This is My Story by Cassie Zahller

Cassie Zahller Adoptive Family Travel ContestMy older brother and I were both adopted from South Korea as infants. We aren’t blood related, but sharing the bond of adoption as we grew up made us close. Chris and I both came from Korea Social Service; he was adopted at 6 months old and I was adopted at 4 months old.

We always had desired to travel back and to one day meet our biological families. We never thought it would happen, but thanks to Korean Ties, it came true for one of us.

We traveled to our homeland in the summer of 2008 and it was a life-changing journey I will never forget. Korean Ties connected Korean adoptees nationwide all searching for a sense of belonging and sharing the same trials. It was incredible to be surrounded by peers that understand the emotional pain one goes through in search for their identity. The experience really opened my heart to the culture and the hurdles I would have faced had I remained an orphan. It was a trip full of emotion, but one that will stay with me forever.

Through the duration of our visit, my brother, Chris, and I had the opportunity to visit the orphanage where we had been placed as infants. We both were able to meet the beautiful women who cared for us while in the foster system and they shared vivid memories of us as infants. It gave me such a new found respect for the foster system. I wasn’t just a number to them, I was a daughter to her and she remembered me, my quirks, and my personality, even 16 years later.

Adoptive Family Travel

The visit revealed minimal information regarding my birth mother but the extreme opposite for my brother. During that visit, I would have to sit back and witness him reuniting with his birth family. As happy as I was for him, it never left the back of my mind that it may never happen for me. He met his biological dad for the first time and would meet the rest of his family the next day.

Chris was reunited that trip with his biological mother, father, 13-year old little brother, aunts, uncles, cousins, and family friends. It was an incredible experience for all parties involved and although I was not able to meet my biological family, his embraced me with open arms.

It was an incredible reunion, for both sides. They couldn’t stop thanking us and we couldn’t stop thanking them. It was like we filled the voids they couldn’t and 18 years later, they filled the voids we couldn’t.

Adoptive Family Travel

One of our most impactful visits was to a maternity home in Seoul. It was there, I saw the painful decisions these young mothers were about to make. The adoptees had a chance to express their concerns and share advice to ensure they were making the best decision. It did not take me long to realize that this decision was one of the hardest things my birth mom had to make. Talking to the unwed mothers and hearing their concerns began a healing on both sides of the room.

Chris would fly back to Korea each summer to visit and reconnect with his biological family. He majored in Korean and International Studies which made his adjustment in Seoul much easier. He still has a relationship with his biological family to this day.

I went back to Korea in 2013 to study abroad at Korea University and while there, volunteered on a weekly basis in South Korean adoption agencies. While I was there, I frequently spent time with Chris’s family and felt as though they were my own.

Adoptive Family Travel

Korean Ties not only reunited my brother’s family, but gave me a second one to call my own. I am only left to assume that there is a reason things fell together the way they did.

The idea that the search was so easy for Chris and it would be much harder for me was hard to grasp at first, but I know there is a reason. It is hard to go day by day and not know the status of the person who gave you life, but I know there is a reason and I planned to make a difference in the lives of those around me. I do not know if I will ever get to thank this wonderful woman who blessed me abundantly with life, so my goal is to make a great individual of myself, so that I can help others. Because of my passion for orphans and the gift of adoption, I majored in Family Studies and am currently pursuing a Masters in Social Work in hopes to work with international adoption home placements.

Adoptive Family Travel

I hope that more children can experience the love both Chris and I were able to through adoption and going back to Korea. Thanks to our initial experience with Korean Ties, it has sparked and continued my passion for serving children and families in international adoption.

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Voting deadline: December 9, 2015, 9 a.m. CST