The Origins of Wide Horizons For Children

Meet Diane Palmeri

Diane Palmeri in Saigon 1974

Most children don’t spend their spare time investigating tropical diseases. But as a young girl, Diane Palmeri read a series of letters from a missionary affiliated with her parish, and she knew, from early on, that her life’s direction would be to help, somewhere far from home.

After being introduced to the work of James Turpin and his organization, Project Concern, Diane passed her nursing boards and moved to a remote, mountainous region of Vietnam to work at a small hospital. Diane met her future husband Tom at Project Concern, and after finishing her contract, she joined him in Philadelphia where they married and were foster parents for teens. In 1973, while the war was still raging, they returned to Saigon to support their friends Don and Marilyn Scott in establishing My Friend’s House, a nutrition center for orphans. 

Saigon Diane Palmeri - Wide Horizons For Children
“They often arrived severely malnourished and sick.”

My Friend’s House grew into two live-in nutrition centers that supported numerous underserved, poorly staffed, and overwhelmed urban orphanages. “Many children were brought to the orphanages by family because they literally couldn’t care for them anymore,” Diane said. “They often arrived severely malnourished and sick.” The Scotts and the Palmeri’s eventually supported 100 children, the majority under three-years-old. “We were keeping people alive,” she explained. “It was literally life and death.” Seeing an opportunity to find forever families in the US for some of these orphans, the Scotts asked a friend in Massachusetts to create an adoption agency here. The agency, incorporated in 1974, marked the start of what became Wide Horizons For Children.

But the clock was ticking in Saigon. By the time the Palmeri family was preparing to move to the Philippines in 1975, to begin working with children there, the tension was high across Vietnam. It was a month before Saigon fell when they boarded a packed PanAm flight at the mobbed airport with three of their children, two adopted in Vietnam. Within weeks, the Communists took control, and My Friend’s House no longer existed.

Diane and Tom Palmeri - Wide Horizons For Children
The Palmeri’s fostered seventy children over a period of 37 years and adopted three children themselves.

The Palmeris worked and lived in the Philippines for decades. After Tom died of leukemia in 2012, Diane continued their mission, impacting families over multiple generations, in many ways that overlap with initiatives at Wide Horizons: Strengthening and preserving at-risk families; helping families avert disaster through access to healthcare; providing emergency nutrition and education; and for children without a family, partnering with best-practice family-like homes that meet children’s emotional and material needs to provide forever families.

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