Video: Physician dreams of better life for orphans

By Mike Taibbi Correspondent
NBC News
updated 12/10/2005 2:37:45 PM ET 2005-12-10T19:37:45

Dr. Jane Aronson is one of those “force of nature” types. The specialty in her often noisy Manhattan office is helping couples find and care for children adopted from overseas orphanages.

“You're helping parents help kids realize their normal milestones,” Aronson says, “and grow and be happy.”

But first Aronson had to understand these kids, who often arrived in terrible shape. They were, Aronson says, “moving slowly and no emotion ... grunting like a little creature.”

So in the early 1990s, as her home videos show, she visited many of the orphanages feeding the overseas adoption trend that was approaching 20,000 children a year. She observed the grim realities. And she took lots of notes on what it would take to help these kids catch up from what she calls developmental delays.

“I mean, I've seen almost 4,000 kids now, in person, in my practice,” she says.

She also noticed what those kids who were left behind would need in order for them to have better lives.

“There are kids over there who aren't getting adopted, who don't have a family,” Aronson says, “and I couldn't tolerate it.”

The result: the Worldwide Orphans Foundation and Aronson's “orphan rangers” — volunteers, such as Lynn Lee, who've gone to countries such as Vietnam, Bulgaria and Ethiopia to help deliver Aronson's dream of a better life for children on life's margins.

“It's a pretty amazing thing to be a part of,” Lee says.

They don't all make it, which is hard for the in-country staff, like Kebebush Demeke, who sees HIV-infected children die daily.

“I wish there was more we could do,” Demeke says, crying.

But that only pushes Aronson to expand faster and faster.

“For me, Aronson says, “what it's all about is: Let's just do the work, let's get the medicine, let me get my money, let me treat those kids. Don't talk to me about numbers!”

About the money: Spend a few minutes with Aronson and you'll know how her young organization could raise $800,000 in one night and why famous adoptive parent Angelina Jolie has pledged substantial support.

“She believes as I do,” Aronson says, “that you can make a difference.”

Aronson is also making a difference in the lives of two boys she's adopted — one from Vietnam and one from Ethiopia — but both from the heart.

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