Q&A: Tracy Foster, co-founder of Project Being There, which aids orphans in Vietnam

With her husband Steve, Tracy Foster helped found a local group, Project Being There, which aims to expand opportunities for orphans in Vietnam. PBT was featured on NBC Nightly News last February, and NBC will film a follow-up Dec. 3, during a PBT fund-raiser at Soho Nails & Spa. Door prizes will be on offer and a portion of sales will go to PBT.

Why focus on Vietnam?

Well, we adopted three children from Vietnam, the first, Lydia, in 2002; Noah in 2006 and Aaron in 2007.

Were they babies or older?

Babies—Lydia was youngest, 4 months old, Noah the oldest at 9 months.

Why did you choose Vietnam for adoption?

It’s a two-way street. In international adoption, every country has certain requirements—like whether you have to be married and what age children are available. Vietnam was one of the countries we met all the requirements for, like our ages. I turned 40 in Vietnam when we were there for Lydia’s adoption, and Steve’s older than I am. Also, a family friend had adopted a daughter from there and she’s just great. All things considered, it was just the right place for us.

How’d the group start?

When we came home with Lydia, while there was a group Families With Children From Vietnam, there wasn’t a chapter in our area. So we started networking and got one going, started doing things together We always wanted something for the kids to participate in, hands on, and over the years, I’ve put feelers out. And then a few years ago, I contacted a women’s group in Hanoi, and I did what I always did, telling my contact, “We’ve got a small group, and want to find something our kids could work on here and send there.” Months later, I got an e-mail: “I’ve found a group that wants your help.” It was St. An’s Orphanage, in the northern region of Vietnam. They are Catholic orphans, and the only Vietnamese orphans who can be adopted must come from government orphanages. These children will not be getting adopted. Then, too, adoptions are closed right now for U.S. citizens, have been since 2008 and may not open again for some time.

How do you help?

The first thing, we helped pay for heart surgery for one of the children. There’s no insurance or anything in Vietnam; if you can’t pay, you can’t get treatment. He had a window for getting this surgery or he wasn’t going to live. Now he’s healthy—looks great! The next thing, we built sinks. They had been washing dishes in a pond. Now they have some place to brush their teeth and wash their faces—80 orphans.

Does it feel funny to be on TV?

NBC traveled with us to Vietnam. It’s so emotional, getting to the orphanage, driving up to the gate. I had to sort of pull it together, try to answer questions with the camera in my face. But the producer, Kevin Moynahan, is just wonderful, and so is Chris Jansing, who did the questions. And now this second taping. I call it “taking one for the team,” because the last place I want to see myself is on the news, but it’s a real blessing for our group. If it can touch people’s hearts in some way—we’re so small, and all volunteer, if it just makes someone want to help us. Really, it’s all about the kids.

The taping and benefit are Dec. 3 from 12 noon-3 p.m. at Soho Nails on 11675 Parkside Dr. For more information: projectbeingthere.org

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