My husband, Cameron, and I have seventeen children. Eleven of those kids are adopted from Asia, and four of those eleven grew up in the same orphanage. The journey to those four “Huainan sisters” started with this photo:
Our adoption agency, Madison Adoption Associates, posted this picture advocating for a beautiful girl with an amazing smile. She had recently been adopted, but that adoption was disrupted in-country. The t-shirt she was wearing intrigued me. I had never heard of Love Without Boundaries. I wondered why she was wearing it, where it had come from, and why was it so new. We began to pursue her adoption, and I was put in contact with Amy Eldridge and Sandy Hartman from LWB. Because Ruby, as she was known then, was part of LWB’s
The t-shirt this girl was wearing intrigued me. I had never heard of Love Without Boundaries. I wondered why she was wearing it, where it had come from, and why was it so new. We began to pursue her adoption, and I was put in contact with Amy Eldridge and Sandy Hartman from LWB. Because Ruby, as she was known then, was part of LWB’s Believe in Me orphanage school in Huainan, both of these ladies took an active interest in this precious girl and her adoption. As our adoption progressed, LWB remained concerned about her well-being. They saw us through to the end and provided in-country support for Ruby so that her second chance at adoption would be successful.
We traveled to Huainan to meet our daughter, whom we named Ali. While there, we learned more about the plight of orphans in Huainan and how instrumental LWB was to their well-being. We were forever grateful. Seeing firsthand what LWB did for my daughter convinced me that upon my return home, I needed to begin volunteering with LWB.
While in Huainan, this girl known as Sara Ann captured our hearts:
Cameron’s comment to me when he first saw her was, “Kelly, we will not leave her here. We will advocate for her until she has a family.” We got home and did just that. We asked our agency to follow-up on her file and advocate for her. They agreed and ultimately found her a family. We were so relieved.
We followed Sara Ann’s adoption process and made sure it was moving along. Many months into that process, we learned that her adoption could not be completed due to a crisis in her adoptive family. Our hearts sank, but Cameron and I both immediately knew what that meant: we would be going back to Huainan! We decided to give her the name Riley and began the adoption paperwork.
All was going smoothly until we saw the following picture that our agency posted advocating for Hannah, an aging-out girl from Huainan.
Cameron knew the minute he saw the picture that she was ours, and we named her Jessie. We had five short months to get to Huainan before Jessie aged out and made it with a month to spare!
We had a wonderful trip back to Huainan. Ali traveled back with us to visit her friends at her orphanage. Our biological daughter, Brittany, also traveled with us. Cameron captured this picture of her at the orphanage holding the hand of a sweet little girl in a red coat:
This girl, whose LWB name was Angie, grabbed hold of Brittany and followed her around the entire time we were there. As we left the orphanage, we were pretty sure this would be our last trip to Huainan and were saddened that Riley and Jessie would probably not have the same opportunity to return for a visit as Ali had just had.
We arrived home and as the girls started learning English, Riley informed us that she had helped care for the little girl in the red coat. She asked that if we adopted again, would we please consider bringing her home?
We could not deny Riley her request, so we proceeded to ask our agency about Angie’s adoption file. However, her file for adoption had not yet been prepared. We told her orphanage that we would like to consider her for adoption if her file ever became available. Six months later, we started another adoption from China, hopeful that Angie’s file would come available. We completed the adoption process, made the trip to China for a few other children, but still no file for the little girl in the red coat.
About six months after returning home, we started yet another adoption and made sure we had approval for a second child, just in case Angie’s file would become available. Our prayers were answered, and we received Angie’s file during that adoption process. Riley and Jessie traveled back to Huainan with us to pick her up. We named her Peyton and arrived home with her in November 2016.
And that is how one picture allowed four Huainan sisters to become part of a bigger group of Bernadsky siblings. It is where they belonged all along!
~Kelly Bernadsky is LWB’s Assistant Coordinator for our Believe In Me School in Huainan.
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