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25 Years of KAAN Reflections - Ellen M Heitzig

Updated: Apr 9, 2023

As we build up to celebrating our 25th anniversary, we will be sharing reflections from members of the community. In this post, Ellen M Heitzig, Korean adoptee, conference presenter, volunteer, and mental health provider, shares some of her experiences with KAAN.

How/when did you first learn about KAAN?

I grew up aware of KAAN but became involved as an adult thanks to Mrs. Hyaekung Jo, Julia Park, and Sejong Cultural Education Inc. Camp Sejong was an intricate part of my childhood and as an adult I was able to serve as the social worker on their Korea trip for several years. In 2010, I presented with Sejong Cultural Education Inc. in Albany and subsequently became involved with the youth program. Over the years, I have served as a youth program coordinator, local coordinator, scholarship committee member, and co-registrar.

What has been KAAN's importance to you?

As a child, my parents got my sister and me involved in a Korean culture camp in New Jersey- Camp Sejong. This unique opportunity to travel across the country to experience something related to my heritage and experience as a Korean adoptee was life-changing. I looked forward to the camp each summer because of the friendships the space allowed me to foster.

I idealized adoption and never thought about the complicated emotions and pain that come with it. As I continued on my adoption journey, I came to understand different perspectives and experiences of transracial adoption. I was yearning for more. This is where KAAN came in. KAAN fulfilled and continues to fulfill my desire for a space where I can process with others who may relate. I can attend sessions that open my eyes to topics I never thought about or could not articulate, and I can have conversations that provide clarity and closure.

Not only has KAAN provided me with a community, but getting involved as a volunteer gave me relationships, an outlet, and a tradition we as a family look forward to year after year. What truly led me to KAAN was the people. I am fascinated that each adoptee has their own narrative, yet there are so many parallels. I appreciate that KAAN is a space where we can share and be vulnerable. KAAN opened my eyes and helped me as I walked through my own journey as an adult adoptee. I’ve been able to unpack complex thoughts and emotions with peers who can relate as well as grow as a clinician.

I look forward to the conference each year. It is a time when my entire family can experience part of what makes me who I am. My husband and I have formed lifelong friendships. KAAN has been a key component in allowing my husband to truly understand what it is like to share a life with a transracial adoptee. The conversations following KAAN and the insight we take from the weekend are invaluable to our relationship. He gains insight, is eager to continue educating himself, and is willing to have hard conversations. KAAN has also allowed us to introduce our three children to other adult adoptees and families with similar experiences. As my children get older, I have conversations centered around adoption with them. Knowing I have an entire community I can fall back on if needed, is comforting.

KAAN provides education, community, and a space where we can be vulnerable as well as supported. There is something about KAAN I haven’t gotten anywhere else. It has been a constant in my ever-changing life.

This year marks KAAN's 25th anniversary. We look forward to continuing to connect, empower, and support members of the adoptee community for the next 25 years (and beyond!) but we need your help to do so. You can contribute to our mission by joining our 25 for 25 campaign.

Donate at this link. Suggested donations are $25, $250, and $2,500 but any amount makes an impact.

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