New organization focuses on adoption services
The first and only adoption non-profit organization on Guam has officially opened their services to the local community.
"The island is a puzzle and we are just reaching out to be a piece of that puzzle," stated Traci Anderson. She along with two other women - Kelley Larsen and Lori Boss - has become a piece of that puzzle as they have formed the Ohala Adoption non-profit organization.
It was during a lunch gathering between the three women that the idea organically unfolded, as they each have a relation to adoption.
Larsen recalled, "We were just talking about our lives and realized we had a common interest and a common devotion to women, to children and to families and we decided this could be a way we can contribute."
In September Ohala was officially deemed a non-profit organization and the service began. Ohala, is a Chamorro term that means "to express a wish or a hope", a word the organization feels represents adoption because it all circled around hope.
"Hope for a family, hope for a child. Hope for the future of Guam," continued Larsen. "And we love that the word express is a verb. Now, Ohala as we work together we are expressing our faith and our hope in what we can provide for the island and for families and for women and we also hope that people will express their hope for Guam by getting involved."
According to the co-directors since the service started, they have already received various phone calls and emails from people interested and wanting to help, saying they feel overwhelmed with the gratitude.
"It's all about family, we could not have foreseen how open and loving people would receive our ideas to begin this and everyone has thrown their arms open to us and offered to help or to contribute in large and small ways," said Larsen.
These women say something else they are thankful for: adoption having touched their lives. Andersen adopted her son as a baby through the foster care system, telling KUAM she feels it was always meant to be and a big blessing in her life.
"Adoption is probably one of the most wonderful selfless gifts that can be given. I know as we felt like there was another child for our family and it just wasn't happening for us and we decided there was several opportunities through the system. There are plenty of children that need homes," she said.
Also feeling fortunate for adoption, Larsen is an adoptee that through the years and her life journey she has connected with her birth parents from Korea, and now her children call her adoptive parents and Korean parents, grandma and grandpa. She says it all come back to love and family.
"It's been such a great way to express to my family that we are all bound together by a common thread and its love. And it's all through adoption," she explained.
As adoption becomes more open and more prevalent nationwide, the team's goal and primary thought behind offering the option for woman locally was for those in an unplanned pregnancy position and not prepared to be a parent.
Ohala can provide services on Guam, Saipan, Tinian and Rota. Eventually the organization would like to extend services to people off island and as they continue to grow in the future they plan to build services and partner with CPS and public health in providing foster care adoptions. But for now, they are adding this necessary piece of the puzzle to the Mariana Islands.
"We would like to focus on the families here, there are plenty of families here that want to adopt and we want to offer the option to the birth moms that are struggling with a decision they need to make for their own child," she said.
In addition, Ohala offers guidance for those feeling vulnerable and in need of assistance during this challenging time in their lives. "Knowledge is power and once people know that there are choices it makes our lives so much easier. We can utilize resources that are available that maybe we would not have considered before, especially women in an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy. That's a very vulnerable time and I feel so happy that we can offer adoption as a positive healthy option for them," she said.