Exposing the Real Issues in Sochi


Tonight, the big torch will light, and another two weeks of the world’s top in athletics will wow and inspire us with their dedication, determination, and skill in athletics. I’m as excited as the next person to watch the Olympic Games. I love everything about the Olympics, though admittedly I’m always more drawn to the summer Games than the Winter.

But there’s a shadow over these 2014 Olympics Games, and I’m struggling to get excited. In the days leading up to these Games I’ve heard little about the athletes, and much about the condition of the hotels, the discomfort of the visiting journalists, and OH DEAR ME THE POOR SHIPMENT OF YOGURT THAT NEVER MADE IT.

*caps for dramatic effect*

Last year, I participated in three phone calls with the U.S. Department of State on the situation with the law banning Americans from adopting from Russia. I listened as bereaved parent after bereaved parent asked, “Where are our leaders? Who is fighting on our behalf?”

We were given answers that were pandering at best, most of them meant to deflect a question without an answer. Outside of Senator Mary Landreiu and a few of her colleagues, very few of our nation’s leaders had anything to say on the matter of Russian adoption. For months and months, the issue was pushed aside as parents who had already met their children, who promised to return and bring them home, languished with no answers.

So imagine the horror we all feel at this abandoned shipment of Chobani. Within hours of hearing that the yogurt would not be cleared, Senator Schumer fired off a strongly worded statement: 

“Chobani Yogurt is safe, nutritious and delicious and the Russian Authorities should get past ‘nyet’ and let this prime sponsor of the US Olympic Team deliver their protein-packed food to our athletes.” Senator Charles Schumer.

Where was this indignation when innocent children were caught in the red tape? Where was the quick response, the strongly worded rebuke, the balled fists and determined pride, when over 200 families who had already met and bonded with their children were told they could not return?

Forgive me, but this is a gross misdirection of priorities and it leaves me sick.

I’ve tried to ignore Yogurt-Gate, but when I turn away from that story, I’m accosted with the images of what appears to be a slew of uncomfortable, horrified journalists who have shown up to half-finished hotel rooms, yellow water, and bathroom situations that leave them red-faced and confused. I read these stories, and I see the tweets, and I can’t laugh. I just can’t do it.

I understand that the Olympics are a big deal, and that a certain level of service and comfort is expected when one visits the top athletic event in the world, but can I just offer a tiny bit of perspective? People live like that every day, all over the world.

Instead of making an entire country, and the wonderful people inside that country, the laughingstock of the world, why don’t you start doing the thing that journalists are supposed to do:

Why don’t you ask why?

Why do you think the conditions are so deplorable in Sochi?  An estimated 51 Billion dollars was spent on these Olympic Games, with an estimated two-thirds of that suspected to have been lost to corruption.

Please, everyone, stop making fun of the situation, and start asking questions, because the people of Russia are by and far good, kind, hardworking people. They don’t deserve to be laughed at, but by all means, question the man who serves as their “leader.” Expose him as the fool that he is.

I want to enjoy the Olympics this year. I really, really do. But I will not laugh at a group of people that I love, especially when they are operating under a man who is nothing short of a dictator. And I will not grow indignant at a missing shipment of yogurt when I know thousands of children are sitting in orphanages waiting on promises to be fulfilled.

I just can’t do it.




  2. I really don’t like when people use this phrase… but… I couldn’t agree more. There are so many deplorable circumstances that people live in every single day. I despise the polishing of the host city to make all look wonderful, for two weeks. It’s shameful.

  3. It is amazing the things we have come to be entertained by and absorbed with… And the things we choose to ignore. Thanks for caring and sharing your passion, Kelli!

  4. Wow. Well said. Wellll said. What can we do about it?

    • I don’t know, Dad. What CAN we do about it?! Other than not be bamboozled by our own Western comforts and wants, and refusing to give up on the fights that really matter, even when they seem hopeless and impossible…

  5. I wonder how often I utterly fail to notice the real issue underneath the distraction of the media hype. Thank you for putting this into a much more important context.

    • Thanks for the comment, John! It’s so easy to get wrapped up in our side of the story, but there’s always more to the story and we cannot be content to just brush the real facts under the rug, you know?

  6. Linda - St. Louis says

    Thank you, Kelli!

  7. So well said, Kelli! Many take for granted simple conveniences and comforts that much of the world knows nothing of. Spoiled brats, we are. Thanks for your perspective. I’m praying for the hearts of the little ones that were left in the balance with the adoption travesty.

  8. THANK YOU! I have expressed similar observations only to have people (American people) look at me like I’m a three-headed alien. What is wrong with people? Another point I brought up to them is…why in the heck do this athletes have to have “Greek” yogurt made in NY? What is wrong with Russian yogurt or EU yogurt….really. It’s seems like a silly question to ask until you think about it a bit. It’s trivial compared to the issues you raise, but I think it’s all connected.

    Thank you for posting this.

    • Good point, Dana. It’s a little embarrassing to think of all the hissy fits us Westerners have thrown over these things, isn’t it?

  9. I was praying for you as I watched the opening ceremonies. I haven’t had much of a chance to read any blogs lately, but the Lord put you on my heart. I haven’t really been excited about watching much either because of all the political garbage.

  10. Wow, Kelli. Fabulous post and a good smack upside the head for me {because I may have giggled a bit at some of the pictures coming out}. Thanks for the reminder and straight-to-the-point sharing of your heart. You are SO very right.

  11. Well said. I did not know there was a problem with adopting Russian Children. My question is why are so many people going outside of our own country to adopt when we have so many needy children right here in the USA. I am not trying to be a smartass. I just don’t understand. American children all deserve good homes as well. It is because people want babies and not older children?

    • You’re right there are so many needy children in the US. But worldwide there are millions of ORPHANS who have known nothing more than seedy institutional life. The needy children in the US live in poverty, where maybe their foster parents can’t afford cable TV. But worldwide children are abandoned at state-run orphanages because their family can’t afford another mouth to feed. Or because their mother was not married when she became pregnant, and the stigma is so strong against her there that she’d rather abandon her baby than live with that scarlet letter on her chest. Or because the child comes from an ethic group that is so discriminated against that they are doomed to live a life of utter poverty, without any education or healthcare whatsoever… so the mother gives the child to the state in the hope that someone will have mercy on her baby and adopt them, to give them a better life. Or the baby is born with a birth defect… something that would be minor if they had been born in the U.S. but devastatingly life-altering and debilitating in a third-world country. So they are given to the state. These are just some of the reasons people go outside of the U.S. to adopt. It is not because they want babies and not older children. In 99% of cases, babies cannot be adopted internationally, the youngest I’ve seen available is about 12 months old. Usually the youngest children available are at least 2 years old, and have already been “institutionalized” both literally and emotionally.

    • Thanks for your question, Paula. And, Dee, thanks for your response.

      Paula, the reasons that people choose where to adopt from are as numerous and diverse as the children they adopt. Adoption is so very, very hard no matter where you choose to adopt from. It is expensive, it is emotionally taxing, and it takes it’s toll in different ways on different families. Families who choose adoption choose this path willingly, of course, and most walk it without complaint, but know that it is never easy.

      From a financial standpoint, the cheapest route to adoption is through the foster care system, but that comes with it’s own significant challenges, the biggest being that foster families aren’t guaranteed that the child they pour into and love will be eligible for adoption. Foster care is a wonderful, beautiful, amazing ministry, but you absolutely must be prepared for the emotional challenges it poses. You must be prepared to fall in love with a child that you cannot keep. Reuniting a child with his or her birth family is aways the goal in foster care, and rightfully so, but it does not diminish the grief that can accompany saying goodbye to a child you love.

      For our family, we chose Russia for very specific reasons. First, I visited orphanages in Belarus and Ukraine as a high school student and it left and indelible mark on my heart that I could not erase. The children living in those institutions often have very, very little. If they’re lucky, they’re well cared for, but many are not even given that basic right.

      I went on to minor in the Russian language in college, and I’ve remained attached to that part of the world for more than half my life. We chose Russian over Ukraine because it was easier to get younger children (toddler age) and we did not want to displace the birth order of our biological children. This was a personal choice that we felt worked well for our family. We were, of course, devastated when the country closed, and it’s taken more than a year to work through that grief.

      You see, I know how those children live. I’ve seen it and touched it and felt it, and I know what the conditions are. This was the motivating drive behind our decision to adopt from Russia, and it’s what keeps me up at night when I think of the children left behind.

      Dee is also right in saying that you cannot adopt infants from other countries anymore. That rarely happens. 12 months is generally the youngest that can be adopted from a foreign country, and for those who want a child that young, they will wait a long, long time. Most children begin around age 4 and up, and a large percentage of those children are special needs. It is a misconception to think that families going outside the US to adopt are wanting an infant. If you want to adopt an infant, you can do so here in country through private adoption, and it will cost anywhere from $20,000-$40,000. It isn’t cheap.

      It’s not that I don’t appreciate the need for orphan care here in our own country. I really do. But the needs outside the walls of our country are equally as great, and are more dire than most understand, and if it is inside my ability to help and change a child’s life, I won’t shy from doing so.

      Does that makes sense? Thanks for asking! 🙂

  12. You are absolutely correct. Very well written.

  13. Thank you so much for taking the time to write about this! My family is one of those that had already met our precious Russian children (my brother and sister), and now we can only sit back and pray that they are safe. Thank you for caring, as so few Americans do. The funny thing is, outrage over stupid stuff lasts a loooong time. Outrage over the adoption ban was over within a few days. As a wise man once said, “The only thing necescary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

    • Oh Erica, I am so, so sorry. My heart breaks for families like yours. While we were devastated when our adoption was terminated, we had not yet received a referral. That made it easier in the sense that we knew a child had not been told we were coming for her. It made it harder in that we didn’t have a face to go with our prayers. But for the families that met and held their kids, this goes beyond tragedy. I will continue praying for your family and all the families like yours.

  14. GumTreeGirl says

    I wish they would at least let the children who were matched already and told they had people coming for them be adopted.

  15. May come as a shock, but part of the adoption ban was to prevent people from SELLING their children when ‘putting them up for adoption’. You mention corruption, but not this… This is a huge embarrassment for Russia, and nobody wanted to talk about it/uncover it.

    • nospam, I would like to see some facts backing up that claim. Unfortunately, what you say here is false. While people selling their children may be a problem in some countries, it is not the main issue in Russia. Over 100,000 children live in institutions in Russia for various reasons, but believe me, no one is making money by leaving them there.

      The ban on Americans adopting had nothing to do with adoptions. It was a political power play in response to our President signing the Magnitsky Act, which placed sanctions on Russian officials believed to have been involved in human right’s violations. It was a chess move, and a poor one at that.

      Please, before you make such bold claims, I ask that you do a little more research.

  16. After a year living in Mexico I realise that I no longer notice signs asking my to put my toilet paper in the bin, I am just grateful if there is paper. However a year ago as a resident of the developed world I too noticed and laughed at such signs. It is a lack of exposure to how much of the work live but even a few weeks living there should help.

  17. i just found this article today, and considering the escalation of things in Ukraine and Russia’s obvious influence there, as well as the US’s continued lack of action on *any* of these human rights fronts, I consider this article to be right on track. I shared it on Facebook.

  18. This was a great way to transition out of MVAH and into your new site. You are still “That Hawt Mama”, but now you have the freedom to be deep and challenging with or without any obligatory humor! Liberating. Great post. Great conversation. Great GOD!


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