Posts Tagged ‘Latin American Heritage Camp in Colorado’

Heritage Camp for Adoptive Families

Friday, February 13th, 2015

Registration for Heritage Camp for Adoptive Families (in Colorado) opens on February 23. We’ve attended many times and loved the experience. Two years ago, we went early and drove around Colorado–from Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, up to Estes and through Rocky Mountain National Park. Stunning! Last year, a girl Olivia met the first year we attended visited us in California and Olivia flew up to Oregon to visit her. Friendships made there, last. And not only for us. I’ve heard the same from other families.

Heritage Camp is a specific experience–different from traveling to birth country, absolutely, but, in my opinion, equally valid, equally identity-affirming. You walk in at registration and look around, and every family there feels like yours. A realization comes over you: “We’re not alone. We’re part of a great big beautiful group. And here we are together.” I’ve learned a lot from attending the workshops, especially those that include panels of youth and adults born in Latin America and adopted to the US. The speakers are candid, and the discussions, educational.

My kids love Heritage Camp, and maybe yours will too. Here’s the link.


Astrid Dabbeni, adopted from Colombia, searches for and finds her birth mother

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

Adoption Mosaic founder Astrid Dabbeni, 41, of Portland, Oregon, recently searched for and found her long-lost birth mother, Carmenza Castro, in Bucaramanga, Colombia, reports Katy Muldoon in The Oregonian.

Standing atop a hotel patio last December, Astrid Dabbeni scanned Bucaramanga, Colombia’s, urban panorama. Glossy high rises, red-roofed suburbs and gritty slums spread for miles across the city where she and her sister last saw their birth mother 36 years earlier.

Astrid, 41, co-founder and executive director of the Portland-based nonprofit Adoption Mosaic, had long thought of trying to find her. Yet, shortly before Christmas, as she was poised to begin, the logistical and emotional heft of that search sank in.

She had little to go on. Adoption records from the 1970s were sketchy. Even if she found her files, corruption was rampant in Colombia’s adoption pipeline then; birth certificates and other documents were sometimes fabricated and unreliable. Plus, she didn’t speak Spanish.

How could she possibly find one person, she remembers wondering, in a city of more than 1.2 million?

What if her birth mother was dead, as Astrid’s sister suspected?

If she was alive, what if she didn’t want to be found?

Astrid’s daughter, Maya, 9, wrapped her in a tight hug. Her husband, Paolo, did, too.

Tears welled in her eyes.

The story Astrid discovers is heart-rending:

Carmenza Castro hid her two infant girls inside a duffle bag, hoisted it, ran from her home and hopped a bus leaving Bogotá, Colombia. She’d later tell her daughters, Astrid Dabbeni and Maria DelValle, that she fled fearing for her safety and escaping a desperately troubled marriage.

That day in the early 1970s, the bus rumbled north to Bucaramanga, on a plateau in the Colombian Andes, where Carmenza didn’t know a soul. She and her babies disembarked into a new life that would deliver fear, loss, anguish, hope, happiness and – one day – healing.

Bucaramanga’s nickname is La Ciudad de Los Parques, city of parks, and that’s where the three lived for perhaps as long as a month.

A kind stranger witnessed their routine and took mercy. He gave Carmenza enough money to rent a room, so she and her daughters would have a roof over their heads.

They were warm, dry and safe for a time – and that’s where, as Astrid tells it, the story grows fuzzy.

After months or perhaps a couple of years, Carmenza found a better job in another city. She arranged for her landlady to temporarily watch Astrid and Maria, and she sent money home each week or month to cover their care.

Yet, when Carmenza returned, all her belongings had been thrown away, she was banished from the house and the only things right in her world had vanished.

Her girls were gone.


I urge you to read the entire fascinating article, which includes a video link. Part 2 begins here.

Like many other people connected to adoption, I know Astrid through her compelling, popular, and thought-provoking presentations at Latin American Heritage Camp, where she leads workshops and has shared details of her journey. Sending best wishes to Astrid and her family! ~




Heritage Camp and Mamalita

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

I cannot believe that it’s almost time for Heritage Camp. Something else I cannot believe is that I have been blogging at this site for more than a year! Yes, friends, the first Mamalita post appeared in February 2010, nine months before my book was published, and soon after my publicist at Seal Press, Eve Zimmerman, said “You need to build your platform. Have you thought about starting a blog?” To which I answered, “Honestly, no. I haven’t.” 

What I didn’t say, but I’m sure Eva understood, is that writing Mamalita had required my every molecule of writing energy and focus. Answering emails drained me enough, and thank goodness I hadn’t yet discovered Facebook. Could I add blogging to the mix? Add it to the mix I did, and found I really liked the practice. (My husband often calls me “the mad blogger.” ) My plan is to continue until I finalize my ideas for my next book and commit myself to a schedule for writing it. There are super-human people who can do both–focus on a manuscript and blog daily–but I don’t think I’m one of them.

Meanwhile, back to Heritage Camp. The great news is that for the fourth consecutive year, our family is attending Latin American Heritage Camp in Fraser, Colorado, and this year Mamalita: An Adoption Memoir is the book club selection. Yippee! If you’re going, please plan to join us on Friday night for a discussion. At some point during the weekend, I’ll also be leading an adult workshop on memoir-writing and the adoption experience. Stay tuned for details.

For those who are unfamiliar with Heritage Camp, I’m re-posting a section of my blog from last April so you can read all about it.

One of the very few places in the world where our family does not stand out as different is Colorado Heritage Camp. For the uninitiated, heritage camps are designed specifically for adoptive families of all kinds. The camp we attend is geared toward families with children from Latin America; camps are also designed for families with kids from Africa and the Caribbean, Cambodia, China, India and Nepal, the Philippines, Korea, Russia, and Vietnam.

Our family loves Heritage Camp. This will be the third year we attend. For a long weekend in June, we’ll stay in a YMCA lodge in the Rocky Mountains, along with other adoptive families from around the country. During the day, our kids will play games and do art projects that emphasize their Latin American culture. We adults will attend workshops and roundtables led by experts in adoption and child-rearing. Not all activities are scheduled: Families also find time to swim, hike, shop at the mercado, and practice their samba dancing at the Saturday night fiesta.

Every year, camp opens with an opening ceremony where the kids parade into the meeting hall carrying flags from the countries where they were born. As Olivia waited her turn the first year, she said to me with awe in her voice, ”Everyone here looks like us.” I was too choked up by the sight of our beautiful children carrying their flags to respond, but I squeezed my daughter’s hand to let her know I agreed. Olivia and Mateo hope to attend Heritage Camp every year until they turn 17. After that, their plan is to become counselors so they can be the “big kids” they now look up to.

For more info, check out this link.