The concept of a homeland tour to Haiti evolved in response to current research and my clinical experiences, both of which conclude that adoptees need to understand their culture first-hand and develop a positive psychological connection between their past and their present. Historically, adoptive parents have waited until their child is a teenager or adult to make a homeland visit. Children live with unanswered questions about their past and racial identity throughout the most formative years of their life. The easiest age for children to adapt to their homeland is in their early elementary school years.
Prior to launching Home to Haiti Tours, I had the opportunity to experience taking my Haitian born daughter on her first trip to Haiti at age six. I was amazed at how easily she adapted to her birth country. For the first time since being adopted at 17 months, she had the opportunity to spend time with her birth parents and siblings. The most valuable outcome of her first trip to Haiti was the understanding she developed about where she came from, why she was adopted and what her birth family is like. Her questions were answered in a way that I couldn’t. Since returning from that first trip I’ve observed her conversations with friends, explaining what it means to be adopted and what the country of Haiti is like. She is now an expert on Haiti and demonstrates a sense of pride in her discoveries. She joined the first Home to Haiti Tour 2013 and took the opportunity to share her expertise with the participating children.
Home to Haiti Tours was founded by A Child’s Song and is supported locally by Walls International Guesthouse. It was designed to encourage families to explore a more ‘open’ adoption experience for their internationally adopted child. The tour provides a unique opportunity for families to visit their child’s birthplace in a safe and comfortable setting with both a local and foreign host to ensure a positive experience.
Our first Home to Haiti Tour 2013 was truly an amazing experience. Each participant took a unique set of experiences away with them that enhanced their understanding of Haiti and family. As the program director, I was honored to share in the experiences of both adults and children throughout the week. I had the pleasure of witnessing moments of profound insight into the enormous complexities of adoption, birth families and culture.
Family members were exposed to a wide variety of experiences, from learning how to shop on the street to witnessing the realities of orphanage life. These experiences facilitated a deeper and more personal understanding of Haitian culture. One parent reported at the end of the trip that ‘Compared to our other trip [when we traveled to Haiti to pick up our child] this trip offered a broader taste of what Haiti is. The daily outings were the highlights. We never thought they would see so much.’ Not only did the Haitian born children feel more connected to their homeland but parents also reported feeling as though they had developed a greater understanding of their child’s cultural heritage. The trip also proved to be an incredible experience for siblings who were able to really understand where their brother or sister had come from and what he or she might have experienced prior to joining their family.
Visiting an adopted child’s birth country has significant implications for adoptees in the formation of positive cultural identity and self understanding. It also sends a strong message that where your child was born is very important to you. Adoptees then have first-hand experiences that they can share with peers and the important adults in their world about where they come from. This allows for a different level of integration of self than reading books or watching programs about their birth country. They become participants rather than observers of their own culture.
We have subsequently offered the Home to Haiti Tour again over the past few years to a variety of families from across Canada. Our tour offers a balance of fun, exciting experiences as well as opportunities to understand Haitian culture.
Making the necessary arrangements for accommodations, transportation, translation and visits with birth families in Haiti can be a daunting endeavor, particularly with children. With the support of an experienced adoptive parent and a local organization, you can focus your attention on supporting your child during this important experience and leave the details to us. Parents can also receive consultation with a clinical therapist on preparing their child for the trip and supporting them through the various experiences.
If you are interested in receiving a more information you can request the Home to Haiti Tour Information Package by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 604 562-8308.