reading session at last week’s book launch.
“I thought about how there was no story written about adoption yet,” she said about inter-country adoption. “I think that when we read about characters in books who go through something similar as us, it makes us feel reassured. So, I thought that maybe in writing this book, I’d help these children be able to transition more smoothly to their new lives in their new homes.”
According to White Cross Orphanage executive director Mely V. Reluya, inter-country adoptions are applicable to receiving countries such as the US, Canada, Italy, and Spain.
There are accredited agencies who facilitate the matching with foreign parents who require clearances from their governments.
“Their documents will be sent to the Philippines. A panel will review their report, specially the psychological evaluation, to check if they are prepared and emotionally ready to take care of the child,” Ms. Reluya told BusinessWorld in a mix of English and Filipino.
Ms. Reluya further explained that when foreign couples may only suggest the preferred age of the child whom they wish to adopt. She said that prospective parents aged 47 years old and below are advised to adopt children aged one to two years of age, while older prospective parents are advised to adopt older children. In addition, the couples should also provide a legal guardian in case of emergencies.
After a child is matched to a family through the Inter-Country Adoption Board (ICAB), the policy-making body for inter-country adoption, the child will be sent a “welcome album” with photographs of their future family members, relatives, and their house. A social worker will orient the child about his/her future family and relatives.
Ms. Lopez has already distributed her book to three other orphanages in Metro Manila including Hospicio de San Jose. She plans to distribute the book to orphanages in various regions in the future.
“I want to be able to bring the book to more orphanages in the country so that each child that gets adopted gets to read the story and see that they are not alone,” she said about the intention to deliver the book to its target audience — orphans — directly. She has no intention at the moment to distribute the book commercially.
The young author hopes that her young readers understand that “their feelings are normal and in what they’re going through, they have people to support them.”
“The best stories can be found around you and the people you are surrounded by. The stories that I like to write are about people and real experiences of hope, optimism, and perseverance,” Ms. Lopez said before leaving the lecture room to join the little girls for their morning snack. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman