Heartland LIVING Magazine June-July Issue 2021

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C R E AT I N G

FA M I L I E S By Christy Swift

Liya was 16 and Marjani was 10 when they were found living on the streets outside of Addis, Ethiopia with their eight-year-old brother Yonas and two-year-old sister Nyala. The two younger children were immediately taken to a state-run orphanage while the older girls were taken in by Retrak, an organization that seeks to reunify orphaned children with their biological families. It was the first time the siblings, already traumatized by abandonment, were separated from one another. Even Yonas and Nyala did not see each other regularly at the orphanage due to their age differences. “Retrak determined that biological reunification wasn’t possible,” Marisa Stam, Executive Director of Selamta Family Project’s U.S. team, said from her office in Lake Placid, Florida. “They hadn’t been together in about six months. When they were reunited at Selamta’s community center, it was a moment our team will never forget.”

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