Monday, April 12, 2010

Volunteer…. Now why would anyone want to go and do that ? You don’t get paid. In fact, it may cost you money. It takes time and no one has any extra time. It involves commitment and we tend to shy away from commitment these days. So why does Gladney have so many wonderful volunteers ?

What’s their motivation ? As is probably the case for volunteers that support other organizations, I think it boils down to two things: 1) Gratitude – a deep recognition of blessings and a compulsion to respond, and 2) Other-centeredness – “living from the inside out”; looking beyond oneself at the world in need around us.

A non-profit organization’s success hinges to a significant degree on the commitment and passion of its volunteers. Gladney’s board of directors models this volunteer spirit as they devote extensive time in providing guidance and oversight to our management team. The Gladney Family Association (GFA) volunteers carry this torch locally by putting together calendars of events year after year to ensure that our families stay connected and supported.

The opportunities to volunteer on behalf of Gladney range from outreach and education to event planning and execution to providing transitional care to participating in service and heritage trips to being available to support our birthmothers.

Our volunteers are the best ambassadors for Gladney. They have a story to tell; they tell it and they act on it. Lucky us !


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Many of you may have heard the sad story that was reported yesterday about a woman from Tennessee who sent her 7-year old adopted son from Russia back to his home country on a plane by himself accompanied only by her note of explanation. I’m not here to sit in judgment of that woman. Who knows the trials she went through to get to that point ? Sadly, she appears to have made a poor decision that will likely send that boy down an even rougher road than what he’s already endured.

What bothers me intensely is that she didn’t think through the wider ramifications of her actions. She had other options, but the one she chose may jeopardize future adoptions from Russia to the US. And that’s a tragedy.

I’ve been in several orphanages in Russia. They have all been clean and well-run by caring adults, usually with medical backgrounds, many of whom have turned their backs on more lucrative careers in medicine because they felt a tug to help these kids. Don’t get me wrong about the orphanages – they are severely resource-constrained, but the orphanage directors and their staffs make it work somehow.

According to UNICEF, there are 740,000 orphans in Russia. All these children deserve a family and it will be a shame if the unfortunate actions of this woman and a few others create yet another barrier for these children to grow up in permanent, loving homes. The vast majority of Russian adoptees are thriving with their American families. This is well-known, but not well-publicized. My hope is that this is allowed to continue.

Russia is a proud country. We in the US would do well to understand their heritage and culture better. If we as a people and as a government were doing better at building bridges, these isolated incidents would be more containable as they would be understood through more of a common prism. As it is, these isolated incidents are allowed to dominate the collective conscious and the exceptional cases set policy to the detriment of all concerned.