For the first time, I’m going to be in the United States during Thanksgiving. In my country Kenya, the only holiday that attracts the kind of excitement I have witnessed would be Christmas and to a lesser extent Easter holiday.

In the midst of all the excitement, I have found myself reflecting about what I am thankful for. What is it that I am thankful to God at this point in my life? This is my first semester at the University of Toledo and of course I am thankful for the opportunity to further my studies. More fundamentally though, much of the focus of my research concerns one of the most life changing experiences I have ever had and that’s being adopted.

Over the last decade adoption has become so central in my life as a personal experience but also as a subject matter that I have been working around and now I am researching on. I wouldn’t describe my adoption experience as all positive, but my mom remains the most central figure in my life. She adopted me and my two siblings from a Kenyan orphanage at a time and into an environment that was relatively hostile to the idea of domestic adoption. I have heard stories of parents who move houses or even out of town when they adopt so that they do not have to deal with curious neighbors. My mom did not do that.

I know it was not easy for her as it was not for us either, but in all this something beautiful blossomed. I learned what it means to have a family. I learnt the art of showing love and compassion even when things were not alright. Above all I learnt to be thankful to her for giving an experience that perhaps I would have been denied by a childhood in an orphanage.

This Thanksgiving I am grateful to God for sending to my way the gracious woman I call mom. Fourteen years since she departed from us, her soul still lives in me. Now that I am married and blessed with two daughters, I pray that I may breathe a little bit of the spirit mom left in me into my daughters such that they may experience their grandma’s spirit in absentia.

Simon Njoroge is the Executive Director and Co-founder of Jabali Foundation, a Kenyan based non-profit with a vision of laying a solid foundation for every child. Simon is an adoptee and a child care reform advocate with previous experience in advocacy and community sensitization on childcare reform and family-based care in Kenya and regionally. Previously, Simon worked as an advocacy officer at Child in Family Focus-Kenya, and as the administrator of Transform Alliance Africa, a Pan-African coalition of organizations working to end institutional care of children in Africa. Before commencing his work in the childcare and protection, Simon briefly worked as a real estate valuer in Kenya. He holds a BA (Land Economics) from the University of Nairobi and is currently pursuing an MA in Sociology at the University of Toledo USA.