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This Week's Winning Story

 

Finding Our Children

John and I had a delightful life by 1985. Both practicing happily as chiropractors, lovely new office, lovely patients, lovely new home being built, lovely life!

There was a moment when I knew. I first knew there were children waiting for us to find them.

John came to know the same truth, and we were energised to go and find these little ones, two, a boy and girl, 5 and 3 I thought. Friends were adopting a baby from Chile, we loved Chile and it felt right.

I phoned the Department of Children’s Services the next morning and an 18 – 20 year old said, “not possible, you are too old”. (39? too old? I am just coming into my own skin!)

Oh, yes, there was a loophole in the law and we found it. Three months later we had completed the equivalent paperwork needed by the Queensland Government. This was done by one of their former officers who was now a lecturer at Queensland University. He checked us, our home, our family and our past thoroughly. This all needed to be translated into Spanish and notarised. Off went the paperwork to an adoption lawyer in Chile and the 2am - 3am phone calls started. 6 month old twin girls – “No”, I shrieked. Finally the 5 and 3 year olds were there and we were off the next day. The anticipation energy in my body was continuous and I was often internally shaking.

The lawyer in Santiago knew less about foreign adoptions than we did, so with about 50 words of Spanish we were on our own, travelling south. We found Judge Sylvia Onetto in Concepcion presiding over the 2nd Children’s Court and waited uneasily in her outer chambers for ages as she worked, then we were shown into her room. In front of us was a really large and joyful picture of two little children with no clothes on, playing in a field of daisies and we laughed at it and enjoyed the scene. Immediately Judge Onetto came into the room. She had no English, we had virtually had no Spanish and that picture was her preliminary test – if we responded positively, she knew we would love her children. Whew! Foreign people had been given very short shift out of her office when they hadn’t loved the picture.

Judge Onetto studied our papers, we answered her questions and she issued us with Court documents to see children. Rapidly we dashed off to find “our” children, only to find their father had withdrawn permission. In the middle of Chile, no children.

Both John and I rely heavily on our intuition. If these weren’t our children, then we needed to just go and find the right ones! Lessons abound. Judge Onetto gave us a list of orphanages and there began a horror story. I am such a softy.

There were 600,000 children in Chile in 1985 in ‘orphanages’ or Hogars. Often they weren’t orphans but children of poor families or families in chaos, and there were lots of children whose parents had simply disappeared in the Pinochet political era of the time.

We found the first orphanage after various bus rides, and we thought we had made a mistake. The high concrete and barbed wire walls were surely a prison. Inside, 400 boys from 5 to 14 years old lived. No toys, no real schooling, no bat, no ball, nothing. A few of the bigger boys had some marbles they had no doubt muscled from smaller boys.

The beds were double bunks very, very close together in long rooms, smelling strongly of little boy’s wet beds. Shoes were under pillows when not on their feet to avoid them being stolen. The food was just sufficient and very basic. I thought “all these boys would fit nicely on a jumbo jet to Australia” – why the heck not?

The women caring for the children did their best, and the social workers were marvellous – caring, concerned, focussed and compassionate. I explained we were looking for a boy 5 who would have a sister 3 in another orphanage. “We’ll look”, said Maria Victoria Perez “but please, will you look at two dear little boys 7 and nearly 9”? “No, don’t do this”, I said, “this is dreadful enough. To see the children and have to say no would be heartbreaking, and how would the children feel if they understood?”

“Please, please, these boys are darlings, they are sweet, good, country boys, only here for 4 months and not hardened like lots of the other children”. “No, no”; “just a brief visit?” “No please”; “they are being brought to you”.

Two sweet little faces peeped around the door and were ushered to us. Two dear little dark heads whose hair had been hurriedly watered into place, whose skin was so darkened by dirt that the skin folds and tiny creases were white.

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Rodrigo came to my knee, Ignacio went to John. I’m not sure how to describe what happened when I looked into those brown eyes – I was immediately suffused with love and warmth. It was completely overwhelming, tumultuous, encompassing yet peaceful. This child and I are one. This child is mine, irrevocably, absolutely. I looked at John and we were both very teary; the same had happened to him. We swapped children with wobbly arms and the same occurred again. I was completely in love with this little person, Ignacio, also, as if we were reunited. These two people were our children now, without a doubt.

They were amazed at us and looked bemused as they watched two Gringos become puddles. They didn’t speak. The social worker was in floods of tears and we were joined by joyful others including the Director of the orphanage, and much hugging and jumping about happened. The boys continued to watch with wary eyes.

I did get myself together enough to ask if they would like to come to Australia to live with us for good. They said they would, and Ignacio asked if he could have a garden – easy.

The actual process of parental consents, and paperwork took six weeks with John and I pulling on our trust in the universe to sort things out. A judge in the children’s country jurisdiction gave us permission – but that’s another, funny, story.

With the paperwork complete we were back at the orphanage at 4.50 pm saying we’ll pick the boys up tomorrow. “No, now is the time”, they said. “They are yours as of this minute”. Yikes, no clothes ready, nothing. At 4.59 we walked out with two shy, Spanish speaking children in hand, with only the clothes on their backs,wondering now how do we do this?

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Adventures surely did follow for us all, and a postscript is that their sister turned out to be 10 ½ years old, and yes, she joined us and that’s another story. Her name is Shavela. The three of them are now thriving, settled adults.

How to categorise these ‘miracle’ moments? The knowing to find the children and the moment of the finding? Love, family, God? Perhaps all those things, as John’s and my life morphed completely in those moments into something that is so enormous that our gratitude is boundless and I have no words to describe.

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Dr Judy Hinwood
NSW, Australia



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Dr John and Dr Judy Hinwood Received the Parker Humanitarian Award at Parker Seminar Melbourne 2009.

The Parker Humanitarian Award recognises outstanding service to the Chiropractic profession over a considerable period of time.

The list of achievements and awards John and Judy have won individually and collectively in a life time devoted to chiropractic care is endless.