CLOSE UP: NANCY CAMERON
Plain Dealer, The (Cleveland, OH)
Author: FRAN HENRY PLAIN DEALER REPORTER
Nancy Cameron, 51, is the founder and president of Limiar, a nonprofit child-advocacy group that provides services to abandoned children in Brazil and helps facilitate their adoption. She and her husband, Stuart, export director at A. Shulman in Akron, live in Hudson. They have eight children, ages 5 to 29. Three of the Cameron children are birth children and five are adopted. The family dog is called Fofa, which is Portuguese for "soft and cuddly."
A cushy life was what Nancy Cameron had. A driver, a housekeeper and all the amenities to keep her comfortable as an American homemaker in Brazil from 1979 to 1985.
But simply grooving on the Latin life was impossible while her eyes could see and her heart could feel.
The statistics were almost palpable: More than 7 million abandoned children were living on the streets, and a quarter of the population was under 21 and living below subsistence level. She could see the children, everywhere, every day.
"With a kind of German approach to life, I thought, `Isn't there an organization to help them?' recalls Cameron, of Norwegian-German stock with roots in North Dakota.
"A light bulb went on in my head: `This is virgin territory. Nothing is being done here.'
She founded Limiar, which is Portuguese for "threshold," with the hope of placing children in adoptive homes. Since 1984, she has placed more than 800 children in homes all over the world. Their photographs cover the walls of her office in Hudson.
"I was shaken in a spiritual way," she explains. "There have been times in my life I've felt strong conviction for taking an action. I felt that Stuart was the right one [to marry], and I had a strong conviction that this work had to be done."
Cameron designed a proposal to place children who weren't going to be adopted by Brazilians and gave it to a Sao Paulo judge, "a man of great heart for kids."
Brazilians, Cameron says, prefer to adopt newborn girls with very light skin. Despite the color diversity among Brazilians, racism exists. "For a dark family, a light-skinned child is a status symbol," she says.
"The judge called the Sao Paulo social-service department in, and they wanted to evaluate my motives. `Hey, I'm just a happy mom who feels something should be done,' she told them.
In March 1981, the social-service department provided seven profiles of children up to age 7. By December, all the children had been claimed.
Adoptions are arranged directly with the Brazilian courts, which identify a child in need and research the possibilities for a Brazilian adoption. Limiar asks for a $5,500 donation, which is waived totally or in part one-fourth to one-third of the time. No lawyers are needed. The adoptive family, however, must pick up the child in Brazil, where Limiar has an eight-person staff.
The Camerons had arrived in Brazil with their three birth children and an adopted son from El Salvador, who had been a malnourished 1-year-old when he joined their family. "It thrilled the other children," Cameron says. "If it hadn't been such a positive experience, we might not have gone on to adopt more."
Their Brazilian children include Michael, 16, who was 8 months old; Samantha, 20, who was 9 when her placement with another family faltered and the Camerons claimed her; Marcelo, 10, who had been at Limiar's orphanage for two years and hadn't found a home. ("I thought he was a super kid, and we made the decision to bring him home," Cameron says.)
Natalie, 5, born with spina bifida, came to the United States at age 4 for surgery and was staying with the Camerons. Stuart was hesitant to add to the family again, Cameron says, "but Natalie won Daddy over. She's the princess now."
Sadly, Cameron's parents and brother are not supportive of her work, something she attributes to their parochial life in North Dakota. She figures it's their loss. "Sure, there's ache and hurt, but I couldn't imagine a better life.
"My goal in college was to be a doctor, but ... see where I was heading and where God sent me?" she asks incredulously.
"I was agreeable to walk down that path. God used me and I'm fortunate that I've been used this way."
Limiar can be reached at 11 Atterbury Blvd., Suite 4, Hudson, 44236, (216) 653-8129. Sponsors are needed to support social-service activities in Brazil.