Six years ago, Steve and Kim Dunning adopted a 14-year-old girl from Moldova. Holly Dunning had not returned to her homeland since moving with her family to the United States. That is, until November 2010, when the now 20-year-old traveled back to Moldova for the first time since her departure. The trip in her own words:

“Let me begin by introducing myself. My name is Holly Dunning, formerly known as Elizaveta Eftodii. I just turned 20-years-old on Nov. 19, 2010. I recently spent two weeks visiting my relatives in Moldova, and hoping to help lend a hand with my parents and make a difference in other peoples lives the way my parents have done for me.

I could not express in words the emotions flowing through me the day I stepped off the plane for my first time back in my home country [of] Moldova. I felt a deep connection with my homeland, and a gratitude to my parents for all of the opportunities offered to me in the past six years spent in the United States.

Speaking the language at first was a challenge. I found myself struggling to form sentences and to translate words, but I knew it would only be a short time for my native language to become more familiar to me. We immediately started visiting families and kindergartens through a social worker named Lidia Jubea. She is extremely passionate about her work and does everything in her power to help out in every little way she can. I felt joy in my heart knowing that I was now able to give back, and to lend a helping hand to children that embodied me six years ago.

At first, we visited a kindergarten and it reminded me a whole lot of the [one] I had attended. I helped hand out candy to all the children, knowing how happy each piece would make them. We went and visited several families in need and we were welcomed with the warmest of hospitality. I knew in my heart that the little refreshment every family offered us was more than they could afford and that made it even more special.

While in Moldova, I had the opportunity to meet with some of the adoption officials. It was my hope to show them a positive outcome in foreign adoptions. I wanted them to see that even though an American family adopted me, it did not diminish my love and connection to my home country, but encouraged me to come back and help others in need.

Overall, returning to Moldova gave me a new perspective, not only on life in the states, but it also helped me set new goals in order to help and give back to the country of my birth. It was an amazing blessing knowing in my heart that I could ease others burdens by helping the best I could. I pray that this trip was just the beginning of many more to come.”