- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 13, 2006

Fernando, Yesenia and Luis’ summer trip to the D.C. region seems like a typical visit — highlighted by eating hamburgers, going to water parks and snapping photos on a cell phone. But as the children enjoy the rituals of summer, the international children’s advocacy group Kidsave is working behind the scenes to find a permanent home in the United States for the two brothers and their sister who live apart in an orphanage in Peru.

The children arrived July 12 and for the first time have lived together, in a Kensington home, forming a natural familial bond.

“Despite whatever has happened to these kids, they’re just kids. And when they get into a family, they blossom,” said Joan Savary, their host mother, who says the siblings, 10 and younger, have in their short stay transformed from shy and scared to comfortable and delightful.

Though the children require special attention because of the neglect they have suffered and their time in the orphanage, each possesses a distinctive personality and interests.

Yesenia, a spunky girl with a pixie haircut, is a chatterbox. Luis is a comic. Fernando, an aspiring engineer, is the oldest at 10 and more aware than his siblings that this trip means far more than the opportunity to play with a Gameboy or ride in a car that has a built-in DVD player.

Ms. Savary said Fernando recently told her that he didn’t want to return with his brother and sister Thursday to Peru.

“Once you have a child in your home, it’s hard to get him out of your heart,” said Terry Baugh, president and co-founder of Kidsave.

Kidsave strives to raise awareness of “the plight of children growing up without parents,” according to its Web site.

The volunteer-driven organization, with headquarters in the District and Los Angeles, specifically works with older children living in orphanages with the goal of placing them in permanent homes.

Fernando, Yesenia and Luis are a part of the organization’s Summer Miracles Program that brings children face to face with interested families, which organizers say is a more powerful method of advocating adoption than merely showing photographs.

At a recent lunch where families were able to interact with the children, 6-year-old Luis held a bat nearly his size while wearing a red blindfold that covered all of his face except his dimples — proof that his first pinata was a joy. And 8-year-old Yesenia spun around in a leather, high-backed chair holding the translator’s cell phone in one hand and a can of Sprite in the other, chattering away the whole time.

“It’s a leap of faith you have to make when you become a parent,” said Ms. Savary, whose two teenage children were adopted. “They’re really good kids.”

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