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From Nepal to the United States, 4-H Reaches the Heart of One Youth

Posted: December 21, 2016

How one American mother’s desire to adopt led her to Nepal. But it was Schuylkill County 4-H’s impact that provided an avenue for her emotional support son to flourish.
Alex with two of his 4-H project rabbits. Yetti is a Red-eyed White Polish and Yuma is a Blue Polish rabbit.

Alex with two of his 4-H project rabbits. Yetti is a Red-eyed White Polish and Yuma is a Blue Polish rabbit.

Born in Nepal, now Schuylkill County 4-H member, Alex Miller, then named Binod (Bee-no), meaning happy face, struggled as an infant as his biological mother passed away early on. As a result of her death, at 16 months, Alex was placed in an orphanage and awaited adoption. He received one meal a day and played with a bottle cap for his first toy. At that time, Schuylkill County resident, Marty Miller, desired to adopt and searched for “her child”. When given the opportunity to adopt Alex, she seized her chance to make Alex her own.

The adoption process wasn’t easy and was very time consuming. Twenty-one months to be exact. During the adoption process, Marty made numerous trips to Nepal. Countless trips to the orphanage to interact with Alex, in addition to learning the culture to assist her with her son while in Nepal. Moreover she made many trips to the government of Nepal discussing the adoption. She placed him in a school outside of the orphanage in order for him to receive an additional two meals a day. Success was finally within her reach and on April 1, 2008, Alex was adopted by Marty at the age of 3 years and 3 months.

As Alex grew and acclimated to the American culture, Marty recognized that her son had emotional difficulties due to his previous life in Nepal. Alex was diagnosed with many emotional disorders which are attributed to his harsh upbringing in Nepal and his mother’s death. Marty met these needs head on and assisted her son on all levels. He received love first and foremost. Alex also received medical care and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other emotional issues. Because of his disorders at age 10, Alex received an emotional support dog named Bennett. Bennett is trained to react to emotional fits and can detect them before the fits start.

It certainly hasn’t been all about rainbows and sunshine since the adoption, but it undoubtedly has been a blessing. Alex now thrives as a young child. He attends school in the local district. Plays with his toys, friends, and most importantly, enjoys raising his 4-H project rabbits.   4-H has been an avenue for Alex to flourish and thrive since he joined Schuylkill County 4-H three years ago.

When Alex was asked what he liked about 4-H he simply replied, “Showing my rabbits at the fair and attending super 4-H’er day”. His mother agrees with this statement as showing his rabbits provides Alex the opportunity to work with others in his club as a team or to be independent and work by himself. On any given day, one doesn’t know how Alex will react due to his emotional disorders and “4-H has provided Alex with opportunities to be himself” as Marty stated.

As for Bennett, you don’t see him much at 4-H events. When asked why that was, Marty simply replied, “Because Alex feels safe in 4-H. Bennett only goes with us when Alex doesn’t feel safe”. It certainly goes to show the impact 4-H has on this particular young man.

When Marty was asked if she felt 4-H has impacted her son’s life, she full heartedly replied, “Yes, of course, I feel that 4-H has had a positive impact on Alex. We've tried so many things with Alex. Baseball, Soccer, Boy Scouts... all failures. All too judgmental and rigid. 4-H gave Alex the acceptance to be who he is. It has helped him so much to feel like he can participate. This year when he came in 2nd in 4-H Rabbit Showmanship, I think it was the most exciting day for him. He told me later that he could not believe he got 2nd because he had Hunter, his mentor, and no one else had a mentor. I told him that it was ok because with 4-H, you can have help. I was also thrilled that Alex had the opportunity to work with a mentor like Hunter. Because he loves 4-H so much, he is planning on joining the Archery club this year as well. This surprises me so much because it's new for him and he just doesn't do "new".

4-H hasn’t just affected Alex’s life, but the life of his mother, Marty as well. 4-H has provided the opportunity for Alex and Marty to connect with one another as mother and son. To share in an interest such as raising and showing rabbits as a family. Because 4-H has provided her son with opportunities, she has decided to become a screened volunteer and start a 4-H Rabbit & Cavy Club in Schuylkill County 4-H in 2017. It proves to all that participate that 4-H provides youth with endless opportunities and that everyone is accepted. 4-H is an organization that allows you to be who you are and embraces youth to reach their full potential.