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During the season of giving, choose life.

This Saturday we will drive to Boston to pick up Alina for our 4 week Christmas visit. Her excitement especially shows after 6 weeks in an unheated camp with no access to the outside world, she calls non-stop, video chatting everyone who will answer.

“How long is my flight?” she asks. She calculates exactly how many minutes she will spend with her family. We hold off on our Christmas preparations to include her with the family traditions, the first time she has ever had any. We are on the cusp of the future of many memories, the excitement climbs. She asks if she will be allowed to live here forever,  truth is we’re about 7k away from even getting phase one completed. “We are working hard, asking permission” we tell her, without giving any real defined answers. She doesn’t know the $3,000 we raised and saved was spent to bring her for Christmas. Reinforce the love and keep working on the endless and insurmountable process. I send photos of the family and tell her how excited we are to see her soon, none of these are lies, but none of this is easy. For four weeks we will forget the struggle, because for a month everyone’s bed will be filled and bellies satisfied. We will be together.

But not every family is so fortunate this Christmas.

While the children in orphanages all over Ukraine buzz around preparing for their trip to America, there are some who settle in for a long could winter of dread. Those who were not chosen for hosting, those who were denied visas retreat to their beds and can only dream of a wonderful vacation. Children whose paperwork was not completed in time to travel, those who presented to Embassy and were denied, for reasons that are impossible to rationalize are scattered across the country.

Then there are the families who were derailed.

The families who spent a magical summer with their children, who fell in love and committed to being a forever family, also prepare for their holiday. They started their paperwork, they maintained contact, and they sent the director gifts. The list was completed with exact precision and timing. They did everything they were supposed to do, yet still received the message that their child had been adopted by someone else, a blind referral. How could this happen? How can this be? They did everything exactly right. They followed all the rules. Everyone understands there is no pre-selection for adopting Ukraine orphans, but we all know there is an understanding once a child bonds with your family they will be supported in the wait for you to arrive. How is it possible that their child agreed to this? The unbelievable nightmare becomes their reality, their child is gone. Forever. These families are looking at an empty bed, one extra stocking hanging under the mantle, and wrapping up their grief to save face. These families also exist, and failed adoptions do happen. Children get transferred, change their minds, and get bullied to choose families that present on blind referrals. These families will watch from the side lines as their picture perfect holiday fades away and becomes a cold hard winter of watching the exciting buzz from the new families just starting out, full of hope. These families are feeling jealousy, frustration, sadness, failure. These families will sit quietly and smile, they’re happy for you, but not really. They’re broken inside, and these families should be embraced by our community just as they would with a successful adoption. Let us be mindful of the struggling families as we move forward with our stories.

Then there are the families who have nothing. The refugees. The grown orphans with children of their own.

Families in Ukraine, living in any shelter they can find, to shield their children from the elements, unable to provide because of their own orphan status. The father grew up in the orphanage, he knows too well what his children will endure if he cannot keep his family together. His wife, a refugee from Moldova. The father works odd jobs to provide food for his family. They pick through the trash in the dump they reside in, making an abandoned storage container their home, clothing their children on the refuse of the world. They struggle to give their children the best they can, sending their daughter to school with a packed lunch and presenting so well the school didn’t even know her situation. There is no social system here to help the family of an orphan and refugee. If discovered they risk deportation of the mother, jailing the father for child endangerment, and the children go to the orphanage. A family torn apart on the judgment of a society and the rules of a disconnected government. These families are spread through Ukraine, hoping to raise their children to adulthood, without being torn from each other’s embrace. This is the future for many of our orphans, the ones who were denied visas or never chosen. This is the reality for 300,000 children living in Ukraine, many of which have living relatives.

These are the families that steal my thoughts late at night as I watch heart rhythms in a hospital far away from my own family. These are the families my heart goes out to, the ones who did their best and still did not succeed. These are the families that encourage me to continue working 60 hour weeks to do the best I can to raise $30,000 to take ONE orphan out of this statistic, so her children will be born into a loving, prepared, extended family that will ensure her children will never feel the hunger that she grew up with. This is why my children sacrifice to bring their sister home. We are in this together, and although I can’t save every orphan, I can stop ONE from human trafficking and life of suffering.

These are the reasons we should consider buying one less frivolous gift, and give the donation toward saving a child’s life, and subsequently an entire line of unborn babies. Consider shopping in an adoption fundraiser, or donating in honor of the loved one who has everything they could ever want already.

This is the season for giving, consider giving the financial support to a family trying to save a life and prevent a legacy of poverty stricken orphans. Every dollar helps these adoptive families get one step closer to bringing their kids home, time is of the essence. Help a family overcome the financial mountain so they can focus on the endless paperwork and struggle to get approval to immigrate their child, fundraising is the biggest barrier to saving a life, and everyone can make a difference.