Middletown couple seeks Rwandan adoptee


By Brent Curtis
Rutland Herald

MIDDLETOWN SPRINGS — Little more than a year after the death of their son during birth, Scott and Jaya Holliman are preparing for an inspirational journey they hope will make their family whole.

This winter, Jaya Holliman, 33, plans to travel to the Central African nation of Rwanda to find the fifth member of the family and the first adoptee from that country to be brought to Vermont.

The modest-income family is holding a fundraiser next month to raise money they need for travel and other expenses associated with the adoption.

The couple already has a daughter, 5-year-old Ariah. Their son Trace died during an unforeseen complication on Oct. 25, 2006. The uterine rupture that caused his death nearly killed Jaya Holliman as well. The hysterectomy that saved her life also robbed her of the chance to bear more children.

That was a loss, the family found hard to bear.

"We knew for sure we wanted to be parents again," Jaya Holliman said. "Part of the pain we've dealt with during the year has been the loss of Trace and part of it has been the loss of the ability to have a family."

But from tragedy, the Hollimans said they have found hope for their family and the belief that they can make a difference for those in need thousands of miles from their home.

"There's no way I would be going on this journey without Trace coming into our lives," Jaya said.

The couple at first considered a surrogate birth, but dropped the idea because it didn't feel right.

"It felt selfish seeing as the world is filled with unwanted children," Scott Holliman said.

Jaya Holliman said she had researched options for adopting children from other countries in the past, but for a long time was unwilling to consider it because she worried that it wouldn't be fair to wrest a child from its own culture to bring to a predominantly Caucasian state like Vermont.

But as she began reading about the genocide that killed as many as 1 million people in Rwanda in 1994 and the bleak prospects of orphans in that country, where 60 percent of the population live below the poverty line, her viewpoint changed.

"I realized that orphans there have little hope for a future so I started changing my tune," she said.

The Hollimans contacted Jayne Gallagher, an international program developer and Rutland resident who is friends of the family.

Since 1999, Gallagher has helped facilitate the adoption of more than 300 Ethiopian children to families in Vermont and New Hampshire.

Now, she is working with Mainstreet Adoption, an agency in Lancaster, Pa., which works with U.S. families to find children for adoption overseas.

The Hollimans represent the first American family working with Mainstreet Adoption in Rwanda. If the family succeeds in their search for a child, they would bring home the first Rwandan adoptee that Vermont has ever seen, according to Gallagher who works with the only two agencies in the country that work in Rwanda.

But Gallagher said she's hoping to find more couples looking to either adopt Rwandan orphans or contribute to programs to support communities in that country.

Gallagher said Mainstreet Adoption works with Catholic orphanages in Rwanda and neighboring Burundi.

Sometime either in late January or early February, Jaya Holliman plans to travel to an orphanage that the adoption agency works with in the Rwandan capital of Kigali.

While some families never travel abroad as part of the adoption process, Jaya Holliman said she wants to visit the agrarian nation to establish an early bond with her infant child and to learn what she can of the country's heritage and culture, which she plans to make a central part of the child's upbringing.

The couple won't see the face and name of the child the agency has selected for them until next month. They also don't know if the child is a boy or a girl, only that it will be an infant.

"It's important to meet the people and to start building a bridge between our cultures," she said. "Bridges don't get built unless people can see the other side."

Since the adoption process can take a month to three months to complete, Jaya, who is traveling alone to Rwanda, will have time to learn about the country. She will spend her days in the orphanage and evenings with a host family.

Her one concern is that the adoption will take longer to complete than she can afford to stay. Jaya, who home-schools their daughter, said that if the process isn't finished within a month of her arrival in Rwanda, she plans to return home.

"There's apprehension about being away from Ariah for too long," she said. "I set a time limit on how long I'm willing to be gone."

Her return to the U.S. wouldn't derail the adoption, but the parting from her new child would be painful, she said.

The couple's other main concern is their ability to pay for about $15,000 worth of expenses associated with the trip and the adoption process. The family's sole source of income comes from Scott Holliman's work as an English teacher at Poultney High School.

A fundraiser including a silent auction of locally donated goods and services, homemade ethnic food and entertainment is scheduled from 1 to 4 p.m. on Jan. 6 at the Middletown Springs Historical Society.

Gallagher said those interested in adoption options and charitable donations for work in Burundi or Rwanda can e-mail Mainstreet Adoption at nina@mainstreetadoption.com or e-mail Gallagher directly at jayne gallagher@hotmail.com.

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