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Episode 60

What to Know Before You Go

Hector Chacon & Stefania Montaña, AGCI International Adoption Specialists

You’re listening to Together by AGCI. I’m Marisa Butterworth. Today, my co-host, Melissa Rush and I had a chance to sit down and chat with two of AGCI’s International Adoption Specialists Stefania Montaña and Hector Chacon. Before joining AGCI, Stefania worked as an adoption coordinator for one of the most influential NGOs in Colombia participating in their adoption committee. Her dream is to change orphans’ lives and work for their best interests.

Hector migrated from Ecuador to the U.S. when he was 12. He has spent the last ten years serving underage Latin American immigrants through resettlement across the U.S. He serves everyone he works with from a lens of cultural competency and compassion informed by his work with families and communities. We are so lucky to have them both on our team.

These two rock stars recently joined Melissa and I to chat through how to mentally prepare for international travel. What questions to ask. How to navigate cultural differences. Plus, they told us what food to try in their native countries of Colombia and Ecuador. Whether you are a family in the adoption process or just planning to travel abroad, this episode is for you.

I can’t wait for you to hear from them. Hector and Stefania, we are so excited to have you guys on the podcast and hear from you. Thank you so much for joining us. Yes, of course. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for the invitation. Yeah. So we would love to have you guys start by just telling us a little bit about you what your role is, your background in this work and where you’re from.

So yeah, whoever I’d like to start, we’d love to. Yes. Who wants to go first? Yeah, I can jump in. So my name is Hector Chacon, and I am originally from Ecuador. I moved to the States when I was about 13 years old. I’ve been in the child care field for a little over ten years now with agencies since January.

Prior to this, I worked with immigrant children down the border and I worked many different capacities during that time. The most recent being Don’t Hold Steady. So that kind of got me to travel and meet families really all over the U.S. and that’s kind of what got me relocated up here to Pacific Northwest and kind of gave me the opportunity to get to know agency and what they’re doing and to now be a part of this.

Awesome. That’s amazing. Wow. What about you? I am phenom. I was born and raised in Bogota, Colombia. I studied language in Italy. And then I decided to go back to my countries to help those in need, especial especially kids. I always been passionate about the social field, so I started to work in the adoption field in 2018 when I joined one of the adoption houses in Bogota, and I became the adoption coordinator and that was the point when I decided that I wanted to follow my dream and help as many kids as I could to find them a family.

So I also joined EDC at the beginning of the current year. I’m so happy to be part of this amazing team and I just moved to the States in the current year. So it has been a new and totally new experience, so I’m really excited about it. That’s amazing. We are so lucky to have both of you and I know when I met you guys earlier this year, it was so exciting and you are both so kind in this find and we really appreciate you doing this with us and helping us.

So thank you so much. So basically, we’re leaning on your knowledge of like what it looks like to go to another country and how to be like respectful and how to adapt, how to how to travel well. And so when a family learns that they’ll be traveling soon, what is the first thing that you would recommend that they do to prepare for it?

Yeah. So I think from my perspective, the most important thing would be to essentially just come with an open mind, you know, pack an open mind, be receptive to new experiences. It’s definitely going to be something that’s completely out of their comfort zone. Some families, we have a lot of families who have a special connection with the country because they either know somebody from the culture or they’ve already traveled there before and somehow you weren’t there for year there for a certain amount of time.

But I definitely think that being receptive to new experiences, to new food culture people is really one of the biggest things that they could do to prepare. That’s great. What about used to Fania? Do you have anything that you think that they also think that the preparation for a family, it’s never done. Actually, it starts since day one, before they went, actually.

And preparation will always be there in every step of the process and especially during traveling. Maybe we can give some heads up and the team will be always there giving advice, even though we consider that the experience will always be individual, but also our reach because of the information or the conversation that they can have with other families, for example, that have already had that experience.

So maybe talking to American families that have gone through this same process. So preparation is not always going to be complete when a family traveled. So it’s important, as I said, to be open minded, be able to be ready for everything. Everything can happen. So yeah, and that’s a great attitude I think, to take into so many aspects of life, right?

To just like have an open mind, an open heart and be, you know, there’s things we just you don’t know, what you don’t know and how can you learn and grow? That kind of rhymed. Sorry, I didn’t mean to make that different. I like it. I was just really impressed with you. Recite a poem now. Yes, but I love that because you’re not making like an assumption going into it.

You’re like going into it, like realizing that you don’t know everything. And I love what you said to like as soon as you start this process, you need to be preparing for this. This is something that you should be, you know, preparing for getting to know your child’s country and culture and doing that ahead of time. And then also keeping an open mind.

I really love what both of you said that. So yeah, I think I’m sorry. I think I’m moving along with that also, it’s important to for families to understand that in the long term, the child that they’re bringing is going to lose a huge part of their culture. They have to assimilate a whole new culture, a whole new language, the American culture.

And they’re going to be losing a huge, huge part of their identity. You know, I feel like one of the best things that a family can do is to, like you said, really be receptive and really be open to making an effort to not only experience the culture, but to really gain something from it, something that can carry with the children for the long term.

Oh, I love that. And that’s such an important point. I think sometimes, you know, obviously it is a beautiful day and a miracle when a child is united with their forever family and they are starting that journey. But there also is a deep sadness that they will not get to grow up with in their first culture. You guys are kind of both in a unique position in that you guys are both in such a unique position and that you now are working in Hector in the Ecuador program, Stephanie in the Colombia program.

And those are your you know, that’s where you’re from. You’re both native Spanish speakers. So just having that unique perspective, what do you think? What’s like the number one thing, if you had to choose that you wish families that understood before traveling to Ecuador, traveling to Colombia, or even just in general, like traveling to a new country where they’re going to bring their child home.

Yeah, I think that the culture and community is very different, obviously in different countries, especially in kind of what’s portrayed in the media here. I feel like it’s a little bit different and that can sometimes be one of the things that limits people to to be able to have the full experience of whatever maybe you had. Right. I think that would be, in my perspective, at least one of the first things that I would want them to understand is that just because things are different doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s worse.

They’re just yeah, different. And also maybe avoid all kind of prejudice that people can have around some American experiences of course, South America is a completely different world, but it will be nice to go, as I said, open minded and not being afraid that something will happen to them and to understand that, as he says, I mean, the news can give you a little bit of the wrong information or wrong perspective or when you’re in your country, that is.

And actually, we have seen a lot of families that have traveled. And when they come back to the states, we normally have a checking call with them and they will yell less and share with us. We weren’t expecting that experience. That was amazing because they really like experience having our team in Colombia. They also make the travel that smooth as possible for them to enjoy the time with the children and also for the family to feel safe.

So that’s that’s pretty nice to have the feedback of family saying, hey, your countries are on me. So that’s it. Yeah, I love that. Yes. And I mean, I when I’ve taken teams to these I have not been to Ecuador, it’s on my list. But teams too, like Colombia or Ethiopia. It’s funny because people are so worried about their safety and that’s a totally rational thing.

But I’m like, check, check the travel warnings like sometimes U.S. cities are a higher travel warning than, I mean, often. And so it’s interesting. It’s like you don’t think of your own country as being somewhere that’s dangerous. But like, we have a lot of stuff. We have stuff that people see on the news that they’re like, I’m not going there.

You guys just had a shooting or something is going on and it’s it’s similar. It’s like you can’t say the whole country like, yes, things happen in these countries, but we’re in the world. I mean, like, yeah, yes. But yeah, like go into it knowing first of all, we’re going to take care of you and make sure that you’re as safe as possible, but also and use wisdom and you know what you decide to do.

Maybe don’t go out on a run alone in an area that you don’t know. But also it’s a really like don’t don’t judge it before you get there. It’s like what it looks like, you know, because there have been some of the most amazing places I’ve ever been in my life have been, you know, other countries. And so yeah, don’t miss out on it because you’re afraid of actually talking about that kind of fear.

That is, we try to prepare families before having even a match in Colombia because a lot of families. Well, we’re doing the checking calls while they’re waiting for for an assignment bracket. They ask us how it’s Columbia, how’s Bogota that? So we try to give them all the tools and make them feel that everything is going to be okay.

Of course, they trust us and we try to give them the best feedback. And of course we come from there easier for them to make sure that we are giving the correct information. So that is also very nice, like not having one day before they are leaving. Okay, how Colombia, how do we behave? We try to to make our whole description of the context and how that will be.

So when the moment comes, they feel they don’t feel a lot of pressure because if you think about it, they’re going to see their child for the first time. So they’re in front of, you know, meeting their child, but also the context of being, you know, completely different context and in a different culture surrounded by people that maybe they don’t speak the same language.

So it’s it’s fun and it’s nice to have have been able to guide families through this beautiful journey, walking with them and make them feel, trust and see kbra you. Yes. Yes. And just having that I mean, I love how you guys both say I mean, having an open mind kind of being aware of your own, you know, biases that we all I don’t know if I said that with biases.

I don’t know that we all. But it feels feels right that we all just have as human beings and like, you know, looking at the information that’s available and our incredible team and seeing like, okay, you know, maybe I have felt this way for whatever reason, but that’s not what the information is actually showing us. And how can I, you know, again, learn and grow and have an open have an open heart.

Yeah, I love that. Yeah. I think that’s so important. So I mean, I’m asking this next question, thinking of my own travel mistakes, but what what’s the biggest mistake that you see again and again with families traveling to the developing world? Like what? What do you see and what would you say maybe to do instead? It’s kind of a hard question.

Unless it’s not unless you’re like, well, let me tell you all the things. I have a long list. I mean, yes, I don’t think there’s a specific mistake that we see often, but I think one of them is, again, just kind of a go near with an understanding that it’s a different place and things perhaps work a little bit differently than here in the U.S..

An example that I can give in speaking to our our foreign service provider over there and Ecuadorians, you know, she let us know of an instance, not immediately a family, but just in her experience of being a court. Right. So you’re at court with the judge, your lawyer, your kiddos and the judge told them, okay, like this is the length of time that the rest of the process is going to take.

And without consulting with with with the lawyer, one of the parents was like, okay, well, how much money do I need to pay to expedite this process, which in the U.S. might not be a huge thing because expediting it’s a fairly common thing that you see in government agencies here in the US. Right. But over there it seemed like it could be seen as something completely different.

So that definitely cost some friction and and that could be a little bit worrisome at times. So I would say to try to try to not commit any mistake. You’re in nobody’s perfect. Don’t you understand that? But I think it would always be a wise idea to run all these things through to people that perhaps have a little more knowledge of the culture, like the people are helping them over there, supporting with their travel us here in the States, we have that this particular ability that we know how to we know the cultural context of this country.

And so we want our families to really secure in that. While they may perhaps not have the skills that are developed in countries like this, we do. And we’re more than happy to share those with them. So we want them to count on those skills to be able to manage around the community and the context. That’s great advice.

What about used to finally, I do have any big mistakes here. I agree with their mistakes, but are we still learn? And I think cultural shock is one of those. I mean, as he was saying, there are things bad for you guys, American people. It’s completely normal. And for us it’s completely different. For example, I’ll give you an example video of the in through.

That is the day when the kid is going to meet the family, maybe the adoption house or itbp that he’s their central authority is expecting the family to be well dressed and perfect. And maybe there’s a family, American family, that will go trousers and flip flops because he’s hot, you know, and maybe not. I mean, presentations, representation matters a lot in Colombia.

Our lot, like a CEO, has always need to be perfectly dressed and presented at everything. So I CBF if they find a family that maybe is not well dressed, they will take they will take care of the children and they will to do the exact job I’m doing every I mean having a I’m, I’m saying a very straight forward example.

But is there reality? Yes, it’s it’s important. And that’s where our role comes up. And we try to explain this to families. And, of course, we have to do it in a way that it will be easy to explain. That is a cultural matter, and there’s nothing wrong with the way they dress or the way they behave. Because, I mean, for their example, I mean, if some the judge was very polite because otherwise they can be like, you know, big, big, big mess.

I mean, it’s the adoption process that can be in a in a very hard position. So I don’t think there is a mistake is always learning. And I think that the legal team is also there advising people how to behave, what to do, what to avoid, just to be cautious and not to give the wrong impression to people they are interacting with.

So. Mm hmm. That’s great advice. Yeah, I think that’s so good, too, because it makes it it takes all the pressure off of a family that’s traveling because they can just, you know, like, okay, I don’t know what to do. Don’t assume that doing it the way I would know is the answer. And just ask them. So it makes it so much easier of like, what should I wear?

What should I say? Or I want, I need this. Is there a way, you know, that I should go about it? Because they’re wonderful resources for you, for everyone to have. I love to hear so much kinder than I am. I’m really talking about mistakes. And you’re you’re like, no, it’s it’s a learning. I’m like, nope, we messed it up.

But no, I think that’s the perfect route and it makes it so. And it is you learning how to operate in another country, which is so fun, like to see how other people do it and that there is a, you know, neither of them are right or wrong. It’s just cultural and you just are learning how to do it and it’ll benefit you in the future when you hopefully go back to your child’s country and, you know, be, you know, more, you know, like, hey, this is how they did it.

They’re and continue keeping an opening. I can’t even talk. Continue to keep an open mind. Yeah. And have the curiosity like to just be like, okay like there isn’t one way to do things. The American way is certainly not the right way. I mean, there’s no right or wrong way. It’s just everyone’s different and yeah, having it again, I feel like I’m being so having an open mind and being curious about like the different ways to do things.

So as we talked about before, obviously, you know, in the U.S. we have, you know, we have a child welfare system. We have children and families that are in need. But for so many people traveling to bring their adopted child home, it might be the first time that they’re kind of face to face with that need, like in a children’s home, seeing kids who, you know, don’t have families or have tough circumstances.

When families ask when they come back from that, that kind of it can be shocking. I would say experience and ask how they can help. What do you what do you guys recommend? Well. Oh, I think initially. So it kind of brings us back to this whole, you know, just being aware of where you are and that the customs are different and the things are just different in general.

I think definitely running. I know sometimes perhaps being there, it’s a little bit different when you actually see the need and especially if you have the ability to do something right there. And then, you know, but I think being able to reach out to to our partners, somebody to get an idea of what would be the best possible way to help, because the way that we might feel is the best way to help might not be what’s actually culturally correct or what, but the best way to help each home is going to not specifically countries.

Each countries have a different Colombia and our challenges are very, very similar. But even in that there’s lots of differences. We also see differences in just from home to home, right? Some homes might have a higher need or whatever maybe than others. So just keeping that in mind and really leaning on our staff, leaning on the knowledge that be in this in this field has really granted a lot of our our staff.

I think just being able to really be sure and lean on that will be really, really helpful in being able to address that properly. What about you, Stephanie, and what what do you tell how do you direct families when they have that question? It’s very hard to answer that question because I think that families that scenario path of adoption is because their heart is moved and being there and seeing the context.

And they’re going to struggle because as I’m telling you, the reality is completely different from the one in the States. So coming back and feeling that there’s so much need, there’s always going to be the desire to keep helping. And I’m going to give you an answer that is kind of different from the one maybe that you’re expecting.

But I think that a beautiful way to help will be to share their experience and invite other families. Maybe you don’t get adoption process if you think about it, when you share something that you really like and you said with all this passion, you get convinced that that wants something, that somebody someone is still you. Maybe it makes sense.

And for example, we have the example of a family that came to a long time ago. They went to an American family, went to Colombia, and they adopted a sibling group older their kids, and they came back and they started to live their life. And after, I think a year or something like that part of this same family with the uncles of the of these adopted kids went to the adoption process in one Colombia and scientific process.

And that’s a way to help because the kids that are waiting from whatever family are a lot. And I love to invite families to join and to consider this path as a project in their lives because they are so many kids, especially older kids that are just waiting for they are just waiting in waiting. And their desire is to have a family.

So I think that by sharing these knowledge, this experience and knowing also the kids and how they’re meeting, they they are it makes you want to join the expat. So I will go and, you know, convince people to not confuse, but talk about it and explain and maybe something will ring in their minds. It’s like, Yeah, that’s such good advice.

I love that. And I would say to you guys are like the experts, but I’ve heard this from other people on your team, so I’m totally stealing it from someone else. But like, don’t assume like when you’re in country, sometimes when you visit a place, they’ll say to you like, Hey, we need help funding this or we need help building this.

And sometimes it’s like, Oh, they need $500 to build something. Like, I can do that. I can solve that problem. But I would just say again, to take your advice and talk to the person that you’re with, that’s with you to find out with. If you are wanting to donate to a project in your child’s country, find out the best way to do it.

Because sometimes you know, it might be something that will solve a short term problem, but you could give that money to solving more of a long term problem or something. They’ve been trying to get funded that will have like more power behind it or affect more kids and more lives. So if you’re like, gosh, that seems easy. Like just step back from that.

Like, I would applaud your desire to help, first of all, because that’s incredible. But then also like come back and talk to the people that are the experts of how like how to invest your money into the country that your child is from because you can make a bigger impact that way. Then sometimes things that are like a smaller short term project that, you know, maybe won’t impact many people.

So would you guys agree with that or am I just kind of making this up now? Yeah, definitely. Yeah. Appropriate it. And I mean, they are okay to have that kind of advice in order to be sure that the the small fee that they’re going to give is going to be as proficient as can be. So. Well, and I mean, the other thing is, when you’re adopting, there are things like you guys were talking about before, like if you’re just at a home and offering to give them money can change, like laws can be broken, it can affect adoption in that country.

Like there are bigger things that can it can create a problem if you’re not checking in. So yeah, just to make sure like your heart is in the right place, just check in first and make sure that that’s the way to go about it and that it won’t cause problems for future families. In your program, you know, if you’re giving.

But I won’t keep talking. I have another question for you guys. So are there any, like, resources that you point families to to better understand the countries they’re traveling to work to for their child? So I know, like as an adoption agency that we kind of bombard them. But is there anything that pops up for you of like, hey, start here, this is a great place.

I think, like you said, we’re bombarded with information of the country specifically as it pertains to adoption. I feel like a lot of our families, by the time that they’re done, they have a pretty good understanding of essentially the process from beginning to end. Right. They understand how long the process takes, it’s process and steps to the adoption.

All of that. They have a pretty clear understanding. So I would say, you know, outside of that, just having fun with it. I mean, just looking for, you know, documentaries, podcast, travel, blogs, whatever it may be that gives you an idea of the cultural context or culture, aside from the adoption that we are sending, that’s the primary purpose are going.

But in order for them to be able to really enjoy the experience and to really connect to, like we mentioned earlier, I think it would be ideal for families to, you know, do some research, watch some whatever, maybe, you know, a cooking show or travel blog, whatever, maybe that kind of gets your juices flowing and kind of, you know, give you an idea of what you want to do over there, how you plan to come in this few weeks.

And I love that. That’s great advice. What about used to find I would say also feedback from other families that for me is the biggest treasure, like maybe a family because here in the States you do it this way and a family will say, Hey, no, you don’t have to do it this way, do it that way, that it will be.

Those themes are very specific and very useful. So I would say to to have these kind of community with other families and we actually have a need to see a mutual community. Will families can communicate while they’re in-country or before they’re traveling or through through the adoption process. And this helps a lot. So hearing back from families, it’s it’s the best thing for me now.

I love it. So cool. I have one follow up question to it. So for families traveling to Ecuador or to Colombia, what is something that you’re like, you have to do this while you’re there. I’m putting you on the spot here, like for tourism. I don’t. And there’s different, you know, either whatever it is, if it’s tourist, if it’s like you have to try this food while you’re there, you have to go to this place.

Is there a spot that you’re like, while you’re there, make sure you do this? And this is also very selfish because I’m like, What are you guys going to say if I get to be there? For me, I would say for Ecuador, I would say it depends on kind of like what kind of spirit you have, like with what you’re into.

I love food. I feel like food is like my favorite thing ever. So when I travel to Ecuador and I’m like, I’m with you following us, anybody that travels to Ecuador, I always tell them, okay, do something that perhaps you can’t do anywhere else, right? So in Ecuador, one of our typical dishes is guinea pig. So which is something that, you know, Americans keep as pets.

And we understand that that can be a little bit hard to digest a little bit, but after you get past that, that aspect of it, it’s I mean, it’s probably an opportunity you’re not going to get many times in your life whether you like it or don’t like it. I feel like, you know, like just to be able to come back and see, like, like to find this that’s going to of tourism wise, it really is going to depend on where you are in the country for Ecuador, where you would be staying in the city of the zone where the child is home.

Is that so? It can really vary anywhere that you’re at. One of the cool things in Ecuador is one of the very touristy things in Ecuador is let me know which is the half of the world. So we have the monument that’s right at the the equator line. And you can see cool things, you know, like kids love that because you go there and you can like stand an egg on top of like a needle.

You can plant it, watch it go the other way, which is really was real. I like, you know, just kind of just very like kind of activities that kids would really, really like. I feel like that would definitely be wonderful, especially if they’re going to have their kiddos, you know, like they’re high. Chances are that even though the kids have been living there for a certain amount of years, they haven’t done certain things.

So something like that to kind of give them a reminder of where they come from, I think would be really, really a cool memory for not just the family but for the kids do. That’s so cool. What about used to fun? I will say that for Colombia, Colombia’s the most beautiful country. You know. So there are a lot of pitiful things to do.

And I have to say that our team is very good at preparing the different activities they can do while they’re waiting the process, each part of the process. And depending on where the kid is living, they can visit different parts of Colombia that are amazing. They will always be something to do. And actually they’re very lucky because the legal process is in La mesa that is a small town nearby with that and is really in the middle of the jungle.

So it’s it’s it’s an experience that families come back and they just love it because it’s so different from you don’t have a nice jungle as we have. So, you know, it’s just no, we we do not. We need more jungle. Come on. And so that’s so cool. I didn’t know that. And, well, you also have to spend time in Bogota, the capital.

And I will say that I think this is the pain of the spirit that you are. But I think that being able to be in touch with local people and having I mean, being able to to talk to to locals, it’s amazing. And you can do this in small local markets. Well, you will spend a lot of money because everything beautiful like these.

Yes. Are these are now using our DNA now. Yeah. Yes. That’s sweet and everything. And you will find music, food, super delicious food. And I would say that if you’re talking about fruit and food, fruit, for me, it’s the most different thing that you will find in South America because there are so many fruits. You have to be careful because yes, you stupid, so be careful and you get excited about it’s very good.

So there are a lot of things to do. But I will say that being in touch in knowing, I mean getting out of the tourist trap and do something more local like going to these small markets, it’s it’s nice. I love that. I love both of those things and I love that you both included food because I’m with you.

Like, I love trying different food and like there have been things I’ve tried that I’m like, okay, that’s a hard pass. I’m never going to have that again. And then things I’ve tried that. I’m like, That’s the most delicious thing I’ve ever had. And like in South America, there are fruits that we don’t have here. There are. It’s like so many different things that you’re like, Oh my gosh.

And you’re right. You have to be careful. But like, try all the things like, yeah, it’s, it’s so many exotic fruits and foods that we just don’t have access to, you know, I mean, not to that about fruit, but I think like anytime you go anywhere else in the world, you should seek out like the fruits that are native there because like because of it’s hard to transport whatever.

That’s like one of my favorite things to do. So, you know, we try all the fruits and not too like I know we’re kind of staying on this topic, but I think it’s such an important topic, not fruit. I was going to say, are you going to ask more about fruit I’m for and I’m not sure about it, but this podcast I know, I just think like learning about the culture that you’re the child you’re bringing home is from.

And I know this is this episode is about preparing, you know, before you go, but I think, you know, finding ways to to keep that at the forefront of your family and integrate your child’s, you know, first culture. Or do you guys have, you know, suggestions of ways to kind of keep that just part of day to day life?

So one of the things we usually talk about with our families is, you know, kind of being able to get an understanding, I think is important to get understanding of the child’s routine. Right. So when they’re coming, they should be aware of the routines that they’re following at home. So what time to shower, what time to eat? And along with that, you know, like things as simple as, hey, what’s my kiddos, like, favorite meal at once?

You like to eat, you know, and learning to cook, even one thing that you could kind of transport this kid back throughout his entire childhood. But like, you know, like, this is where you do what you love. I can. I learned to make this for you, and I think that’s such a huge thing for a kid. That’s awesome.

I love that. And it is so loving to, like, go in and figure out how to make this. And when you’re in country, if there’s someone there to that’s willing to like show you and teach you, that’s even more valuable. It’s and so many people are are kind and willing to do that for adoptive families. So take advantage of that.

Do you have any money in preparation, as I told you, is a whole process. And while we are checking on families, while they are waiting that the waiting time can be a little bit overwhelming because it’s a long time waiting. Families always say, hey, what can we do? And I think and I suggest start learning settings. This could be a great tool.

Why? Because you will bond with your kid one during college, you will feel more empowered. So maybe you will be able to say, Hey, where’s the bathroom? You want me up person that it will translate for you and have to follow you everywhere. And it also will make the kid feel that you family are making an effort to know not only the kid, but also the culture, the language, the way he expresses.

And it’s important for the kid to feel that the family is making that kind of effort. And also, it’s very interesting to see how families decide to join the Columbia program because they feel bonded to. So maybe they have an experience or they know somebody from there or they have their best friends are from there. So they it’s very nice to see how they have already some cultural I will say characteristics for they understand because something very different is to understand something and then to live in it.

But maybe being able to be that the motivation to adopt in Colombia is because there are culturally bonded to something helps a lot. So that’s very nice. And you just have some. Yeah, I love. Thank you for going into that. I just think that’s important to like, you know, we put so much into going into it, but then it’s like, okay, where do you go from here?

How do you make sure that that’s, you know, part of your your your life? Yeah. So I feel like we’ve touched on this a little bit. Oh, go ahead. All right. Speaking Spanish will also help you to leave the experience as a first for a second. That is, I’m as Peter, you say expert. Yeah. Okay. So it will be you will be able to merge in that into the Colombian culture because when a person speaks Spanish and they don’t know English, it will be very difficult to communicate.

And I study languages and I know how hard it can be to communicate, even if I speak English. Sometimes I struggle with English to trying to communicate in my best way. But of course, talking to the same language makes it easier. So oh yeah. Able to, you know, go and leave the experience in the first person and speak and help out.

And what a cool gift to offer your child after they get home to you. For them to continue being able that they don’t lose their language, you know, like that you continue they’re going to learn English. If they live in the U.S., you don’t have to worry about them learning English. But I think what you do have to worry about is them losing their language.

And that’s a gift that you can give to your child by continuing and a gift to yourself into your kids if you have them and you’re your whole family, to start learning the language and like incorporating that just into who you are as a family. So I love that you added that. I think that’s so important and I did such a poor job.

I am very bad, my daughter’s Ethiopian. And so I don’t speak Amharic and I, I tried. It’s such a hard language, so I’m so impressed with people that do you like. I wish that was something that I could have offered to my daughter. And I’m still not over. We may still just, like, take lessons online or something, but, you know, I just think that’s such a huge gift.

As someone who hasn’t done that, I wish that I took that more seriously when when we were waiting. I think that’s such a great gift. And, you know, something that never goes away that you’ve given your children and your son. I think it’s it’s part of their identity, because behind the language, there is something that is there and is part of their history and part of healing that passed.

Because I love that the kids come from hard places. Each of them accept the reality and that identity that comes with them with their language. So that’s why I’m saying that if you learn Spanish for them, maybe it will be easier not only to bond but also to communicate. Maybe those traumas that he’d have and how to to overstep them and to work with them.

So identity I think that we think it’s it’s something very simple, but it’s extremely complex. And I can tell that because for example, I come from different cultures because my mom is Italian, my dad is American, and I grew up in Colombia. So being able to understand my identity is very hard. So I understand when I kid, especially older kids that have a lot, have to change their own context and just move to another place with different people, different food, different life.

Because it’s another life here. It’s it’s hard for them and for them to to continue to form that identity. So, yeah, thank you for sharing that. And that is something important to think about, especially with older kids. Obviously, it is a happy moment, but that is a really hard I mean, to like, you know, be ten, 12 years old, move to a completely new place, not know the language, and then also have family that doesn’t maybe isn’t fully able to communicate too.

So to make that effort is a really loving thing to do for sure. So thank you for talking about that. I know we’ve we’ve talked about this a little bit, but I would love if there’s any other kind of tips that you have for how to prepare people to to make sure they are, you know, being culturally sensitive and appropriate when traveling to another country.

Because, you know, I mean, you don’t know what you don’t know. But having that open mind approach obviously is helpful. But yeah, if you guys have any other advice for that, that would be great to hear who I would say. And if you don’t, that’s okay. And if you don’t, that’s right. I thought about being open and I would want to repeat again, but no worries.

I would say to be open and not to have any kind of judgment in anything, you know, in life, you have to be open to everything in the judge, anything. So just to be open and, you know, God will provide and will give you the experience that you will have to live in and make it, I will say make it the best experience because it’s the most beautiful experience you will have to meet child.

I mean, you are going to have and Marisa can say it because she has done that. So it’s it’s it’s a memory that you will have in your mind and we’ll see for the rest of your life with you. So just make it the perfect journey sees the beginning. Love that, Hector. Is there anything you’d like to add?

It’s okay if not. Yeah, I don’t think so. I think that really about covers it like you said, just, you know, being open minded is really going to be the I think the biggest, biggest, biggest way that you can be culturally sensitive, you know, being open minded, relying the people that you have around you that are from that culture that are so willing to help you, I think that that really is going to make the biggest difference.

That’s great. Thank you guys so much for taking the time out to do this for us and share your wisdom and ideas. And I mean, I really appreciate the food suggestions and all of the things I know. Me too. But we just so appreciate you. And you guys are incredible resources. And I know from both of our Melissa and my perspective, like we are just so grateful to have you on our team and sharing with us.

So, thank you. Thank you for doing this today. Great. Thank you so much, Jim. Thanks for listening to Together by AGCI I that was AGCI’s Stefania Montaña and Hector Chacon. And I don’t know about you, but I definitely learned a lot today and I so appreciate their perspective and honesty with us. If you like what you heard today, please share our podcast.

You can also go on and rate and reviews wherever you listen to podcasts. If you’d like to read or watch even more stories of hope or learn about the work that we do at AGCI, go to our website at AllGodsCh. Follow us on Instagram at All God’s Children International. Thank you for listening.