First Valentine's Day: Elizabeth Davis Middle School students collect bands for Lithuanian orphanage

Elizabeth Davis Middle school teacher Lisa Perreca and her family have a special reason to celebrate this Valentine’s Day — two new adopted children hailing from Lithuania.

It all started in the summer of 2012 when Lisa and her husband, Al, were contemplating more children. They had two beautiful children — Adeline and Alden — but wanted them to have younger siblings.

It was a question of adoption for the family because their faith teaches them to serve “We didn’t want to birth anymore children,” said Lisa. “For us, it’s about serving those that need the most.”

Al came upon information about special-needs children in Lithuanian orphanages and felt this was a way they could help others. “The statistics are that special-needs children are almost never adopted and they live out their lives in the system,” Al explained.

Thus began an epic journey to adopt twins from a far away Lithuanian orphanage. Last spring the family expected the special needs sister and brother to be with them by the fall of 2013. That dream was delayed and their two new children — four-year-old twins, Annalise and Asher — were ready in January to join their home.

The students at Elizabeth Davis Middle School had been hearing from Mrs. Perreca about the adoption for some time. They wanted to do something to help. They came up with an idea to help the orphanage in Lithuania where the sister and brother duo lived.

The orphanage was a small place, perhaps 500 feet, housing some 15 little ones and the instructors. The children had one common area and sleeping quarters for all. Needless to say, there were no luxuries.

The students at Davis Middle decided to send something that might be fun for the children and be helpful. So, they banded together to collect bands — band aids, rubber bands, and hair bands. The unique ensemble brought in a big haul.  “They must’ve collected 1,000s of band aids, 100s of rubber bands and headbands,” Lisa shared. “I had one whole suitcase of the bands for the orphans.”

The students would like to try to contribute to the orphanage each year and are hoping to send stickers next year.

Al said, “Because these sorts of things are not available in Lithuania, they were a huge hit.” Lisa said the children “kept trying on the headbands and absolutely adored playing with all the new band aids.”

Asher and Annalise traveled with the Perrecas back to Virginia in a 30-hour trip to their new home. In Lithuania they never had their own bed, so their new home has been exciting for them. “Having limits is different for them,” Lisa said. “Adjustment in the family has been much smoother than we thought it would be, though.”

The Perrecas had been told the two children were special needs and that Asher had cerebral palsy. When they made the trip they came equipped with a special stroller prepared for the disability. “When we met them they both walked right up and gave us a big hug,” Lisa shared.

They both have ear, nose and throat issues that the family is having diagnosed and treated but are adjusting beautifully. There had been concerns over the language barrier but that hasn’t been an issue at all. “We’ve been surprised at just how quickly they both have adapted to the English language,” said Al.

Because the twins mostly lived inside the orphanage they didn’t get much chance to play outside. “Their favorite things to do are play outside and go swimming.” Annalise is a complete fashion diva. “She didn’t have things like necklaces so she’ll sometimes pile on 10 necklaces and bracelets and parade around,” Lisa shared.

Both children love vegetables, something else they didn’t have in Lithuania. “They will choose broccoli over candy,” Lisa said. “But they’re not crazy about TV.”

They both love crafts and Asher loves glue most of all. They made valentines hearts for the holiday. Annalise didn’t want to share hers, she wanted to keep them all. Asher was only interested in using glue, even wanting to possibly eat a bit of it as he showed his most mischievous side. “He’s a natural flirt,” Lisa shared. “And she’s a bit bossy but they are quite loving.”

The family looks forward to getting them settled into daycare and seeing how they blossom as they grow and learn the culture in America. “We wanted to give them a chance at a better life,” said Al. “It is an incredible thing that they now have a family, and the positives far outweigh any difficulties they have.”

When asked what the biggest change has been, Lisa was quick to assure that they are adjusting well. “We doubled the amount of children so there are adjustments,” she said. “They eat like there’s no tomorrow.” They love green beans and they eat quickly and a lot because they aren’t used to having an abundance of food. Asher yelps out “Coca Cola” for anything that is special.

Their meals were prepared in another location from their small living quarters so Lisa said they are amazed even by preparing meals. “They didn’t ever see where food was prepared so they are fascinated by making dinner and all the abundance of foods.” Lisa explained that “institutional behaviors are often something seen in adopted children but they are adjusting so well.”

Both children should attend Kindergarten in the fall at Elizabeth Scott Elementary and have already been tested for hearing and language issues. “They are doing such a good job,” said Lisa. “They are already recognizing names and picking up English quickly.”

Al said that they are pleased with how well all the family is doing. “It’s been a very rewarding process to know these children that might not have had a chance can now have all these opportunities.”

Lisa shared, “They accepted us very quickly.” Both Mom and Dad Perreca would say to anyone considering foreign adoption to do it. “I would love to see adoption happen more,” Al shared. “Don’t let the finances stop you.” Lisa shared, “There are lots of resources and grants out there to help with the process.”

The family is moving forward with their new life. “We’re very excited,” Lisa added. “Now the sky is the limit for them!”

The Perrecas have a blog about their experiences at http://www.fourplustwoequalsone.blogspot.com/ and if anyone wants advice about foreign adoption they are happy to share their experiences.

This will be an exciting and happy Valentine’s Day for these new additions.

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