Washington Post article
May 15, 1993

New York Ad Man Directs Campaign of Faith to Bring Orphans to U.S.

by Carey Kinsolving

The Bible pronounces a special blessing on those who take up the cause of orphans. But for one of Madison Avenue’s advertising executives, who is in the midst of a seven-month campaign on behalf of 28 orphans, “the blessing is on the way; for right now, it’s very exhausting.”

Lobbying heads of state, working past midnight and occasionally sleeping on his office couch have become a way of life for Joel Tucciarone, founder and president of a successful New York advertising firm, Zoetics. But Tucciarone confesses that no campaign in his 20 years of selling goods and services for some of America’s largest corporations has drained him the way this one has.

Tucciarone’s campaign started when he and his wife watched “20/20” in the summer of 1991 after their ritual Friday-night dinner at a New York restaurant. One segment of the news program reported on conditions in Romanian orphanages.

“To this day, every time I think about it, I start to cry,” said Mary Mag Tucciarone. “It was so overwhelming; I wanted to do something. I thought, we can’t save 100,000, but we can save one. I prayed, ‘Lord, get me one of those children.’”

Last month, Tucciarone attended a congressional hearing sponsored by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption. He met many of the people he has lobbied over the phone for the last few months on behalf of 25 American families who want to adopt 28 orphans abandoned by their Romanian mothers in Hungary.

During the seven-month campaign to gain the attention of government leaders in Romania, Hungary and the United States, Tucciarone said, he has often thought about pronouncements from biblical prophets such as Isaiah, who wrote, “Woe to those who make unjust laws . . . robbing the fatherless” (Isaiah 10:1-2).

“There are some really strong and scary statements in scripture about oppressing the fatherless,” Tucciarone said. “There’s nobody more weak.”

He said he often wonders how most church budgets would fare if money allocated for social functions was compared with funds given to local orphanages. “The church in the late 20th century is nowhere concerned about orphans in a practical sense as God himself is,” said Tucciarone, who studied theology at Yale Divinity School. “I can’t think of ever hearing a sermon about caring for the fatherless.”

Tucciarone said he has become more sensitive to the needs of the helpless, but he’s also learned to forgive, because “people’s own biases can blind them to what seems so clear.”

“My wife and I have learned the value of trying to get quiet and listening for God’s direction,” Tucciarone said. More than once, he has taken Mary Mag’s advice and checked into a hotel for a day to get away from the barrage of phone calls and facsimiles that invade his New York office around the clock “It’s not easy when you’re in the midst of the battle and fatigued,” he said.

The Tucciarones accelerated their campaign on Easter Sunday with a full-page advertisement in the New York Times, which featured the wide-eyed face of the couple’s prospective adopted daughter, Christina Joy.

A letter entitled “An Orphan’s Plea to President Clinton” appearing with the photo was written as though it had been printed by 8-month-old Christina Joy. “I’ve waited six months for my U.S. visa and my exit permit to leave Hungary, so I could go and be with my new mommy and daddy,” the letter read. “I’m scared right now because some people want to send me back to Romania where the orphanages are very cold.”

The ad brought a pointed response from William Pierce, president of the National Council for Adoption. Pierce wrote President Clinton an eight-page letter criticizing the ad, which he said contained “misleading half-truths.” He also criticized those who want to link most-favored-nation trading status for Romania with the treatment of its orphans. He argues that many more than 28 orphans will suffer if Romania is denied most-favored-nation status.

Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) is sponsoring a resolution that calls for withholding most-favored-nation status for Romania until the conditions of institutionalized children are improved and “bureaucratic impediments” that hinder the adoption of orphans are removed.

It is those bureaucratic roadblocks that Tucciarone said have galvanized his faith during a day-and-night struggle to gain the release of the orphans. “By May 23, the Hungarians must respond to a demand from the Romanians for the repatriation of all the children,” Tucciarone said. “The danger is that the orphans could go into AIDS-infected orphanages, and that would be the ultimate test of my faith.”

Tucciarone argues that the children are de facto refugees and that to deport them into a life-threatening situation is a human rights abuse in violation of United Nations covenants.

Hungarian Ambassador Paul Tar said high-level officials are trying to resolve the case before the May 23 deadline. “I don’t think that under the circumstances [sending the orphans back to Romania] would be the best solution,” Tar said. “In this particular case, the best interest of the children is that they should be allowed to come to the United States.”

Mary Beth Seader, vice president for policy and practice for the organization in which Pierce serves as president, said 1 million to 2 million American families and individuals want to adopt children. Seader said that 50,000 domestic children are adopted each year at an average cost of $9,000, and 6,500 foreign children are adopted annually at an average cost of about $15,000.

Seader said “millions” of children around the world are in need of adoptive families, but many couples and individuals do not adopt because they can’t afford the initial cost.

Washington Post article
September 5, 1992

Course Work in Compassion

Graduate Student Organizes Missionary Efforts for Orphans

by Carey Kinsolving

Although Christine Carr is a year shy of meeting the requirements for a doctorate in education from the University of Maryland, she already has gained major points in courage, charity and compassion through her work with children in Central America.

Carr’s credits include washing 100 sheets by hand; removing a bean from a child’s ear with tweezers; scrubbing uncounted lice-infected heads; treating eye sores; surviving a hurricane; learning Spanish; going without electricity, running water and toilets that flush; riding buses packed with people, packages and animals; and enduring the dengue fever.

Carr describes her spiritual odyssey this way: “Eleven years ago I said with conviction, ‘Jesus, I believe.’

“Eight years ago I said, ‘Here I am, Lord, send me.’

“Four years ago I said, ‘Okay, Lord,’ so I began freeing myself from professional and financial obligations so that I could serve in an orphanage outside of Managua, Nicaragua.”

With no mission boards, support team or co-workers, Carr landed in a war-torn country where the Sandinista government was hostile to “Yankees.” But to the orphans, some of whom had distended stomachs due to malnutrition, Carr was more than welcomed. She was loved. The children’s clinging hugs and bright faces were all Carr needed to know she was where God wanted her.

Carr describes her mission as threefold: To share the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection and to demonstrate the principles of the Bible as a way of life; to meet the basic needs of the children, thereby increasing their ability to learn; and to provide teacher training in host countries.

Since 1988, Carr’s organization, Heart of the Matter, which she operates out of her one-room studio in College Park, has shipped clothing, school supplies, personal hygiene products and medicine to schools and orphanages in Guatemala and Nicaragua. Much of the clothing comes from children in Washington area schools who donate what they have outgrown.

Carr has spent the last three months training 300 teachers in and around Guatemala City. “The teachers have told us how grateful they are for the training, because they no longer are just dictating information,” Carr said by telephone from Guatemala. “Now the children are learning and participating.

“Our emphasis is teaching [teachers] how to teach children how to use the values that are expressed in the Bible to make decisions and how to apply them in real situations.”

Friends often join Carr in her studio near the University of Maryland for prayer. Or they attend packing parties at her parents’ house in Odenton. After boxes are packed for shipment, the group prays that somehow the boxes will reach their destination.

This time, however, Guatemala-based Avia Teca Airlines flew 46 boxes of clothing, medicine and school supplies for Carr’s summer mission at no charge. Such supplies are put to good use in the village of Coban, 250 miles east of Guatemala City. Seventy-five children meet in a bamboo shack with a dirt floor on the side of a mountain, and the typical first-grader is 10 to 15 years old, Carr said.

That Carr is a determined woman becomes clear to all who cross her path. Her intensity and enthusiasm are so compelling that a lunch with a journalism graduate student left the student almost ready to abandon her studies to join Carr for this summer’s expedition.

The grad student’s eyes began to swell when she gazed at the smiling faces of children in Carr’s photographs. The student, who asked not to be identified, said she felt that a stint with Carr would bring her into contact with the real world as opposed to the one created by press secretaries and political pundits.

Julie Wilkinson, 27, joined Carr on an expedition to Guatemala, and she said the experience changed her. “I now find myself back in my comfortable surroundings at home, trying to sort through all that I saw and learned in Guatemala. Like many people, it would be easier to just turn away and become consumed by the American lifestyle once again.

“But in reading my journal, I am reminded of the people we met and the 650 families we worked with who lived in wood, cardboard and sheet-metal ‘houses.’ These people were lacking the necessities of life in many areas, but these people, especially the children, still have hope and joy, and they still have their faith.”

Wilkinson, an education major at the University of Maryland, taught school in the mornings and worked afternoons implementing a health-care program for 650 families.

“I wrote in my journal that if everyone just had the opportunity to see one of these kids and look into his face, perhaps the world would be much different,” Wilkinson said. “Well, I had this opportunity, and I pray that I can live up to my responsibility.”