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Posted on September 23rd, 2012, by

I was always interested in a volunteer job, since I believe that helping other people makes our life purposeful. In this respect, I recall the second week of my volunteer job at Camp Anchor, when I noticed that the little girl in the wheelchair put her head down when the music came on. In this special place for people with disabilities, campers and staff alike began busily rehearsing dance steps for the upcoming show.

Walking toward the little girl, it was easy for me to step into her shoes.  She felt different, left out, isolated. It was a familiar territory for me since I used to have the similar experience in my childhood.

As a child, being adopted in itself did not feel terrible to me. I could not imagine that adopted children could have any problems in their families, probably because I extrapolated my personal experience of the family life on all other families. My parents loved me. I was part of a big, loud, fun, loving, extended family. The tough part was the way I looked. I loved my mom with her white skin, blond hair and blue eyes.

In fact, everyone in my world looked like her cousins, neighbors, aunts. As a little girl, the mirror reflected something that felt completely wrong to me. How could I have dark skin, curly hair and brown eyes?  It felt like a disability to me. Sitting on my backyard swing, I rubbed my legs for hours hoping to lighten their color to a more acceptable shade. I cried myself to sleep every night yearning to just look like my mom.  I felt so different that undermined my self-esteem and self-confidence. I felt as if I was a kind of outcast.

Then, gradually, my life and my self-perception began to change. Through my mom’s constant reassurance and encouragement, I realized that everyone is different in some way and every person is unique. I cannot exactly pinpoint the moment when I began to accept myself having the dark skin and all, but I do know that my family loves every square inch of me. My parents, grandparents, aunts and cousins have a way of celebrating my differences. It may sound contradictory but they also do not see any real differences. We are much more alike. We share our history, dinners, laughter and tears together and always will. We are the family.

I guess it was not so strange that amongst fellow-disabled campers, a person could still feel left out. While working at this camp, I have seen myself in the struggle of the campers.  Their challenges and triumphs became mine. I encouraged, supported and intervened every time I felt sadness in a camper. I just know how that feels. I also know that just by understanding them I can make a difference in their day and, maybe, their lives. As difficult as my own struggles have been with race and adoption, they have returned a gift to me, which I am able to share with others. Although I’m not sure exactly what I will be doing for the rest of my life, I do know I will deal with helping people. I feel nervous, excited and ready for my next challenge in my life college, but I believe that I will cope with this challenge successfully as I have always done before.

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