They could have been any two boys as they walked towards the ocean, longboards in tow. The pair blended in perfectly with the other surfers as they splashed into the water without hesitation. However, these are not your ordinary surf-camp kids.
Miguel and Andres, 14 and 13, respectively, have spent the last seven years of their life in an orphanage in Bogota, Colombia. Last summer, Miguel participated in the Kidsave Summer Miracles program, which brings older orphaned children to the United States to give them a chance to experience family life and hopefully find a permanent home. He was placed with Santa Barbara resident Rick Weedn, and the pair hit it off instantly. Weedn knew he was ready to adopt, and finalized the adoption process this June.
Now the pair is busy advocating to also find Andres, Miguel’s best friend-his brother, as they like to think-a home, preferably in Santa Barbara. “Miguel asked me to promise to do everything I could do to find Andres a home in Santa Barbara so they could continue to be brothers,” Weedn said.
One of 48 older Colombian orphans currently participating in the Summer Miracles program, Andres is living with a family in San Juan Capistrano, but had the chance to visit Rick and Miguel for a few days this week. The bond between the boys was unmistakable as they stood on the grass above Ledbetter Beach, joking together in Spanish. Weedn describes the two as “opposites,” although they clearly play off of each other’s personalities perfectly.
Miguel is in his fifth week at JP Garcia’s Santa Barbara Seals Surf Camp. On Monday, Andres, who had never surfed before, accompanied him, and Garcia, whose parents were born and raised in Colombia, loved watching the two boys interact. “It’s a treat to find someone from my homeland,” Garcia said. “To help facilitate a connection with these boys in Santa Barbara is great. It’s awesome to look at these kids and watch them grow and blossom and come into their own being.”
Both boys seem to love the Santa Barbara lifestyle, describing the beach, mountains, ocean, and people as “bien,” “fenomenal,” “excelente,” and “fantastico.” Weedn commented that they are extremely appreciative of the opportunities they have been given.
According to Weedn, Andres is just one of 8,000 kids in Colombia looking for a home. Kidsave is able to bring a handful of these kids to America every summer, and has connected almost 3,000 older children from around the world with families over the last 10 years. After age eight, adoption becomes difficult, Weedn said, and the process must begin by age 14. Thus, this summer may be Andres’s last chance at finding an American family.
Although both boys have experienced immense hardship over the last eight years, Weedn insisted that the orphanage is a “kind and wonderful place.”
“The boys say, ‘Inside is heaven, outside is hell,'” Weedn said.
He added that most of the kids from the orphanage who are not adopted go straight into the Colombian military.
Weedn is actively looking for a stable home for Andres in the area. Although he drove Andres back to San Juan Capistrano on Tuesday, he hopes to bring him back to Santa Barbara before he goes back to Colombia at the beginning of August.
For more information on Kidsave visit www.kidsave.org.