By Sophia Loffreda
Ainslie Winter has had this idea brewing in her mind for some time. Herself the mother of two adopted girls from China, she wanted to share a message, via the internet, with Chinese women and men who had given up their daughters for adoption. Very simply, she wanted to let them know that the girls were all right… and not just all right, but thriving. What began as a possible hard cover book, soon blossomed into her newly re-launched blog, International Daughters of China.
The well-organized site is decorated with pink flowers against a green swirly background, welcoming parents and mostly younger girls to explore. Although it has yet to be translated into Mandarin, Ainslie says she already has a translator in the wings and will go about the task once submissions are more numerous. She is also meeting with the Chinese Consulate this spring, to guarantee that her site won’t be blocked by Chinese internet restrictions. If not, the likelihood that birth parents will be able to read the English stories would not be very high.
But the greater issue so far has been getting adopted girls to submit their stories. Ainslie would like the pages to quickly fill up, so that the website can soon be a more publicly known forum for both the inquisitive minds of adopted girls and their birth parents. During the few months between her original launch in September and the re-launch last week, on Chinese New Year, the submissions page was empty apart from a write-up from each of Ainslie’s two daughters Molly and Meigan. Her husband and her friends wanted her to move on. “They said things like ‘It’s alright, it was a nice idea, you tried!’ ”, she told us.
When we spoke to Ainslie two weeks ago, she was still determined to send out the message she had decided on when her website was initially launched. After thinking about the project and her call for submissions over the holidays, she realized that her approach wasn’t quite right. Her lack of participants wasn’t due to a lack of trying (on average, she was emailing about 20 people a day through the organization FCC or Families for Children from China). It was just that the guidelines she initially started off with were “too cumbersome, rigid, too structured”, she says, and perhaps worrisome in terms of privacy. Now, instead of asking for a very specifically structured letter containing the girl’s birthplace, orphanage, baby picture, and Chinese name, friends and family can submit a letter about an adopted Chinese girl, along with a picture (if they so choose). All submissions will be posted on International Daughters of China, whether they are anonymous or not. The stories would ideally only come from the girls themselves, talking about their current interests and lives, but Winter thinks opening the call also to friends and family of adoptees may be a better way to get the ball rolling. It seems to be working- last week she received her first new submission.
As an adopted child (Ainslie and her twin sister were both adopted in Edmonton when they were young), she knows the importance of expressing birth parent curiosity or even just talking about the affect of adoption. “I know that the stuff is inside,” she says, “whether you want to talk about it or not.”