Margaret Amara on Returning to Her Daughter’s Birth Country

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Last month, you read about Kelsey Amara’s travels back to Guatemala, the country of her birth. She made her first return trip with her parents Margaret and Mark in 2004 and her second as a solo journey in 2017. The Amaras were one of the first adoptive families to travel with Cooperative for Education, but there have been many more in the meantime. And now there’s a specific experience – the Heritage Tour – for families connected to Guatemala through adoption.

Some things never change:

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Kelsey bonding with CoEd staff in 2004…

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…and in 2017!

Below, check out Margaret’s perspective on returning to Guatemala!


Margaret Amara’s family journey with Guatemala started many years ago, but she always knew it would include returning to Guatemala. “When we chose the path of international adoption, we always knew we would someday take our daughter to visit her birth country,” says Margaret. The Amaras did their research, had many conversations as a family, and decided to return with their daughter, Kelsey, in 2004. “Our trip to Guatemala, when our daughter was 16, was the right age for her.” And traveling with Cooperative for Education was the right choice too because the tour was “very organized, comfortable, safe, and full of beautiful Guatemalan cultural experiences.”

Margaret says that she and her husband Mark were “observers of [Kelsey’s] discoveries,” but they did their share of participating as well. They carried textbooks, handed out pencils, interacted with students and teachers, and braved the bus rides on bumpy Guatemalan roads.

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handing out pencils

adoption heritage birth country travel Guatemala

riding those bumpy roads

adoption heritage birth country travel Guatemala

Kelsey was feeling A-okay.

But those aren’t the memories that stick out in Margaret’s mind. She remembers “the gorgeous colorful clothes the people wore. The vibrant cheerful colors of reds, greens, yellows and browns were so uplifting to our thoughts… Those cheery colors spoke loudly about the people of Guatemala and their thoughts about their lives[:] happy, vibrant, optimistic, and joyful.”

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Photo by © Rebecca Wilks, Skyline Images

Margaret also vividly remembers “visiting the schools and the students, observing the Guatemalan culture first hand, and being able to directly interact with Guatemalans” as seen in this classic ‘save-for-the-embarrassing-wedding-slideshow’ shot of Kelsey dancing with a student at a Textbook Program school. (Sorry, Kelsey!)

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Warning: In Guatemala, you may be asked to dance.

But how did this trip impact the Amara family, especially Kelsey? “After the trip, I felt that our daughter was more comfortable with her identity… I think the trip helped her in a good way in her moving into adulthood, independence,” Margaret says.

And regarding travelling with Cooperative for Education (CoEd), Margaret says:

“Our family trip with CoEd was the absolute right way to introduce our daughter to her birth country… When visiting a foreign country for the first time with their adopted child, I recommend going with a known tour group. With the Heritage Tour, the participants get to enjoy, experience, and relish in all the beauty of the Guatemalan people and not worry about anything!”


Check out Kelsey’s take on returning to Guatemala. And for more on birth country travel, join us for:

Hopes, Fears, and Psychological Development: Things to Consider When Planning Birth Country Travel

a webinar hosted by mental health therapist Tisha Way Gaynor of the International Adoption Center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Tisha will present on Wednesday, March 14th from noon – 1pm Eastern time, and anyone is invited to attend. Sign up at the link below, and don’t forget to share with friends!

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Ready to dive in? Join the Heritage Tour July 9-15!

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