Category Archives: Meet-Up Monday

Meet-Up Monday: Meet Laci Zacapu, State Associate for Washington

Welcome to this week’s Meet-Up Monday post.  This week we head to the Pacific Northwest to meet Laci, our State Associate for Washington.  Be sure to leave a comment and say hello!

PH: Laci, would you please tell us how you first heard about Project HOPEFUL?
I met Carolyn Twietmyer in Ethiopia while we were there for our first adoption. Selah was with her and was so sick and I just remember being worried she wouldn’t be able to make it home. I started following Carolyn’s blog when I got back to the states so I could check on Selah’s health and that’s where I learned about Project HOPEFUL.

PH: How did you develop an interest in HIV advocacy?
I became interested in HIV advocacy after bringing my daughter who’s HIV+ home and being treated very badly when a group of people found out about it. I realized that when people don’t know the TRUTH about HIV, they will fear it and where there is fear sometimes there is a lot of anger. I wanted to join Project HOPEFUL in spreading the TRUTH.

PH: Could you share with us your own adoption story?
In July of 2008 my husband and I went to Ethiopia to pick up our daughter who was 9 at the time. While there, we met her family including her older biological sister who was HIV +. I hate to say it, but I was actually relieved her sister was not available for adoption then because I just “knew” there was no way I’d ever adopt a child who was +. I thought I’d be putting my other children and myself in danger.
After about a year of being home though, I just couldn’t get her off my mind. I’d followed Carolyn’s blog and seen how healthy Selah was now that she’d been home and was receiving lots of love and good medical care. And I thought just maybe adopting a child with HIV might not be such a dangerous thing after all.

We prayed and God made it clear that this precious girl whom I’d feared because of her HIV was my daughter and we needed to bring her home. Of course we searched the internet and spoke with doctors and other adoptive parents and the more we found out about HIV the less of an issue it became. My daughter has been home a little over a year now and is happy, healthy and thriving. I cannot imagine our family without her.

PH: What about Project HOPEFUL are you the most passionate about?
My daughter told me after a few months of being home that after we brought her sister home to America she was very sick in Ethiopia. She wondered why we hadn’t gone back for her. It was so hard to look into my daughter’s eyes and admit that fear of HIV had been the reason she was sick and alone for so long.
I am passionate about Project HOPEFUL and the work they do because I don’t want any child to suffer through life sick and without a family soley because of people’s ignorance about HIV. I love being a part of spreading the TRUTH in love so that children like my daughter can be brought into families where they too can thrive.

PH: What do you want your fellow states-people to know about HIV adoption?
That there is no reason why children who happen to be HIV+ should be waiting for a family just because of their status. That HIV is absolutely NOT easily spread or a threat to anyone living in the same house under normal circumstances. And that once you’re child is home, the HIV becomes such a non issue you’ll wonder why you ever worried about it in the first place!

Thank you, Laci! We love your passion for the TRUTH!
If you’d like to contact Laci about events in Washington, you can contact her at .  To find an associate in your state, visit .

Meet-Up Monday: Meet our Georgia State Associate, Amy Levy

Today I get to introduce you to our State Associate for Georgia, Amy Levy.  If you would like to contact your State Associate or would like to find out how to begin a State Association in your state, please contact Deanna Jones Falchook, National Associate Director at

PH: Tell us a little about yourself and how long you’ve lived in Georgia:
Amy: I am married to my high school sweetheart, Court.  We have 4 children.  Two of our children came to us through adoption and two through birth.  We have also been foster parents to 7 children who have all moved on to other places.  We adopted once through the US foster care system and once through international adoption in Uganda.  We are currently in the process of adopting a sibling group of 3 in Uganda.

PH: How did you first hear about Project HOPEFUL?
Amy:I first heard about Project HOPEFUL through Erin Henderson’s blog about her family. Her blog was my first exposure to updated,current information about HIV and I have been passionate about spreading TRUTH since that time.

PH: How did you develop an interest in HIV adoption advocacy?
Amy: It has burdened me for several years that there is so much unnecessary fear and misinformation in the US society, as well as world wide, regarding HIV and I felt very passionate about helping to spread facts and truth. It made me feel so awful that children were being passed over for adoption because of their HIV status.

PH: Can you tell us more about your family’s adoption journey?

Amy: As I mentioned before, I began to read blogs of families who had adopted children who are HIV positive.  I supported them and spread the word about their families, their adoptions, and facts about HIV in general.  But honestly, adopting children who are HIV positive was something other people were doing. Then we began the process to adopt in Uganda and heard about a little girl who needed a family and she was HIV+.  It hit us like a ton of bricks.  I had been advocating so loudly for these children when it wasn’t a reality for ME.  Suddenly it was real for ME.  My husband and I met with a doctor who treats children who are HIV+ in our area and asked all of our questions and had so much peace after our meeting.  We decided to move forward with adopting this little girl and as they say, the rest is history.  I cannot imagine our life without her in it.

PH: What about Project HOPEFUL are you the most passionate about?
Amy: Encouraging people to release fear and replace it with truth.

PH: What do you want your fellow states-people to know about HIV adoption?
Amy:I would love for people to know that much of the information floating around about HIV is FALSE.  We have even encountered physicians who do not know about HIV.  I would also love for them to know that it is so easy to get current information.  Just google “HIV transmission” and spend 5 minutes reading.  Lastly, I would love for every person in my state to know that you can  hug, kiss, touch, play with, befriend, dance with, tickle, wrestle, play soccer with and LOVE people who are HIV+ without any risk of transmitting the virus. Anyone in Georgia who would like more information can contact me at

PH: Thank you so much, Amy! We love your passion for the Truth!

Meet-Up Monday: Meet our Massachusetts State Associate, Debbie Lambrecht

Debbie Lambrecht - Massachusetts State Associate

Massachusetts’ Project HOPEFUL State Association is up and running!  Today we interview their State Associate, Debbie Lambrecht in another Meet-up Monday post.

PH:  Debbie, tell us how you first learned about Project HOPEFUL ?

DL:  My husband and I were at a family gathering and my cousin”s wife’s mother mentioned that her college room mate’s little sister(OK…Was that all confusing enough?:) had adopted several children from Romania that were positive. Their adoption had taken place during the 80’s and the kids were thriving. My husband and I were already looking at what our next adoption would look like and I couldn’t help but research positive adoptions! I soon discovered several factual sources that made us feel that a positive adoption could be in our future…after much prayer, we discovered Project HOPEFUL and found that more of our questions were answered. We wholeheartedly pursued our next adoption!

PH: What are your favorite aspects of Project HOPEFUL’s mission?

DL: I LOVE the educational aspect of the Project HOPEFUL mission! My crew has watched the “Truth Pandemic” video more than 100 times. We love sharing it with friends! TRUTH is contagious…SPREAD IT!

PH: What about Project HOPEFUL are you the most passionate about?

DL: I am passionate about advocating for waiting children. Every child was born to have a home and 3 letters should not prohibit that God given right!

PH: What do you want your fellow states-people to know/learn/believe about HIV adoption?

DL: That it is soooo doable! A child living with HIV is not a threat to your current family and friends! Educate folks and stigma disappears!

PH: Do you have any events scheduled that you could tell us about?

DL: Lots of GREAT stuff in the works! In the meantime, if you are in Massachusetts, Email me at ! Let’s do coffee!

Meet-Up Monday: Meet our Maine State Associate, Shannon Wheeler

Today we’d like to begin introducing you to our State Associates. State Associations exist to promote the Project HOPEFUL vision: EDUCATING, ENCOURAGING and ENABLING families adopting children with HIV/AIDS within the individual states. Project HOPEFUL is looking for people to partner with to help us bring our educational workshops to your state. Associates will help plan events, develop relationships with local HIV/AIDS medical specialists, create social networks for local advocates and adoptive families, and more! If you would like to contact your State Associate or would like to find out how to begin a State Association in your state, please contact Deanna Jones Falchook, National Associate Director at

Today’s featured State: Maine
State Associate: Shannon Wheeler

PH: Hi Shannon! Thank you for taking part in our interview today. Let’s start by having you tell us how you first hear about Project HOPEFUL.

SW: The first time I heard about Project HOPEFUL was when a Facebook friend posted a news clip with Carolyn Twietmeyer’s family being featured. I was floored. I had literally no idea of the hope that exists for kids living with HIV. I was among the many Americans who still thought HIV/AIDS was a certain death sentence. I sat and cried at my kitchen counter, hearing of this hope and watching this family grow and seeing the transformation of her daughter from a sick and suffering orphan to a joyful, thriving, playful daughter. It was unbelievable. I had to see this again. I had to show my husband. I had to re-post it on Facebook. And I had to get involved!

PH: How did you develop an interest in HIV adoption/advocacy?

SW: Adoption and orphan care advocacy is what lights up my heart. As I’ve learned more about what God’s Word says about His heart for the orphan, and as I continue to grow in my relationship with Jesus, I can’t help but be ignited in my spirit with the love of Christ for these little ones. Until I heard of Project HOPEFUL, I had no idea there was such a thing as HIV adoption or ways to support little ones living with HIV in other countries. Watching for several years as my husband and I have walked through failed adoption processses of healthy children, I’ve noticed that there are so many stigmas attached to adoption in general, along lines of race, age, gender… and knowing the heart of our Savior for “the least of these,” I see a real need to advocate for those children in our world who are the ones our society says are “least,” and the amount of fear, stigma and honest ignorance of the facts surrounding HIV make this issue one that cannot be ignored. There are literally too many lives at stake. I know not all families are called to adopt, and among those who are, not all will be called to adopt a child living with HIV. But as a Christian, I am compelled by the love of Christ and the ransom paid for my own adoption into the family of God to do everything I can to obey what the Bible tells me is my responsibility: to look after orphans in their distress (James 1:27). I love our Lord’s heart for these children, for adoption, for calling those things that are not as though they are, for making families according to His design and not according only to our biology, for redeeming those years that have been lost, for healing wounded places, for grace and for His faithfulness every single time to remain true to His promise to be the Defender of the fatherless, to “place the lonely in families,” and to provide for our needs as we obey His call to step out in this area of our lives.

PH: Tell us about your own adoption story.

SW: (aka our not-yet-having-adopted story) My husband and I first began a journey toward adoption in 2006. We did a homestudy and spent a year waiting on a baby, only to get a call for a placement and then see the doors be closed by the Lord. It was our first taste of how fraught with emotion the world of adoption is. We actually conceived our littlest child the next month, so we had the privilege of immediately seeing what the Lord had planned. That isn’t always how the Lord works in our lives, though. Sometimes the waiting is long and the answers don’t come quickly. That was the story with a boy we now call our heart-son who lives in Eastern Europe and has aged-out of adoption eligibility but who we consider family and look forward to traveling next month to meet in person! In addition to spending time with him at the Christian center where he is living, we are working in cooperation with a Project HOPEFUL FIG endeavor to learn more about how Project HOPEFUL can come alongside older orphans who have aged-out and yet still need the safety, support and accountability offered by loving adults in order to complete trade school and make a safe transition into adulthood. We will also be working to develop relationships with directors of any orphanages in the area of the country we will be in who may not be in contact with Project HOPEFUL yet in order to help advocate for the children living with HIV in those facilities. Please pray for us, that the Lord will open doors of opportunity and guide our steps while we are overseas, and that He will show Himself strong on behalf of these children, as He promises in His Word.

PH: What are your favorite aspects of Project HOPEFUL’s mission?

SW: I love that Project HOPEFUL has many facets. I love the education piece, because I know that is something I have benefited from greatly and still have so much to learn. I think knowledge and education are tremendously powerful tools in tearing down walls of fear. As Americans, living in a country with access to wonderful medicine, wonderful education, and free access to God’s Word, we really have no excuse not to be educated about HIV/AIDS, and yet I am humbled and convicted that this is something up until recently I have made no effort to learn more about. I literally stopped pursuing knowledge of HIV/AIDS in the 80’s, so I really love the Truth Pandemic video, because I was SO stuck in the 80’s!

PH: What about working with Project HOPEFUL are you the most passionate about?

SW: I’m very passionate about the FIG project I’m currently honored to be working on in Eastern Europe. In August, my husband and I will be traveling to Ukraine, and we’ll be staying for a week at a wonderful Christian children’s center, where we have spent the past 20 months loving a boy who lives there as a child of our hearts, and we can’t wait to meet him and the staff of wonderful people who work there. In addition to this, we’re working on behalf of Project HOPEFUL to examine, with the input of those living in Ukraine, working with orphans, exactly how best Project HOPEFUL can come alongside those orphans who are aging-out of orphanages and out of eligibility for adoption, yet who desperately need a support system of loving, Christian adults to provide them with help as they go to trade school and transition to adulthood. I’m very passionate about this project, specifically because my family is incredibly blessed to see the powerfully positive impact such programs have on kids, like our “heart son.” So we’re working with FIG to research, network and strategize about how Project HOPEFUL can be a part of offering this type of support to older children. The statistics about what happens to children who age out are devastating, and this is a crisis that needs attention and action, and I love the proactive stance Project HOPEFUL takes in being willing to step into the places of great need and start making prayerful steps toward addressing those needs. Please be praying for us as we are gearing up for this trip!

Another thing I really love about Project HOPEFUL is the network of support offered to adoptive families on an ongoing basis. There is a lot of support needed for any family after adoption, and especially if a family is not only facing the addition of a new child but also needing to learn about healthcare for a child with HIV, and there is a lot of emotional support needed as families navigate the waters of disclosure and responses from community members and even churches and family members who may not have all the information needed about HIV and may be operating out of fear. We need to gather around families with support, prayer, encouragement and love, and I really appreciate the ongoing sense of support and community Project HOPEFUL creates through the State Associations.

PH: What do you want your fellow Mainers to know about HIV adoption?

SW: Although not all families are called to adopt a child living with HIV, we all are part of communities where there are people who are living with HIV, and even in my small-town Maine community there are families I have not met but have heard of who are parenting adopted children living with HIV, and I want to be part of a support network that operates out of love and knowledge and compassion, offering friendship and a sense of community to these families. I think much of Maine is very insulated and believes that there are a lot of issues – I believe HIV is probably one of them – that don’t impact us “here,” when in fact that isn’t the case. I love my state and my fellow Mainers, and I want to facilitate education that can help dispel fears and stigmas that would prevent any family or any child from feeling they carry a stigma or any shame. I want my fellow states-people to know that there are real children and real families living in our communities who are living with HIV and also living with HOPE. I am amazed at what I’m learning about the treatment of HIV and the hope and health and long life that is possible due to what is available medically for children living with HIV.

PH: Do you have any events coming up in Maine?

SW: The Maine Association is still in its starting stage, so there are not yet State events to announce, but I would love to keep you all up to date on the FIG project in Ukraine as it’s unfolding! I would love to have any families or individuals feel welcome to contact me at if they are interested in getting in touch about the Maine Association.

PH: Thank you so much, Shannon! We’ve enjoyed getting to know you better and look forward to seeing the State Association in Maine grow in the years to come.