Russian orphans enjoying visit to Lowcountry

By Tim Guidera - bio | email

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Life changes can be as dramatic as going to a new country or as subtle as a few more smiles.

And every day since they arrived in America, 10 Russian orphans brought to the Lowcountry for the possibility of finding a new life, have discovered the smaller pleasures of summertime here.

There have been group activities such as trips to the beach and pool parties as well as the simpler interactions with host families that 8-year old Anastasia has had with the Dunns of Hilton Head.

"She's enjoying it,'' Gina Dunn said of the girl her family is hosting during the three-week visit designed to get all 10 of the children adopted by local families. "She's seeing what life in America is like and the food. She seems to enjoy it, especially the fruit we have over here. And she's enjoying our family very much.''

Fitting into a family has also been a new experience for these kids, many of whom were abandoned at birth.

But, so far, 12-year-old Ivan has adjusted as quickly to being a big brother to the Mason kids as he has to computer games.

"They're doing great,'' said Carrie Mason, whose son and daughter have adapted easily to having another child in their house. "Shane loves having somebody older to play with and race cars with and McKenna just looks up to Ivan. She follows him everywhere and is just in la-la land.

"Every morning we wake up and I feel that we're closer. We're all a little more comfortable with each other. ''

There are still two weeks left in the visit arranged by Operation 127, a Hilton Head ministry.

And there are more new experiences coming to build on those the kids and the families involved have already enjoyed.

"It's been a great. It's been eye opening, moving,'' said Dunn. "We've been touched and we feel blessed that we can help a child.''

"I'm just blessed that we had the opportunity to do this,'' added Mason. "We're doing something for Ivan, but we're doing something for ourselves. We're teaching our children a wonderful lesson about giving and teaching and they're learning from Ivan. So I think everything worked out here.''

The orphans will return to Russia on August 5 after three weeks of activities and getting acquainted with families that could eventually adopt them.

Operation 127 had five kids placed with local families before the start of the visit and now believes to have nine of the 10 lined up for adoption with strong possibilities for the tenth.

Russian adoption policies usually require families to visit the countries twice before taking custody of a child, but this visit will count as one of those visits. Families will still have to travel to Russia and meet with officials there before making an adoption official.

But, for now, the families are concentrating on this visit and what's going on here and within their homes with the children that could become a part of them.

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