While planning an upcoming trip to Ethiopia — the home country of four of their six children — they came up with the idea to raise money for a well in an Ethiopian village.
On Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, they were less than $100 away from raising the $5,000 needed for a well that will provide water to about 250 people.
“The kids are directly giving back to the country they came from,” said mom Karen Romeo.
Karen and her husband, Rick Romeo, adopted four children from Ethiopia over a span of about 10 years, starting in 1998 when their two biological children — Lia and Nick — were teens. They’ve never been to Ethiopia together as a family, and Karen Romeo hasn’t been at all.
“I want these guys to show me Ethiopia,” she said. “We want it to be a huge, adventurous journey.”
Their trip will include stops in the regions where each child is from, along with a stop to see the “Romeo Family Well.” Karen Romeo said she also sees the trip as a way to give her adopted children a stronger sense of identity.
“Who you are, your whole self-image, often involves who your people are and who your ancestors are — ‘I have my grandfather’s nose’ or ‘I want to be a doctor just like my aunt,’” she said. “I have these wonderful children who don’t have those opportunities.”
‘The need seemed so huge’
Karen Romeo said they never planned to have such a large family.
With empty-nester status looming, she said, they decided they wanted more children because they’d had so much fun the first time. They signed up for a foster adoption program in Boulder County but waited a year and a half without being matched.
Then an ad in an adoption magazine for an Ethiopian agency caught her eye. An estimated five million children in Ethiopia are orphaned, many because parents have died from AIDS.
“The need seemed so huge,” she said. “You really want to do as much as you can.”
The agency, Americans for African Adoptions, was encouraging and soon sent a faded picture of a smiling baby girl. The Romeos became one of the first Colorado families to adopt a child from Ethiopia, bringing Asha home at 18 months.
While Ethiopian adoption once was rare, it’s become more common. In 2002, 105 Ethiopian orphans were issued immigrant visas in the United States. In 2009, that number had shot up to 2,277.
Kids excited, nervous to see home country
After Asha, the Romeo family next adopted Dante, then 3. Tadu was adopted at 13, followed by Yenu at 10. Yenu was adopted about two and a half years ago.
Asha, now 11, was so young that she doesn’t have any memories of Ethiopia.
“I want to see all of it,” she said. “I’m excited and a little nervous about meeting the people.”
Dante, 10, said he doesn’t remember much about Ethiopia either, but he’s looking forward to seeing “donkeys walking around.”
Yenu, who’s 13 and was adopted most recently, said she misses friends and family members who are still in Ethiopia.
The trip, planned for this summer, also will be a chance for the whole family to spend time together.
Lia Romeo is a playwright who lives on the East Coast, Nick Romeo is a graduate student at the University of Colorado and 19-year-old Tadu Romeo lives with a friend in Denver. The rest of the family lives in south Boulder’s Martin Acres neighborhood.
The well project…Read more