Blog Series

FIG Awassa, Ethiopia: Day 3

From our FIG Awassa Director, Greg Knight – Day 3 of his visit:
Today we began at Ajuuja meeting with Eyasu and three of the four active board members of Ajuuja Children’s Home. They expressed great gratitude for all the support that Project HOPEFUL Awassa has sent so far and prayed blessings upon our family and all the donors involved and Project HOPEFUL. All four men are well spoken and confident men of God that not only serve on the board but are active in the hands on portion of the ministry. They asked that we tell the donors, Charisa and Project HOPEFUL that “without you we can not do this.” We talked for a while and board member Pastor Aklilu closed the meeting with prayer.

While we were meeting Rebekah spent time playing with the children and getting some more great photos! A few of the girls gave her a special hairdo and she enjoyed the time laughing and playing with them. She also had a chance to try her hand at making injera! The ladies said she did a great job so…..I’m expecting some fresh injera when we get home.

Afterwards we took a few minutes to head to Haile Resort which is owned by Ethiopian Olympic runner Haile Gebresellasie. Joel, Rebekah and I took a small boat into Lake Awassa hoping to catch a glimpse of the lake’s resident hippos. It was a pleasant ride and our guide drove us straight to a group of hippos in the water cooling off from the midday sun. Rebekah said it was the fourth scariest event of her life! The ride back was nice and we enjoyed the magnificent scenery that God created around Lake Awassa complete with […]

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    Meet-Up Monday: Meet Laci Zacapu, State Associate for Washington

Meet-Up Monday: Meet Laci Zacapu, State Associate for Washington

Welcome to this week’s Meet-Up Monday post.  This week we head to the Pacific Northwest to meet Laci, our State Associate for Washington.  Be sure to leave a comment and say hello!

PH: Laci, would you please tell us how you first heard about Project HOPEFUL?
LZ: I met Carolyn Twietmyer in Ethiopia while we were there for our first adoption. Selah was with her and was so sick and I just remember being worried she wouldn’t be able to make it home. I started following Carolyn’s blog when I got back to the states so I could check on Selah’s health and that’s where I learned about Project HOPEFUL.

PH: How did you develop an interest in HIV advocacy?
LZ: I became interested in HIV advocacy after bringing my daughter who’s HIV+ home and being treated very badly when a group of people found out about it. I realized that when people don’t know the TRUTH about HIV, they will fear it and where there is fear sometimes there is a lot of anger. I wanted to join Project HOPEFUL in spreading the TRUTH.

PH: Could you share with us your own adoption story?
LZ:  In July of 2008 my husband and I went to Ethiopia to pick up our daughter who was 9 at the time. While there, we met her family including her older biological sister who was HIV +. I hate to say it, but I was actually relieved her sister was not available for adoption then because I just “knew” there was no way I’d ever adopt a child who was +. I thought I’d be putting my other children and myself in danger.
After about a year of being home though, I just couldn’t get her off my mind. […]

  • Debbie Lambrecht - Massachusetts State Associate
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    Meet-Up Monday: Meet our Massachusetts State Associate, Debbie Lambrecht

Meet-Up Monday: Meet our Massachusetts State Associate, Debbie Lambrecht

Massachusetts’ Project HOPEFUL State Association is up and running!  Today we interview their State Associate, Debbie Lambrecht in another Meet-up Monday post.

PH:  Debbie, tell us how you first learned about Project HOPEFUL ?

DL:  My husband and I were at a family gathering and my cousin”s wife’s mother mentioned that her college room mate’s little sister(OK…Was that all confusing enough?:) had adopted several children from Romania that were positive. Their adoption had taken place during the 80’s and the children were thriving. My husband and I were already looking at what our next adoption would look like and I couldn’t help but research positive adoptions! I soon discovered several factual sources that made us feel that a positive adoption could be in our future…after much prayer, we discovered Project HOPEFUL and found that more of our questions were answered. We wholeheartedly pursued our next adoption!

PH: What are your favorite aspects of Project HOPEFUL’s mission?

DL: I LOVE the educational aspect of the Project HOPEFUL mission! My crew has watched the “Truth Pandemic” video more than 100 times. We love sharing it with friends! TRUTH is contagious…SPREAD IT!

PH: What about Project HOPEFUL are you the most passionate about?

DL: I am passionate about advocating for waiting children. Every child was born to have a home and 3 letters should not prohibit that God given right!

PH: What do you want your fellow states-people to know/learn/believe about HIV adoption?

DL: That it is soooo doable! A child living with HIV is not a threat to your current family and friends! Educate folks and stigma disappears!

PH: Do you have any events scheduled that you could tell us about?

DL: Lots of GREAT stuff in the works! In the meantime, if you are in […]

  • Shannon Wheeler, State Associate: Maine
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    Meet-Up Monday: Meet our Maine State Associate, Shannon Wheeler

Meet-Up Monday: Meet our Maine State Associate, Shannon Wheeler

Today we’d like to begin introducing you to our State Associates. State Associations exist to promote the Project HOPEFUL vision: EDUCATING, ENCOURAGING and ENABLING families adopting children with HIV/AIDS within the individual states. Project HOPEFUL is looking for people to partner with to help us bring our educational workshops to your state. Associates will help plan events, develop relationships with local HIV/AIDS medical specialists, create social networks for local advocates and adoptive families, and more! If you would like to contact your State Associate or would like to find out how to begin a State Association in your state, please contact Deanna Jones Falchook, National Associate Director at

Today’s featured State: Maine
State Associate: Shannon Wheeler

PH: Hi Shannon! Thank you for taking part in our interview today. Let’s start by having you tell us how you first hear about Project HOPEFUL.

SW: The first time I heard about Project HOPEFUL was when a Facebook friend posted a news clip with Carolyn Twietmeyer’s family being featured. I was floored. I had literally no idea of the hope that exists for children living with HIV. I was among the many Americans who still thought HIV/AIDS was a certain death sentence. I sat and cried at my kitchen counter, hearing of this hope and watching this family grow and seeing the transformation of her daughter from a sick and suffering orphan to a joyful, thriving, playful daughter. It was unbelievable. I had to see this again. I had to show my husband. I had to re-post it on Facebook. And I had to get involved!

PH: How did you develop an interest in HIV adoption/advocacy?

SW: […]

The Stigma Double Standard

Every so often people with a bone to pick take aim at Project HOPEFUL, critics vocal about all we do wrong and how they can do it better.

We get it. We’re not for everyone. Our brand of advocacy is a little too in your face for some people. We’ve been rocking some boats with the Truth Pandemic, apparently. Some might prefer we sit down and shut up.

We’d like to sit down, shut up, and maybe take a load off while we’re at it. Project HOPEFUL has been working since 2006 to help find homes for orphans, educate about children living with HIV/AIDS, and support families who would seek to adopt these children. It’s tiring work. You see, we all might like a little break.

It is not likely to happen any time soon, though. Not while the Stigma Double Standard exists. Believe us. THIS is personal.

Have you heard of the Stigma Double Standard (SDS)? It is an insidious “little” double standard that isn’t really small at all. We believe its implications are profound. SDS starts out like this: Parents of children with HIV/AIDS shouldn’t disclose their child’s status if they want to combat social stigma. This only turns their child into a cause. The best way to handle this is to lobby in other ways.

Then, SDS takes another turn and assumes that every parent on the front lines of advocacy for orphans/adoption of children with HIV/AIDS must be in it for all the lovely attention they get.

The Stigma Double Standard truly baffles us as a staff. Do parents running races to raise funds for a cure for Leukemia face this? What about those with public care pages outlining their child’s congenital condition or an upcoming […]

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    10 Days until the Toyota 100 Cars For Good Voting Day for Project HOPEFUL…And a GIVEAWAY!

10 Days until the Toyota 100 Cars For Good Voting Day for Project HOPEFUL…And a GIVEAWAY!

As most of you already know, Project HOPEFUL  has a chance to win a new Toyota to help us bring our educational workshops to EVERY state. These inspiring workshops enable people to advocate for and adopt orphans with HIV/AIDS.

We have just 10 more days to get the word out about this event and we have a great way for YOU to help!

Announcing the Project HOPEFUL EXCLUSIVE “Send Me” T-shirt Giveaway.  We will be issuing challenges over the next 10 days for your chance to win one of these amazing shirts.

We are also going to be offering a Daily Fun Fact so that you can learn more about Project HOPEFUL…they might even be clues for a future challenge! (hint, hint!)

Your first challenge is this:

Spread the word to everyone you know about our Vote for Project HOPEFUL June 11th in the Toyota 100 Cars for Good Program Event  page on Facebook.

You can receive entries in a couple of ways:

You can post a link to the event page on  Facebook, Twitter, or your blog.  For every mention of our Facebook Event page on one of those venues, you can receive one entry for our Send Me t-shirt giveaway.  All you need to do is link us to your post in your comments below.
You can leave a comment below telling us how many people have RSVP’d to the event due to you sharing the event with them. (this gives you one additional entry)

Then when the Facebook Event page has reached 500 attendees, we will choose one of the entries at random to win the t-shirt!

Most of all, don’t forget to go to: Toyota’s Facebook Page and ‘like’ Toyota USA.  Then go to the 100 Cars for Good June […]

Your Questions Answered: Dealing With Family

By: Jen Sloniger
Your Questions Answered is a blog series which addresses Project HOPEFUL blog readers’ most burning questions. Please submit your questions to:
QUESTION: How do you suggest I go about sharing news with family and friends that we plan to adopt a child with HIV? I shared with my sister (she has two children) and she seemed very anxious about the idea.
People commonly wonder which approach is best for sharing the news that they plan to adopt a child with HIV/AIDS or other special needs. There is no formula to follow for guaranteed success. But there are some helpful things to consider.

In Person Is Best
This may seem like a given, but, believe me, some people have chosen to share their big news via email, or even had family members
stumble upon their announcement by visiting their blog. This definitely is not the way to go if you want to ensure feelings do not get hurt. If you
plan on disclosing your child’s status you’ll want to make sure the people closest to you know first. Just like you might for any big occasion in
your life, plan to share with your inner circle first, and in person. Sitting down for a talk will give you a sense of people’s initial reaction to your
news and help guide you in determining who might require a little more reassurance about your decision.

Adjust Your Expectations
Though it can be a real bummer, my best advice for parents adopting a child who is HIV+ is not to expect anyone to cheer them on in a big
celebration when they first reveal their plans. Experience tells me that most extended family and friends experience an initial bit of shock upon
hearing the news. Remember, […]

Your Questions Answered: Overcoming Language Barriers

By: Jen Sloniger
Your Questions Answered is a blog series which addresses Project HOPEFUL blog readers’ most burning questions. Please submit your questions to:
QUESTION: How does a family deal with the language barrier of adopting an older child who doesn’t speak English? Is that even possible?
ANSWER: Kendall that is a great question, and actually one we’ve been asked several times before. I’m not sure how it is we hadn’t addressed it until now.

Language is a big deal. We use it for self-expression, for emotional release, for building relationships and so much more. For the older adopted child it can be difficult to lose the ability to express themselves. Especially at a time when major life-change is taking place.

Research indicates a child’s native language skills are the best indicator for their success in learning a new language. So, it’s very important parents ask their child’s caregivers whether their child is doing well or delayed in the first language. Parents should gather as much information as possible about their child’s language abilities.  This is especially true for adopted children who need to begin school soon after arriving home. A helpful checklist of questions which should be asked can be found HERE.

For anyone interested in doing more reading there is a helpful article on

There are public services available to families which help English language learners which many families tap into through their school district.

The truth is language can be a challenge for parents and children first arriving home. There are lots of tricks adoptive families use to overcome the language barrier.

Learn some key phrases and vocabulary words
If we think about this it’s pretty unfair to ask […]

Your Questions Answered: Building Support Through Education

By: Jen Sloniger
Your Questions Answered is a blog series which addresses Project HOPEFUL blog readers’ most burning questions. Please submit your questions to:
QUESTION: How can local church families prepare to welcome HIV+ children? How should they be preparing their congregations?

Hi Jennifer. Thanks for sharing your questions.

These days it is fairly common for churches to have the proper safeguards in place when operating programs for children, though some smaller congregations may not. As I’ve written about before any school, day-care, or church operating programs with children should be practicing Universal Precautions. PERIOD. If your church or group isn’t following Universal Precautions protocols then you should request that they implement them immediately for the safety of everyone involved.

As far as educating a church fellowship (or any other group for that matter) goes, it all depends on the willingness of the leadership to join you in this endeavor. Some leaders are resistant to the idea. Some haven’t confronted their own fears and stigma related to HIV and therefore are unable to lead their flock in doing the same.

However, there are many, many church leaders who are supportive and willing to promote education within their church… they simply may lack the time. My suggestion is always be willing to dig in and do any work you want to see happen. Don’t bring ideas before your leadership if you aren’t willing to invest the time and effort to bring them to fruition. Sit down and come up with a written proposal for what you hope to see accomplished. Keep it brief but make sure there is enough specific detail in there to prove you have a method to your madness. Ask your pastor […]

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    Your Questions Answered: School Disclosure and Privacy Protections

Your Questions Answered: School Disclosure and Privacy Protections

Written by Jen Sloniger
Your Questions Answered is a blog series which addresses Project HOPEFUL blog readers’ most burning questions. Send your questions to:

Today we feature related questions from two of our readers :
QUESTION 1:What are the legal implications of sending your children affected by HIV to school? Do you have to offer this information publicly?

QUESTION 2: How do you handle negative and/or hysterical reactions [at school]?
~ Valerie
I’ll Address Andie’s question first because the answer takes a little more time.

Andie, According to a 1993 CDC article1, “no cases of HIV transmission in school have been reported, and current epidemiologic data do not justify excluding children with HIV infection from school or isolating them in school to protect others. Children with HIV infection should be able to participate in all school activities with the same considerations as other children, to the extent that their health permits.”

According to the same CDC article, “despite the large number of persons participating in contact sports, only one case of HIV transmission attributed to sports had been reported worldwide.”

That was in 1993. I hunted all over for any updated numbers but couldn’t find any.

Do you wanna know why I think that was? Because there AREN’T ANY.

Today, the ability for patients to receive HAART makes it extremely likely that those numbers haven’t changed since 1993 . So, if there was only ONE sport related case of transmission WORLDWIDE in 1993, and NO cases of transmission in school, it is safe to say there is no reason for parents to be concerned about transmission in school or during sports activities these days.

As Dr. Steven J. Anderson, Chair of the Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Sports Medicine, and team […]

Your Questions Answered: The Disclosure Decision

Written by: Jen Sloniger
Your Questions Answered is a blog series which addresses Project HOPEFUL blog readers’ most burning questions. Please submit your questions to:

Today’s question is always a hot one. Several people wrote to ask us:
QUESTION: How do you decide whether or not to disclose your child’s HIV+ status. Who should I tell; who shouldn’t I tell? What is it like to be a disclosing family?

Disclosure is a very personal thing. Many families choose to disclose or not to disclose based on factors like the type of community they live in, the strength of the support system of friends and family around them, their personality type, and many other things.

Of course, Project HOPEFUL is an organization which is filled with advocates, the overwhelming majority having made the decision to disclose our children’s status. If you asked our disclosing staff members I think they’d tell you that a main impetus for disclosing is the desire to flush out stigma. HIV/AIDS is no one’s dirty little secret. The issue of whether or not a family should hide their child’s leukemia, or diabetes, or down syndrome is a NON issue. I’ve never heard anyone talk about it being that child’s story which only they should share. Kids are born with many diseases yet it seems that HIV/AIDS is the singular chronic disease everyone wants to shame children for having or at least quiet everyone from talking about. No one bats an eye when a mother blogs about her child’s congenital heart defect. No one condemns her for sharing such personal information about her child without her child’s consent…. See my point?

Those of us who have disclosed did so knowing there were risks. We realized it might […]

Your Questions Answered: HIV and Reproduction

Written by: Jen Sloniger
Your Questions Answered is a blog series which addresses Project HOPEFUL blog readers’ most burning questions. Send your questions to:

Question: How does HIV affect an adult who is married (and therefore sexually active) to a person who is HIV-? How would the couple go about having a child who is healthy without compromising the health of the spouse who is HIV-?
A couple where one partner is HIV+ and the other is negative is called an HIV discordant couple. The good news for discordant couples is that there are options available and child-birthing IS possible for them. To help us answer today’s questions regarding conception and reproduction our good friend, Linda Walsh, NP, Clinical Director of the University of Chicago Adoption Center shares some information:
To answer the question about conception depends on which partner (woman or man) is infected with HIV as to what strategy will be utilized. Being on a stable ARV regimen, having an undetectable viral load, not having other STDs all decrease the risk of transmission, but do not eliminate it entirely.

There is a technique called sperm washing [for positive men], also artificial insemination is an option [for protection for either a negative man or a negative woman.] And there is some data on doing it the old fashioned way with an undetectable viral load, etc.

Most of my patients, who are young adults/adolescents, have not used the sperm washing technique. All have been young women who’ve had children that are thus far HIV negative. I have no knowledge of any of their partners becoming positive. tells us more about sperm washing:
This involves separating sperm cells from seminal fluid, and then testing these […]