Gypsum couple adopts 5 siblings
GYPSUM, Colorado ” A year ago, Robyn and Joel Hanson embarked on a mission they believed would immeasurably enrich their lives.
Their adventure did that and resulted in much more ” five children more, to be precise.
Before they left for their year at the the Hogar de Esperanza orphanage in Trujillo, Peru, the Hansons planned to adopt from the facility.
“Our intent was we wanted to have a family through adoption,” Robyn says.
“We just didn’t know how many, or who,” adds Joel.
But after a few months, it became clear to the couple that five siblings were meant to be their children ” not that the decision came easily.
Robyn first met four of the children when she volunteered at the orphanage in 2006. She reconnected with them when she and Joel took a youth group from First Lutheran Church to the facility in 2007. That connection then grew when she and Joel left for Hogar de Esparanza, which mean the House of Hope, in the fall of 2007.
She laughs, remembering how she suggested the children as a adoption possibility before she and her husband left for Peru. “I told her ‘I’m not adopting four children.'” says Joel. “And I’m not. I’m adopting five.”
That’s because the youngest member of the family wasn’t yet born when Robyn first met the children. Now the siblings number five ” Karina, 10; Araceli, 8; Dany, 7; Yen, 5; and Zuleick (known as ZuZu), 3. The Hansons are now in the process of completing paperwork and meeting requirements to bring the children to the United States. They hope to have their children home by May.
The Hanson spent one year to the day in Peru.
At the start of their trip, Robyn was planning to work as a teaching assistant and Joel was planning to be the orphanage’s handyman. Things quickly changed.
Hogar de Esparanza was founded by Kansas City businessman David Miller and his wife, Vickie, in 2003. The couple had been the major financial backers of the facility, but Vickie Miller was diagnosed with terminal cancer last year and died within a few months.
Before she died, Vickie Miller confided to Robyn her relief that an adult couple was working at the orphanage. She saw the Hansons as people who could continue the facility’s mission.
Robyn, therefore, took on administration duties including volunteer coordination at the orphanage.
As Joel’s Spanish progress he became more than a handyman and spent more time with the orphans. A talented musician, he began a music program and a physical education program.
Now back in the U.S., Robyn is a part-time fund-raiser for the facility. She speaks to groups and works to find long-term financial commitments for the orphanage. The facility operates on a total monthly budget of around $11,000 and that includes salaries, supplies and rent.
“What we really need is that $40 to $50 regular monthly donations, and a lot of people doing it,” she says
When the Hansons decided they would try to adopt, they knew they wanted children who truly needed them.
“Older kids are the unadoptable children ” children over age 6 and sibling groups,” says Robyn.
Turns out, the kids had the Hansons in mind as well. It took a while for all five children to agree they wanted to be adopted. Some of the older kids wanted to stay together at the orphanage and reunite with their mother. But eventually, they told orphanage’s director what they wanted from parents ” a young American couple with no children of their own who liked music. It wasn’t too hard to figure out who the kids had in mind.
“We had decided if the kids came up for adoption, we would go for it,” says Joel.
But the Hansons didn’t communicate their desires until the kids approached them.
“They asked us to adopt them and of course I bawled and we said yes,” Robyn says.
Some people wonder about the sheer audacity of bringing five kids into formerly childless lives, but Robyn says, “We love these kids and feel bonded to them.
Besides, we lived with 48 kids for the past year. Five seems just fine.”
Once the kids and the couple agreed, the Hansons set to work on the lengthy adoption process. They also set to work strengthening their bonds. During the week, the couple worked with all the kids in the orphanage but they set aside Sundays as family time. The family of seven trekked out to McDonalds or the beach. Then they had to say good-bye, for now.
The Hansons knew they would have to return to the United States without their kids. It was a difficult good-bye.
“It’s hard on us to wait, but its harder for them. They don’t understand why it’s taking so long,” says Robyn.
In addition to preparing for their children’s arrival, the Hansons had to re-establish a life in the United States. When they left for Peru they sold their home and their truck. They figured they would start fresh in a new place when they returned.
That all changed when they drove westbound on Interstate 70 from Denver last October. The coupled planned to visit Gypsum for a few days and share stories with friends from First Lutheran.
“But as we drove along and got closer to Gypsum, we both had a strange feeling come over us. It felt like we were coming home,” says Joel.
“We went across the world to try to teach kids about community, so why would we move away from such a great community?” adds Robyn.
They gave themselves a couple of weeks to see if they could make life in Gypsum work. Within three hours, Joel had a job interview and an eventual offer to go to work for United Parcel Service. Within two days, they had found a four-bedroom house suitable for their new family. And then the community sprang into motion.
“We didn’t have enough beds and in the end, we ended up with more beds than we have children,” says Robyn.
Additionally, friends from First Lutheran are planning a March fund-raiser to help the Hansons prepare for their children’s arrival.
Meanwhile, bags of clothing and toys have appeared. A friend paid for a Costco membership, figuring with five kids, bulk shopping will be a priority.
“We never would have gotten this kind of support if we moved to Denver,” says Joel. “It’s the whole ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ thing going on.”
The Hansons envision living simply in a loving home. And they hope it happens sooner, rather than later.
“People’s first question is ‘How are you going to afford a family of five kids?’ My answer is I don’t know,” admits Joel.
The Hansons plan to travel back to Peru by May and bring the children home. In the meantime, they send cards and letters and call every other week. They talk about how two of the kids are like Robyn ” outgoing and vocal, while two are more like Joel ” quiet and thoughtful.
“With ZuZu, it’s yet to be determined,” says Robyn.