As the Driftwood Dash & Paddle gets closer, we find ourselves having more conversations about why we host this event every April. The long-story-short explanation is simple; we’re raising money for college tuition for teens in Nepal who have been orphaned or who come from families who are too impoverished to support them.
But, the long answer digs a lot deeper. The first time I traveled to Nepal in 2009, I had barely traveled outside of the U.S. I was terrified, but excited to teach in a country where I might have more to offer. That experience is painted vividly in my mind: joyful children, the stench of open sewers, bright gold marigolds, the odd looks of locals, the beheading of a goat, barking street dogs at 1 AM, and the view of the schoolyard through one of the many holes in the classroom walls. More vivid than any of these memories is Gita.
Since before I can remember, I’ve always thought adoption could be my path to parenthood. As I grew older, I realized, unlike my sister and friends, I didn’t have a desire to have children of my own. Maybe that’s my biology, but I tend to think it’s because as a teacher I’ve learned that I am capable of loving kids who are often the hardest to love. Why have my own when I’m content to raise children who need me already? When I met Gita, I knew she was meant to be my daughter.
It was 111 degrees the afternoon I met Gita. I was living at and volunteering for the Lawajuni Girl’s Hostel in Narti, Nepal, a rural village just north of the India border. Gita was firey and giggly, yet shy. I remember her being exceptionally petite though she’d experienced more trauma in her life than I had in 27 years. Due to her petite size and struggle to draw and color, I guessed she was somewhere between the ages of four and five. A few months later, I learned the doctor believed she was between the ages of 8 and 9. Because Gita spent her early years as a kamlari, she never learned to hold a crayon, think creatively or express herself in the way I’d come to expect from older children.
Her time as a household slave prevented her from being a child.
Gita and I had an unexplainable bond. I loved her giggly personality, how she stood up for herself with the other girls, the jokes she played on me, the way she’d snuggle up against me to watch me draw and the way we communicated even though we shared three common words.
After spending a few weeks with Gita at the girls home for rescued kamlaris, I returned to Kathmandu without her – but I had big plans. I remember calling Justin from a landline that was connected just enough that we could hear one another, but just shity enough that I’d have to yell when the line got staticky. I was in a small phone shop with four other Nepali men who were all on calls as I’m yelling, “I SAID, I MET A LITTLE GIRL I WANT TO ADOPT. SHE LIVES AT THE ORPHANAGE. DID YOU HEAR ME?” After a long pause, Justin laughed and said, “We’ll do whatever we can to make that happen, just come home, OK?”
A few days later I flew into Seattle and the following day I was an engaged woman. We spent the next year planning our wedding and working with Faith International Adoptions in Tacoma and connections in Nepal prepare for the adoption Gita. She had moved to Nepal Orphans Home in Kathmandu, where we were able to sponsor her and knew she’d be safe and receive a good education. The world was spinning in the right direction and I remember wondering ridiculous things, like what color she’d want us to paint her room?
Fast forward a year. Justin and I were married on July 2, 2010 and we submitted our adoption paperwork for Nepal two weeks after we were married. On August 6, 2010 the United States government shut down adoptions between Nepal and the U.S. indefinitely due to corruption. They have yet to reopen it.
Ultimately, Gita decided to return to her village, eventually immigrating to India to work and support her family from across the border.
Since then, our path has taken a different direction, which has resulted in an adoption that is a match made in the stars. While we love our son more than we imagined possible, I often find myself missing Gita and wondering about the family we might have been.
Gita is rarely part of the conversation about why we care about helping children in Nepal, but she is at the very heart of our purpose. Through Life’s Handy Work we have the opportunity to help the children of Nepal Orphan’s Home break the cycle of poverty, support their families through careers of their own, and give back to generations braving poverty in their footsteps.