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Middleburg family helping Sharon find a ‘summer miracle’

Sharon is a Colombian orphan spending several weeks in Middleburg with local resident Nicole Pomery. Courtesy Photo
After growing up in a Colombian orphanage and spending the past three years in foster care, 11-year-old Sharon has come to Middleburg to spend four weeks with an American host family in hopes that she will find a permanent adoptive home.

Sharon's visit is part of the Summer Miracles program by Kidsave, which helps older children, ages 11 to 14, from Colombia, Russia, Sierra Leone and the United States find adoptive families. Sharon is one of 10 Colombian children staying in the D.C. area. She will remain in the United States until she returns to Colombia August 2 to continue her schooling.

Although the children have been told that their trip to the United States is for vacation, the true focus is in finding adoptive families, particularly through weekend “meet the kids” events. Children and host families attend to play games and participate in planned activities, while prospective adoptive families, called “visiting families,” may come freely to get to know the children as they consider adoption.

“Normally, if you were to do an international adoption, you would go on a website, look at some pictures, read some bios … You never would really meet the child until you go get them,” said Nicol Pomeroy, Sharon’s Middleburg host mother for the summer. “In this case, they’re bringing the kids here and they’re holding these events every weekend for prospective families who might be interested in adopting... They come to these events and they can meet all these kids that are there and see if there’s a connection, which is the piece that’s missing from the whole process.”

Two more weekend events remain this summer. The first will be an arts and crafts day at Fairlington Recreation Center in Arlington from 1 - 4 p.m. July 15; the second will be a barbeque in Jefferson, Maryland, from 5:30 - 8:30 p.m. July 22.

As Summer Miracles is a nonprofit organization, the children in the program will also attend a fundraising event in D.C., with the opportunity to meet U.S. congressional representatives while advocating for aid for international children’s and adoptive issues. (Details about the July 18 event are available at Kidsave.org.)

With an 83 percent adoption rate, Kidsave has a record of success in finding homes for older children, who tend to have an especially hard time finding adoptive families in their home countries. The benefits, however, extend far beyond adoption: the Summer Miracles program creates learning experiences for children and host families alike.

“The depth of knowledge that you get from firsthand experience from somebody who lives there is unbelievable, even if you don’t speak the language. You learn about the foods they like, and at the events you talk to the other parents and learn what their kids are up to, and what their kids like,” said Mark Pomeroy, Sharon’s host father for the summer. “It cuts across, no matter who you’re arguing with in your family right now for various reasons, this is an issue that just cuts through all of that. It’s a common cause, child welfare, you know? You can easily bring everyone together.”

Sharon, like most other children in the program, does not know any English, forcing a reliance on body language – and a bit of Google Translate – for communication. Even so, overcoming the language barrier has not been as difficult as her host family first imagined.

“It was one of our biggest concerns, and they kept saying, ‘Don’t worry, don’t worry, it’s fine, it’s not as big of a deal as you think.’ And I get where they’re coming from because most of it is body language and you know, tone of voice, and things like that,” said Pomeroy. “We put a list of phrases in Spanish and English on the wall at the house and things like that. And it’s enough.”

To further ease the transition, Loudoun County has proved incredibly welcoming, with a vast Spanish-speaking population that includes a number of Colombian immigrants. Sharon, who loves animals, has also had the opportunity to ride horses in Middleburg and to visit local zoos. She visited Ocean City with her host family last week.

“To me, it just makes logical sense, of course we’re going to help someone who hasn’t had the same experience as we have,” said 12-year-old Colin Pomeroy, one of Sharon’s two host “brothers” for the summer. “Of course we’re going to give them amazing things that they haven’t gotten to have before. It just seems like common sense to me.”

For more information about Kidsave events this summer, in the D.C. area and across the country, visit https://www.kidsave.org/summer-miracles-events/.

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