The Importance of Kinship

As a lawyer in New Jersey, John Scura has seen plenty. But he never imagined he’d one day be back in Ethiopia, standing in the mud hut where his son was born 19 years earlier, to meet his son’s birth family

John and his wife, Jeanne-Marie, had three biological daughters but wanted more children. In 2008, a friend of the family told them about the joys of adopting, and they soon decided to approach Wide Horizons For Children for help. John and Jeanne-Marie were matched with a toddler from Ethiopia — Dashell — who was around four when the family was able to bring him to their home in the US from an orphanage in Ethiopia.

“Back then, you had to meet the birth family before you could adopt,” John says. “We went to the orphanage to meet Dashell and then drove six to seven hours to meet his birth family.”

John says Dashell fit right in with his new family and siblings — an easygoing kid who grew into a dynamic leader and now, at age 19, is a sophomore in college.

The reunion with Dashell’s birth family.

Nearly 15 years later, John would reunite with Dashell’s birth family — and this time, with Dashell by his side. It’s all thanks to WHFC’s Zimdina program — Zimdina is the Amharic word for kinship — where adoptive families can stay in touch through letters and photos that are personally delivered to their child’s birth family in Ethiopia. And when ready, WHFC facilitates a trip back to Ethiopia for adoptive and birth families to reunite in person.

birth family reunion in Ethiopia

For Dashell, this was his first time meeting his birth family — an incredible opportunity to understand his past and make connections for the future. John says standing in the mud hut during that reunion, watching the emotion flow from Dashell’s birth family, was a life-changing experience.

“They were crying and so happy. His mother has some heart issues and thought she would die without seeing him. When Dashell got there, he got so much love. He was just blown away.”

web quote three

During the two-day trip, Dashell learned more about his birth family. His uncle and grandparents were still alive. His father had passed away shortly after he was born — so his mother couldn’t feed him and relinquished him to an orphanage. He also discovered he had six siblings when he thought he only had three, including his oldest sibling Habite, a half-brother whom John stays in touch with to this day. The Scura family may even travel back to attend Habite’s upcoming wedding!

For an adoptee like Dashell, reconnecting with their birth family can make all the difference to their sense of self and their place in the world.

Help us write more stories

Ways to Donate