By EMILIE NELSON
DAYTON - Families who have been touched by the adoption of a child have a unique experience to share that is often only fully understood by those who have been through the same.
To help raise awareness and understanding of international adoption, Iowans For International Adoption Inc. was formed more than 40 years ago to bring families of adopted children together to share support and fellowship, and to give adopted children a greater understanding of their cultural heritage.
"We're basically a support group that was formed 41 years ago for international adoption families in Iowa," said Michelle Cortlandt, IFIA president. "For many years, Iowa was a state with a lot of Korean adoptions."
Each summer, the IFIA holds a camp to bring families of internationally adopted children together in one location to share their experiences and for their children to meet.
"It sort of evolved over the years to become a Korean culture camp for the families because so many of them have Korean children," said Cortlandt.
Held for many years at the Riverview Conference Center in Cedar Falls, the Korean Adoption Means Pride - KAMP - event will move to the Hidden Acres Christian Center south of Dayton this year.
The 75 families will arrive at the camp Aug. 7 to take part in an opening ceremony, and stay for a three-and-a-half-day retreat through Aug. 10.
"Hidden Acres was very good to welcome us in," said Cortlandt.
KAMP is a chance for the children and their siblings to bond, and for parents to discuss issues and topics that may arise with adopted children.
"Most of these kids don't see each other for an entire year, but when they arrive at camp they have a bond that is indescribable," said Cortlandt.
Throughout the week, KAMPers will participate in cultural activities including learning Korean language, Korean kite flying, paper art, martial arts and a parade of countries with traditional native dancing and drumming. They will also take in the activities Hidden Acres has to offer.
The highlight of the week is the Korean feast prepared by parents, Cortlandt said.
"The parents learn to prepare a Korean meal," she said. "That is a big thing. It's kind of like a Thanksgiving dinner, just a huge meal that everyone enjoys together."
The camp is also a chance for parents to learn.
"We have break-out sessions for the parents that teach them to make sure their kids are equipped for later in life and the questions they may face," said Cortlandt. "The majority of the kids are Asian and it is a rare chance for parents to be the minority."
The KAMP is full this year, but Cortlandt said more local adoptive families are welcome in the future.
"We're just in our first year at Hidden Acres," she said. "We are still getting the word out."