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Sunday, February 25, 2024
Feb. 25, 2024

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Bits ‘n’ Pieces: Camas hospital administrator helps orphans

The Columbian
3 Photos
Jilma Meneses with Gabriel Bergstrom
Jilma Meneses with Gabriel Bergstrom Photo Gallery

During a mission trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo shortly after 9/11, Jilma Meneses was moved by all the children in the African nation without parents. The Camas lawyer and Oregon Health & Science University administrator and her husband, Nathan Reynolds, decided to adopt a daughter from the Democratic Republic of Congo, but they wanted to do more to help other orphans.

So Meneses, 43, founded Our Family Adoptions, which established its nonprofit status about three years ago. She serves as its executive director, working with other volunteers to help raise money and resources for orphanages in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Our Family Adoptions also helps arrange adoptions of Congolese orphans to American families. So far it has helped facilitate 27 such adoptions.

Meneses has made about seven trips to the Democratic Republic of Congo, and says there is great need.

“I feel a sense of responsibility. I feel the world has turned its back on Congo. For my family and me, this is a way of doing something,” she said.

Camas family expands with African adoptions

Chelese and Ed Bergstrom have three biological children, but the Camas couple felt they had room in their hearts and home for more. They knew they wanted to adopt from Africa, and when they heard about the Camas-based nonprofit Our Family Adoptions, which matches families with orphans from the Democratic Republic of Congo, it seemed like the perfect fit.

In January 2008, Chelese and Ed traveled to the Democratic Republic of Congo to pick up their daughter, Daniella, now 2½. The climate there was “scary,” said Chelese, a 38-year-old stay-at-home mother.

“It’s crazy. Chaos everywhere, people everywhere, garbage everywhere.”

Last November, they added son Gabriel, now about 15 months old, to the family.

Daniella had been found in a field as a newborn and taken to an orphanage in Lubumbashi where she was well-loved, Chelese said. Gabriel, however, was dropped off at a social services agency. Little is known about his history. The orphanage where he lived in Kinshasa had few resources, and Gabriel came to the United States malnourished and with a host of problems including rashes, a parasite and an enlarged liver. He’s now doing much better, Chelese said.

The Bergstroms have incorporated African art into their home decor and cook African food to help Daniella and Gabriel stay connected to their native culture. They hope to take short mission trips to the Democratic Republic of Congo in the future.

Women inspire Vancouver writer

Vancouver’s Toni Partington has been writing since she was 10 years old and has helped others with their books.

Now the 58-year-old Vancouver resident has a book of her own, “Wind Wing.”

Partington launched “Wind Wing,” which she published through LuLu, during a Thursday open mic poetry night at Cover to Cover Books in Vancouver, where the book will be sold for $10.

The book of poetry has three sections. The first explores the experience she had being raised by a mother with mental illness.

“It was rough,” Partington said, noting that at the time mental illness wasn’t openly discussed and many people didn’t understand it. The second section reflects the women in transition that Partington met through her social work; the third represents some of her observations.

“The book has been a long time in the making,” Partington said.

Bits ’n’ Pieces appears Mondays and Fridays. If you have a story you’d like to share, call Features Editor Elisa Williams, 360-735-4561.