November 16, 2013

Half The Sky Youth Conference 2013

Hi CCI - Charlotte and Laney here!  Last weekend, the two of us travelled to Boston’s Harvard University for the November 8-10, 2013 Half the Sky Youth conference and CCI mini-conference. The Conference was truly an unforgettable experience, and we would like to take some time to share our experience with all of you.
A little background about this conference - This conference in prior years had been targeted solely for members of China Care Club, Half the Sky’s college and high school empowerment clubs that raise money and awareness about China’s orphaned children. China Care Clubs are based in schools such as Harvard, Tufts, MIT, BU, and Dartmouth just to name a few. This year however, Half the Sky welcomed Chinese adoptees as well. CCI received the opportunity to issue an open invitation to all of our members encouraging them to attend the HTS Conference as a whole. We were also invited to create an adoptee only mini-conference within the Half the Sky conference.
Both parts of the conference were valuable and thought provoking - We had a blast attending the Half the Sky conference, and had just as much fun creating and preparing the adoptee only portion of the conference.
The Half the Sky Conference examined Half the Sky’s non profit work in China’s orphanages, brought clubs together to integrate their dynamics, probed the question of China Care’s future work with older Chinese adoptees, and even provided thought-provoking discussion on the history and current status of China’s Social Welfare System. During this time, Laney and I also had ample time to meet the China Care Club members attending this section of the conference. We both had a lot of fun interacting with all of these high achieving, like-minded students.  It is interesting to note that many of the China Care Clubs also do substantial work with the adoptee community, and some of them have personal ties with the adoptee community, so if for no other reason, we enjoyed joining them in creating a dialogue about how best to support the adoptee community.
While we loved the HTS conference, there was something special about coming together for our adoptee only portion if only for a couple hours. Although we joked that we have a long way to go in terms of our turn out, we hold the mindset that there’s no where to go but up!  Moreover, we think that our participants made up for quantity with quality!
Those few hours seemed to pass both really quickly and really slowly. Really quickly in the sense that they were jammed packed. For our own CCI section of the Conference, we divided our time into three sections. The first was a general introduction and discussion on topics related to adoption, the second, a presentation on Getting Involved in the Adoptee Community, introducing different resources and organizations available to the older Chinese adoptee generation, and finally the third was an adult adoptee panel. During our presentation on Getting Involved in the Adoptee Community, we showed two videos (thanks CAL / G2!), read four handouts, and conducted one google + call (thanks Adopteen!) - Whew!  We may have slightly underestimated the amount of time necessary to cover all of this content!
Time slowed down though in the moments that we were able to really talk. The group of us sat on little cube chairs, pulled in close so that we formed a complete circle. During the adult adoptee session especially, we truly felt that we were growing closer as a group, initially pulled together by the common bond of adoption, and then drawn even closer as we learned and exchanged more about each other’s personal journeys. There is nothing truer than saying that although we are all adoptees, each of us has our own stories, our own paths in life. (Thus same beginnings, different paths!)
During our adult adoptee session, we were joined by the much accomplished Sara Boxell, a Korean adoptee who grew up in Andover and found her place in the Asian American Community during college, leading up to her current position as the Activities Coordinator at the Asian American Student Success Program at UMass Boston. She was gracious enough to join us and share her own thoughts as an adoptee at a different stage of life than we are. We also were honored to hear from the esteemed Dr. Mei Mei Ellerman, who was a good deal older than us, and thus much the wiser! She shared her life story in confidence with us, and we were all deeply touched by her heart-felt stories. Her call for us to find the place where we belong, no matter where that might be resonated deeply for us and her reminder to follow our hearts inspired us to no end.
Through this experience, our eyes were opened to a dynamic not yet seen in CCI - there is no denying that there is something uniquely valuable about meeting in person. There is something meaningful about sitting around in a circle, feeling the support emanating out of every corner, and just being able to share openly that we cannot get from online support. We have learned a lot from our first mini-conference venture - While CCI pledges to continue the work on our online community, if members are interested, we are committed now to exploring the option of local communities.
This conference was a learning experience for all of us - we hope that the next time we hold something local or start a conference, that we can provide for the adoptee community better, and then the time after that even better. Together, we can be the change that we want to see in Chinese adoptee community. We’d like to extend our sincere gratitude to Half The Sky, Sarah Cramer, the China Care Clubs, Jennifer Jue-Steuck, Sabrina Orlins, and Juleigh Duke from CAL / G2, Adopteen, Laura Cotter, Lian Blake, Sara Boxell, Dr. Mei Mei Ellerman, and last but not least, all CCI members for your unwavering support and belief in our community!

Here is CCI's video of the weekend:

1 comment: