Photo of Dr. Aronson by Mani Zarrin
Splash is honored to have Dr. Jane Aronson, “The Orphan Doctor” and Founder and CEO of Worldwide Orphans, as our guest blogger this Mother’s Day. Dr. Aronson is a pediatrician, adoption medicine specialist, and winner of countless awards and accolades, including the Angel in Adoption Award, Glamour Woman of the Year, and 2013 Time 100 Nominee. A portion of this blog post is excerpted from her recently published book:
Carried in Our Hearts: The Gift of Adoption; Inspiring Stories of Families Created Across Continents.
In 2008, I met a young man named Eric Stowe. He is a very tall young man with a boyish face with dimples when he smiles and a very warm and friendly manner. I was taken by him in seconds and was curious about what he was doing in the world. I knew that he was doing great things in this hard world because he was so very sincere and because he made me laugh quite easily.
We knew one another from the world of adoption….he worked at an agency and I was an adoption pediatrician. We were destined to meet because we had both found a new home in this community…even though he was in Seattle and I was in New York City, we had both dedicated our life’s work to supporting orphans and at-risk children.
Few people know more about the challenges faced by children living in institutions than the adoptive parents Eric and I worked closely with during that time. Many have seen orphanage conditions firsthand, and they often have to cope with the lingering affects those conditions can have on their child’s health as well as physiological, emotional, and social development.
My own son, Ben, was adopted from Vietnam in 2000. Here is just part of his amazing story of perseverance:
He couldn’t keep his head up straight, he still held his hands in fists, and he wasn’t able to turn over. He qualified for services with an occupational therapist and a physical therapist because his delays were 33 1/3 percent in each domain of development, that is, gross motor and fine motor.
I didn’t know what to expect, even with all of my experience with adopted kids. Still, we settled into our family life. This was my kid and there was no map or predetermined plan. We just hoped that with all this work, he would be okay, whatever that meant.
Ben had six hours of physical and occupational therapy a week, but then, at ten months, he let out his first belly laugh and we came running to witness it. His neck had straightened over the months with a lot of manipulation, massage, and hard work on his part. He was happy in his Boppy pillow, able to see the world around him. He finally walked at fifteen months with a great sense of pride in himself.
By the time I met Eric, I had been working for over ten years at Worldwide Orphans Foundation to provide children like Ben with critical access to medical care, education, and psychological and developmental support. I did not think providing them with clean water was mission drift. I felt that partnering with Splash was clearly part of the mission of WWO. Children have a right to have health, and clean water is essential for good health.
So I worked very hard to help support Splash to provide clean drinking water in Ethiopia to all the children we served, some of whom were infected with HIV; without clean water, this group of orphans would always be threatened by “opportunistic infections” and need life-saving medical care for those infections, which would threaten their lives needlessly.
All of the orphans and at-risk children served by WWO in Ethiopia have clean water because of Splash—and, incredibly, we are no longer losing kids to infections. I also found out this week that there are 31 clean water sites in Ethiopia care of Splash….and I might add that I felt a certain sense of pride because my networking made it possible for Splash to scale and deliver its mission.
Splash also provides many nationals in Ethiopia with professional development and education on how to maintain the water systems. Million, my assistant camp director and sport and recreation program coordinator, is one of the many beneficiaries of Splash’s training. Now Million can train others and that is capacity in its purest form.
That is how partners work well together. They align and stand side by side helping one another grow and scale projects to reach more human beings.
I am simply grateful for Splash. On Mother’s Day, please support something that does good in the world…just something….maybe WWO…maybe Splash. Just something!