Long-distance adoption is an active change ‘from within’

Zdenka Pepelová holds doctoral degree in culturology, but is currently on maternity leave in Trencin, Slovak Gabriel Bekö is working as a researcher at the Danish Technical University in the city Nærum. Both are 32 years old and they have something in common, respectively someone – two children in Kenya – adopted for long distance.

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Center ‘Narovinu’ NGO at the beginning of new adoption usually creates special account for each child and the money is being send directly to the school, where children receive school uniforms, equipment and food. (Photo: Gabriel Bekö)

My peers Zdenka and Gabriel decided five years ago for the support of two Kenyan children through long-distance adoption (the monthly financing cost to educate a boy Benson and a girl Yvonne). They chose the Czech organization: Center ‘Narovinu’ working also in Slovakia (www.centrumnarovinu.cz). When I wanted to know the motives of their decision – to support a child in developing country – Zdenka simply justified their actions, that “targeted assistance is more effective than encouraging large organizations with a massive campaign”, in which she has not trust. When I was curious about the reason of that distrust, this open-minded culturologist stated, that it is her personal disagreement with some of the activities of the world-wide known organizations and their process of implementation of humanitarian aid. Gabriel added that the problems of local corruption in the developing countries contribute to a reduction in trust.

The Slovak, working in Denmark, remembers very well how they became adoptive parents: five years ago a group of young friends (in not the best financial position that time) decided the adopt a particular child from afar. Today his scientific work relates to environmental issues: “The number of ‘environmental’ or ‘climate’ refugees in the world will increase. We think of those who have no such luck as we have – here in Europe.”

Changing the welfare not of a child, but of whole families

One of the eight UN Millennium Development Goals is to achieve universal primary education, meaning that by 2015 boys and girls around the world will have the opportunity to complete a full primary education. Hard to say whether it will fulfill in the two and a half year. But the education of children in developing countries through long-distance adoption may try. In addition, when we are changing the living conditions of adopted child – in fact we are changing the whole family – through   the acquired knowledge a boy or a girl has a better chance in the labor market – which can help to improve the situation of the entire household.

On my question: whether the male respondent and female respondent would like to adopt another child from Africa, I got a positive answer without hesitation. According to Gabriel this act does not change only the life of the kid who is living somewhere in Africa, but also his life (the life of the donor-parent). It can teach him to be respectful, humble. After I narrowed the choice whether to adopt HIV-positive child, I got the same quick response. Gabriel pointed out, that “everyone was born with equal rights. Today we can control HIV and AIDS – life with this disease can be long. That’s why ill children require more support – even from a distance.”

According to Zdenka the investment in education is the best thing one can do. “Thanks to it the child can go to school, but at the same time he/she will receive the basic necessities, including clothing and food. So it is also supporting the development of social skills.” At the moment the group of former Slovak friends support two selected Kenyan children (they send every year through the Center ‘Narovinu’ around 65 euros each).

How to choose your child through the process of adoption

When choosing, Gabriel did not have any specific requirements: “All children deserve an equal education, health and happiness.” For Zdenka it was important to know more about the welfare of the child, the conditions in the family. Photo is not decisive, but it has some intuitive value.

When I specifically asked my respondents if they considered ethical to choose a child according the photo/physical appearance, they agreed that the photo counts – because there is some kind of “personalization” of adoption. However, for her the more important criteria are: the family situation and place of residence – an assessment of basic living conditions, plus the possibility of access to education. Somehow people are naturally ”influenced by visual picture. Photo also immediately provides basic information about the child (age and gender).” According to Gabriel, selecting the child from a choice of photos is not wrong – we have to choose one of the huge numbers of kids and sympathy can help to build a relationship. “In the beginning it seems, unfortunately, like the process of choosing a car, or anything material in our world” –  Gabriel makes apology for his expression. “For all offered ‘objects’ it works the same – we usually choose and create a relationship with things based on physical appearance. Although we know that in case of children the appearance does not matter, yet it does a little (especially in relation to children who we could never see in real life).”

Both adoptive parents receive proper information from the Center ‘Narovinu’ about the usage of their money, also each year they receive the list of marks of their two adopted children, letters from children, the evaluation from local teachers, photos, and the list of things that were purchased for the needs of the educational process. Gabriel notes that in July 2011 he visited their adopted children (15-year-old Benson and 8-year-old Yvonne) in Nairobi and saw all the documents.

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In July 2011 Slovak adoptive parent Gabriel met his Kenyan adoptive son Benson in Nairobi. (Photo: Gabriel Bekö)

Type of aid to Africa, which makes sense

Last summer Gabriel visited several schools, and also the adopted children of other Slovak and Czech adoptive parents. He met the problematic children, respectively problematic parents who wanted money from donors from Slovakia and the Czech Republic in cash. However, organization Center ‘Narovinu’ at the beginning of new adoption usually creates special account for each child and the money is being send directly to the school, where children receive uniforms, equipment and food. “Through the long-distance adoption one knows exactly – whom and how is helping. This is a personal, intimate relationship of adoptive parent and particular boy or girl, and whole family.”

After asking whether this type of assistance in developing countries (support of education through long-distance adoption) makes a sense, I have received the answer from Zdenka that I expected. “Targeted assistance of this type makes sense – it provides an active change ‘from within’.” Individual kid gets the opportunity to receive an education, which means also improvement of own living conditions, but later also the success on the labor market. “The greatest advantage of long-distance adoption is in its basic principle – to improve access to education. As the culturologist she admits (thinking about the question about globalization and import of our cultural patterns and values to particular African countries), that this is a difficult and complex issue – without a clear solution. For this problem there is no single right answer, but she adds that it is important to “help by supporting education and contribute to improving the welfare of specific children, even in the case that indigenous cultures might be ‘contaminated’ by European cultural patterns.”

Gabriel comes to the conclusion that “in the past ‘over-sophistication’ of our world indirectly caused misery of others.” So the desire for global justice and solidarity with those who are valuable people, but also victims of the policy or climate changes in developing countries – can be a sufficient motive for this kind of assistance.

Author: Boba Baluchova

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About Media about Development

Writing and reporting about international development topics; development cooperation projects, community development success stories and global challenges (in Slovak and also in English language)
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