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Elizabeth Maxon believes the lives of orphans matter.
The Indian Land mother is co-director of The Bloom Project, an organization committed to making the lives of orphans better and helping the world learn more about the orphan crisis and adoption.
For Maxon, adoption issues and orphans are personal.
Maxon said originally she and her husband, Joey, began thinking about adoption when some friends started to build their families by adopting children internationally. She assumed she would have her own child first and later adopt a child from another country. But that’s not how things went.
The Maxons began to research international adoptions, thinking that adopting an infant domestically would be too difficult. But a conversation with a friend who works for an adoption agency changed their minds.
Eventually, the Maxons adopted Lucy, the newborn daughter of a 15-year-old girl from Florida, in 2008. She is named after Maxon’s grandmother, Lucy Wilson Harris, a longtime Indian Land resident.
Then, last November, Maxon gave birth to Oliver.
Maxon started The Bloom Project with another adoptive mom, Amy Crawford, to help people who were thinking about adoption find resources and navigate their options.
However, the scope of the organization has broadened to focus more on orphan care, wherever those children may be – here in the United States or abroad.
Maxon and Crawford quickly realized it was easy to be overwhelmed by the number of orphans in the world – 148 million children have lost one or both parents.
“We have to do more than just adopting our own children,” Maxon said.
She also realized that many people want to help, but they may not know where to begin.
“Whether you are called to adopt or not, everybody can do something about the orphan crisis,” she said.
In late September, Maxon visited Haiti to investigate partnerships for supporting orphans through community-based organizations, such as Mission of Hope Haiti. A future trip to Burundi in central Africa is also planned.
“They are countries full of children,” she said. Haiti’s recent earthquake has worsened the already desperate situation by adding to the nation’s estimated 380,000 orphans.
The median age in Burundi is 16, and there are an estimated 800,000 orphans there.
Traditionally, groups such as churches have helped build or support orphanages, Maxon said. But the outcomes for these children often aren’t good because the orphans aren’t integrated into the community, so they have no support when they age out of the orphanage’s care.
Maxon attended the Christian Alliance of Orphans summit in Minnesota last April. A major focus there was on the development of community-based orphan care.
Families may be willing to take in other children, but they are often so poor they cannot adequately provide for them or their own families.
“We want to care for orphans where they are and empower families to care for them,” she said.
Maxon said they plan to develop partnerships with churches and organizations to help meet the needs of children. They will partner with people here to adopt children or sponsor families who will care for them in their home countries.
“We want to work child-by-child to identify long-term families for them,” Maxon said.
During the recent Haiti trip, Maxon said they were able to identify specific needs and designate funds and resources toward meeting the basic needs of children there, like clothing, food and educational costs. At one small orphanage of 17 kids, the director said the children were not able to attend church because their clothing is not adequate.
Maxon said that would be Bloom’s very first project in the area – to make sure these children have suitable clothes to attend church.
“[It’s] such a simple thing that could make an eternal difference in the lives of these orphans,” she said.
For more information or to read more about Maxon’s trip to Haiti, visit www.bloomproject.org.