Did you know that Adoption Options was Co-founded by Marilyn Shinyei and Anne Lea in 1984? Adoption Options has been the leader in open adoption in Alberta for over 34 years all because of one incredible lady, Marilyn Shinyei. Although Marilyn is now enjoying retirement we continue to have a close relationship with her. On many occasions we have families contacting us asking where Marilyn is and what she has been up to. We thought we should share one of Marilyn’s recent trips and projects with you. Marilyn, thank you for everything that you have done for us, birth parents and adoptive families; you are truly an inspiration and we miss you. We thought Valentine’s Day was the perfect day to share this story with others as it demonstrates the love you continue to give others who cross your path.
In January I travelled with 9 other Canadian grandmothers to Africa. We were all members of GRAN (grandmothersadvocacynetwork.org). Our trip was organized by the Canadian charity GIVE International and part of the money we paid to GIVE was used to buy supplies for a number of projects that we visited while we were in Uganda. These included schools, hospitals, orphanages, etc. So we gave out school kits, paid for breakfast feedings in a slum (fed porridge and a bun to approx 400-500 children one morning) and at a hospital (food is not provided for patients or their families), paid for staff and supplies to create a mobile clinic in a small village (we also gave away donated toothpaste and toothbrushes there), bought staples for a home for disabled children, took donated clothes to a girls’ home and family kits to 21 needy families in a remote village (Kiryowa). The family kits contained a basin, a mattress, a jerry can, soap, salt, blanket, mosquito net and a cooking pot.
On our very first day a most exciting event occurred. By word of mouth it was arranged that almost 200 grandmothers came to meet with us in a rural setting. We have no idea how far some of them had to walk to meet us. We were able to break into small groups of about 40 each and every single grandmother got up to tell her story. It was very moving. We were so happy to be able to provide them with a small lunch afterwards.
But all of the above was covered by our initial fees. In addition we grandmothers had brought about $1250 USD to give away. So together we reviewed all the places we had visited and decided to give that money in a 60/40 split to the school in Kiryowa which we were impressed with and to Home of Hope, the home for disabled children. Many of the other projects have secure funders and were well supported. We had very little trouble reaching a consensus about where to place our money. In Africa all schools whether private or gov’t sponsored require children to have uniforms, pay fees and buy some supplies. Kiryowa is a private school which is serving a wide area of impoverished people. GIVE International has already helped this school considerably.
Home of Hope has an amazing story. Edith, the founder, had a child who became severely disabled with CP after spinal meningitis at 2 days of age was misdiagnosed as malaria. The family really went through a lot including rejection by both of their families as a handicapped child is seen as a curse upon them. There is a huge stigma. Eventually Edith became an advocate for the disabled and began to help others who were caring for disabled children. When her son died she decided to take in the 5 or 6 children she had been visiting. Before long people began dropping off children in her yard – children who had been hidden until then. She kept moving to larger homes until an Italian priest built the current facility for them. It is intended for 36 children and there are now 59 living there. She is quite the visionary. Her oldest child is now studying medicine and two others are in social work. She envisions a medical clinic at Home of Hope with her son staffing it. They are also expanding to build rooms for the children who survive to adulthood and will live out their lives there.
It was very difficult to visit the home. Many children had hydrocephaly. I saw a couple with microcephaly. One child was blind. Most could not walk and were lying on mats or in wheelchairs. Children with CP often suffer from seizures as well and when we visited we learned that paying for the anti-seizure medicine they required was difficult, although their pharmacist did allow them to run a tab and pay when they could. That is partly what motivated us to donate to this home.
Besides visiting the projects near Jinja, Uganda, five of us went on to Kampala to meet with local NGOs as this was, above all, a fact-finding mission. Lastly a different five of us chose to go on to Kenya for a safari. Seeing Africa for the first time, meeting magnificent Ugandans who are working so hard for their people, and then driving on the savannah in Maasai Mara amongst elephants, giraffes, hippos, rhinos, baboons, lions and more — it was all spectacular!