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Baltimore, MDby Craig Juntunen

Baltimore is the second to last stop in our sixty-city tour. Our hosts for the day were Erica and Brian Parker. Brian and Erica are currently waiting to bring home a brother and sister who are “STUCK” in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They adopted another child from India several years ago, who sadly died from infections caught during an extended stay in the orphanage in her home country. This story underscores how every day matters in these children’s lives and how each day these children are delayed on their trips to their new homes, they risk life-threatening issues. I was very impressed with how committed and passionate both Brian and Erica are, not only for their particular adoption case, but for all of the children adoption could serve.  Their leadership created a day of significance, and I am very grateful for their efforts.

Today was a very interesting and meaningful day, as I had the privilege to speak to two different student bodies.

First, I had a speaking engagement at Towson University where I spoke to about 60 students. The conversation was full of energy and many of the students were extremely interested in the topic. Once exposed to the facts they became curious, they wanted more information, they wanted answers!

The hands went up all over the room with plenty of relevant and important questions:
• What has happened to international adoption worldwide/nationwide over the last 8 years and why?
• What are the driving forces that have sent the process into decline?
• What forces are variable/manageable? What forces are constant?
• Can the elements that forced the downturn be addressed?
• What are the general/primary objectives of an adoption system—what really needs to happen/be validated for the adoption to happen?
• How does the current system match up with the basic objectives and requirements?
• Where does it succeed, where does it fail?
• What defines the process breakdown?
• What are the influencing forces for the struggle?
• What would define a better system?
• What are the challenges/obstacles/resources to implement a new system?

Baltimore, MDIt was exciting to be with such an inquisitive and energetic group of students. We all enjoyed our time together and we all benefited from this learning platform.  I was impressed by the intellectual horsepower of this group of future leaders.

The STUCK bus was parked nearby and after the talk a few of the students came over to check it out. They thought the bus was cool. These students were smart and they were fun. Being with them was an enriching experience and a number of them came to the screening tonight based on our time together.

Soon after, the day got even better. That afternoon I had the chance to speak at Bryn Mawr Private School to about 40 high school students. Student Eva McNabney arranged the entire event: she is passionate about Both Ends Burning and international adoption. In our Richmond blog, I spoke of the inspirational high school student who was so inspired to help kids STUCK in orphanages she created her own personal fundraising event on our behalf. She raised $800 for Both Ends Burning two years ago through a cupcake sale event; and now set up this lecture for her fellow students prior to the film’s premiere in Baltimore. Eva is one of my heroes; how could she not be? She has one Chinese sibling, and her family is waiting for another who is STUCK in Vietnam.

This group of high school students were captivated by what I had to tell them. They had no idea of this social tragedy, but they quickly connected with and emotionally reacted to the STUCK trailer and the story of how I came to learn about this social absurdity many years ago.

Speaking to these student bodies was a high point, and put me in a great frame of mind to introduce the film to a virtually sold-out theater. Baltimore, MDOf course, the first thing I did tonight was to introduce Eva to the audience. Introducing her means something important to me, for she is unique and her ambitious character inspires me. I have said before those that will change the world are those that have the asset of youth. Today, I had a rare opportunity to sit and talk with some of the youth of Baltimore, Maryland, and was reminded how one person can make a difference.  Today I met a lot of young people, who are now interested and willing to do just that.  Over time I believe they will.

What a great day!  I really want to thank the people of Baltimore for offering me this rare opportunity and allowing us to optimize the STUCK experience with a diverse group of interesting and caring people.

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