by Emma Fisher & Alexis McCutchan
The Archibald Project is a non profit organization that strives to give orphans the voice they need and followed junior Brooklin Harris and her family on their journey to adopting her brother from China in the summer of 2017, putting their adoption experience into a documentary.
“I think they just made me realize how much of a need there is for orphans, their motto is ‘trying to end the orphanage crisis through storytelling’. I didn’t realize how much of a need there was; they opened my eyes to that. They are just awesome people, and I feel honored to be friends with them,” Harris said.
Whitey and Nick Runyon are the founders of the Archibald Project, each inspired by the thought of helping solve the orphanage crisis. They find families that are adopting and document their experiences. Whitney had first come across the idea of adoption at a photoshoot.
“The entire shoot I wasn’t quite sure why I was there. I kept praying, ‘Why am I here? Why am I doing this photo shoot for free?’ I didn’t sense an answer, so I just assumed it wasn’t about me and kept shooting. Towards the end of the session, I asked the mom if they were going to have more children and she answered, ‘Well, we’re actually in the process of adopting,’” [Whitney] Runyon said.
According to Runyon, it was that moment that she felt called to photograph adoptions, sharing those stories with others.
“It felt like the clouds parted, and I heard a voice deep in my heart, ‘You’re supposed to go with them and document their adoption.’ So I looked at my friend and said, ‘I think I’m supposed to go with you to Bulgaria and photograph your adoption,’” [Whitney] Runyon said.
The next thing they knew, both Nick and Whitney Runyon would be on a plane heading to Bulgaria.
“It was the most beautiful and humbling experience of our lives. We were able to witness from behind our cameras a family choosing to love a boy just because. This child did nothing to earn his adoption or his family- he was chosen,” [Nick] Runyon said.
After posting the photos on Facebook from the trip in Bulgaria, the Archibald Project began to gain attention. They received a message from a complete stranger, asking them to film the adoption of their soon to be son in Ukraine.
“That was the moment when we realized the power of storytelling, to inspire people into action. We formed our orphan care advocacy 501c-3 soon after and named it after the little Bulgarian boy who’s adoption started it all: Archibald,” [Whitney] Runyon said.
The Archibald Project doesn’t just focus on Bulgaria and Ukraine- it documents adoptions from all over the world. Their goal is to not only share these families’ stories, but to bring an end to the vast number of orphans who have not been adopted.
“Since this first adoption we have traveled internationally nineteen times to work with families and organizations seeking to holistically fight the orphan crisis. We’ve learned the hard way who to trust, and who not to. We’ve learned that when it comes to vulnerable people we must investigate and ask hard questions because people’s lives are at stake, and people are worth it! We’ve seen corruption and redemption, and our hearts bleed for the vulnerable children and families who so often experience unethical standards,” [Whitney] Runyon said.
The Project’s objection is simple and their passion towards their cause enables them to put their all into their work.
“Our desire is to see the orphan crisis eliminated. This does not mean there will no longer be orphans in the world, but this means that every child will have a safe and healthy home environment where they have the opportunity to develop and thrive! And this is worth devoting our entire lives to, because we truly believe this can be accomplished in the next generation,” [Whitney] Runyon said.
Harris was interviewed by The Archibald Project throughout her family’s journey to China.
“I was super excited I had never been out of the country before and I didn’t like the plane rides, but the destination was one hundred percent worth it. When we first got there it was kinda culture shock, but it was awesome. I loved seeing another culture. We saw the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City, and that was really cool,” Harris said. “On the third day we were there we got my brother, which was the coolest thing ever. We took back the best souvenir! We went to the orphanage and saw him which was really emotional even the car ride over was emotional. It just kinda flowed after that, and I can’t imagine our family without [him],” Harris said.
The Archibald Project has given orphans around the world a forever home with families who love them, no shared DNA needed.
“The Archibald Project is using storytelling to spark and expand a movement of people to care for orphans in creative and educated ways, in order to combat and end the global orphan crisis. We have seen it time and time again. Someone will say, ‘I could never adopt…’ and then they physically see an adoption journey played out in front of their own eyes and they are able to envision themselves doing the same thing,” [Whitney] Runyon said.
The power of storytelling is the foundation of The Archibald Project. They give children the voice they need to speak out and tell their stories
“So all those kids who are hurting can go and tell the rest of the world their story, so people who may not know realize that their stories show that and can hopefully inspire other to adopt or donate,” Harris said.