HELPING KIDS FIND HOMES
Kerry Marks Hasenbalg '94 (international relations, Russian studies) has labored to improve the lives of orphans the world over — from foster children in the U.S. to child soldiers in Uganda to Chinese youngsters with cerebral palsy. What has become her life's mission began in Russia during her Bucknell semester abroad, when she began talking to street children and learned that many were abandoned by families unable to afford their care.
Hasenbalg has worked in the adoption field for nearly 20 years now, as a Russian translator at first, then as a staffer on the Congressional Adoption Caucus. That job convinced Hasenbalg that much more needed to be done. She, along with four members of Congress, founded the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI), a nonprofit organization that seeks to inform and educate Congress about adoption. There are, she notes, more than 140 million orphans worldwide.
One of Hasenbalg's first acts as executive director was to set up a maze in the halls of the Capitol, to illustrate to Congress members how children get stuck in the U.S. foster system. During her time on Capitol Hill, she helped to get tax credits for adoption implemented and assisted members of Congress in the ratification process of the Hague Adoption Convention.
Hasenbalg, the daughter of Robert Marks '67, eventually left CCAI to raise and homeschool her own children (she has four), but she never abandoned her dedication to orphans. "If we really love God, we'll love people, and the neediest people are orphans," she says. "Their greatest need is to have a family."
Since the mid-2000s, Hasenbalg has been volunteering her expertise with Show Hope, a nonprofit organization that provides adoption aid and medical care to orphans. Her husband, Scott, is executive director of the organization. Among her achievements at Show Hope was to lay the foundation for four trips to China during which surgeons from Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pa., operated on children with correctable deformities, greatly increasing the orphans' chance of adoption.