The Russian Adoption Ban

Photo Credit: Nico Paix on Flickr (Creative Commons)

Photo Credit: Nico Paix on Flickr (Creative Commons)

I’ve had a lot of people ask me how I feel about the recent ban on the adoption of Russian orphans by parents in the United States, and honestly, that has been a little overwhelming.  When I found out that Putin had signed the bill into law, it felt like I was just told that I can’t have children.  My heart is in Russia.  It has been for years.  And now the door from here to there has been bound up by politics.

And there is nothing I can do about it.

When I shared with a friend how I was feeling, he said, “But, you still can have kids.  There are other countries.  There are kids here who need to be adopted.  And you can probably still have your own.”  As selfish as it may sound, that hurt almost as much as the news of the ban itself.  Other countries, domestic adoption, biological children…that has not been my dream or my heart’s deepest desire.

You wouldn’t (or at least you shouldn’t) tell a woman who had just been told by her doctor that she was infertile that “everything will be okay, there’s always adoption and fostering and surrogacy.”  No, you would mourn with her the loss of a dream.

So that is all I am asking of you at this point.  Mourn with me.

And mourn with the hundreds of thousands of Russian orphans who are waiting for their forever families, who now have a that much smaller chance of ever being adopted, because the largest population to adopt them is no longer allowed to.

And pray.

Pray for the Russian people who are speaking out against the ban.  I don’t want to speak generally or ignorantly about the Russian government, but free-speech doesn’t mean the same thing in Russia that it does here.

Pray for the proposed reform of the orphan care system in Russia.  If you know anything about its current state, you know that it really is not the best place for a child to grow up.

Pray for Russian families, that their hearts would be opened to adoption, especially of special-needs children.  There is a rather large stigma against adoption in Russia and that stigma is even larger when it comes to adopting a special-needs child.

And finally, pray for the orphans, in Russia and around the world.

Mournfully yours,
breylee♥

Why I Skipped the Candy Aisle…

Yesterday after work, I went to the grocery store.  Milk.  Shampoo.  Bread.  Toothpaste.  It was just a quick trip to grab some generic staples one would find in any home.  I also purchased my weight in canned cat food, a romantic comedy, and some *ahem* feminine hygiene products.  (Shout out to my male readers if you are still with me.)  Slap a bottle of wine, a tub of ice cream, and a bag of chocolates in there and my cart would have practically screamed, “Single girl going home to her cat and a little screen time with Ryan Gosling.”

I mean, ladies, amIright? *swoon*

But I didn’t buy any wine…because I think wine is rather gross.

And I didn’t buy any ice cream…because I basically forgot.

And I didn’t buy any chocolate…because I don’t support child slavery.

*insert sound of record screeching to a halt here*

Say WWWHHHHAAAATTTTT?!?!?

You heard me.  Chocolate and child slavery.  Believe it or not (and I do pray that you’ll believe it) most major chocolate companies source their chocolate from farms on the Ivory Coast of Africa.  Okay, that part is actually easy to believe.  But how about this:

These farms use forced child labor.  Also known as child slavery.

Are those of you I didn’t lose at the mention of tampons still with me?  Good, because this is something everyone needs to hear.

According to the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, there are approximately 284,000 children working on cocoa farms in Africa.  Many were kidnapped or purchased from their families and are now forced to work all hours of the day in deplorable and dangerous conditions, while being fed little to nothing and beaten if they fail to meet their daily quota.

The cocoa beans their little hands harvest are then processed into the chocolate that makes the candy you may be passing out to other little hands next week.

Little hands that don’t know the sting of a switch or a whip.  Little hands that have never felt the deep pain of true hunger.  Little hands that are tucked safely in to their own bed each night and then rub the sleep out of little eyes when it is time to get up for school the next morning.  Little hands that are held and kissed and loved.  Little hands that experience so many things stolen from the little hands that were used to make their Halloween candy.

Doesn’t look quite so appetizing anymore, does it?

They spend the years of their childhood harvesting the millions of pounds of cocoa beans required to meet the worldwide demand for cheap chocolate.  All so that those cocoa beans are a little cheaper to harvest.  Sure, the savings get passed on to us…but at what cost?

Do you really need your chocolate fix so desperately that you would be willing to enslave a child to provide it for you?  Because that is what happens when you purchase from a company that buys products from slave owners.  You may not be the one carrying the whip, but you are financially supporting the company that purchases from the man who does.

That purchase pays his owner.

Some complain that budgets are tight and fair-trade chocolate is expensive.  How can you be expected to shell out that much extra cash for candy?  Try explaining that to the ten year old boy who farmed the cocoa beans used to make your candy bar.  Explain to him that his childhood, his safety, his comfort, his education, and his life are less important to you than saving a few bucks at the supermarket.

Go on…tell him.

I don’t mean to be Captain Guilt Trip with this post, but this message needs to be heard.

Fortunately, it is being heard, and people are finding ways to make a difference.  I’ve gathered together a few other great blog posts and articles on this topic that I would strongly encourage you to read:

Here, at Rage Against the Minivan, blogger Kristen Howerton shares a bit more information about the chocolate slave trade.  She ends her post with the BBC documentary “The Bitter Truth,” a heart-wrenching exposé on the use of child slavery in the chocolate industry.  If you do nothing else, please take the time to watch this documentary.

Here, at FoodisPower.org, is a great article detailing the appalling conditions children face when taken into the slave trade of the chocolate industry, including a few first hand accounts of former child slaves.  I would encourage you to peruse their website for more information on this and other issues in the food industry.

Here, at Sidewalk Theologian, blogger Jess writes about her experience of learning more about child slavery in the chocolate industry and how we can make small choices that could have a big impact in this area of social justice.

Here is a great article on ways you can still celebrate this chocolate filled holiday without supporting child slavery.

Finally, here is a well researched, comprehensive list of recommended and not recommended chocolate companies, updated October 23, 2012.

I hope you will all take the time to look at the above resources and pass this information on to a few of your friends.  Perhaps this new knowledge will influence your shopping habits as it did mine.

And hopefully in the near future, this issue will no longer be an issue.  But that, my dear readers, is up to us.

Sweetly yours,
breylee♥