A half-dozen Russian orphans will arrive in central Iowa this weekend for their first glimpse of America — and the possibility of finding families to adopt them. Anne Nieland is the director of Camp Hope, a non-profit program that brings the Russian children to Iowa for week-long adventures.
Nieland says they’ll be taking the Russian kids to see some of the highlights in the Des Moines area, including the Blank Park Zoo, a puppet show, the water parks, picnics and bowling. The six children range in age from seven to 11 and will arrive in Iowa Sunday.
Nieland says Iowans who are interested in trying to adopt one of these children will have an opportunity to meet them during an event next Friday in Des Moines. This is the tenth year Camp Hope has linked up Iowans with Russian orphans.
"Camp Hope started in 2000 and since then, we have created over 150 ‘forever families,’" she says. "These are families that have adopted one, two or even three kids from Russia." Nieland says attending the Community Night event can be life-changing. She oughta’ know.
"Yes, I do," Nieland says, laughing. "I ended up with two kids through this process. I was just attending one of the Camp Hope events to cheer on one of my friends and my husband and I walked away and said, ‘You know, we could probably do this, too.’ A few weeks later, we went to Russia and a few months after that, we came home with two wonderful children."
She says there are hundreds of thousands of orphan children in Russia. Nieland says those involved in the program are healthy, educated and loved in their orphanages, but sadly, at the age of 16, they are put onto the streets where their future is bleak.
For more information on the program, visit the Camp Hope website .