Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Kimon's story: A Small miracle

Loving life in Brandon after being rescued from squalid streets

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He was found abandoned in the streets of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia when he was less than a year old.

The staff at the orphanage he was taken to taped a tag to his chest with the word 'small' on it, referring to his tiny size for his age.


Around the same time, several thousand miles away, Lloyd and Sharon Small had begun exploring the idea of adding another child to their family. The Brandon couple had three biological children (Jarrod, Joel and Erin) and had adopted a girl (Katherine) from Romania six years earlier.

One of their daughters, Erin, who was about 11 years old at the time, had met the children of Canadian Advocate for the Adoption of Children founders Richard and Deborah Northcott. Sharon later attended a meeting in Brandon about international adoption which was where she met the Northcotts and saw photos of a group of children including the one of baby Kimon with the word 'small' on his chest. The family had been discussing the adoption of a girl, because they already had Katherine... until Erin stepped in.

"Erin sat there and cried. He was the youngest in the pictures, about 11 months old, and Erin said to us, 'Just because he's a boy you're going to let him die!'" Sharon recalled recently during an interview at her Brandon home. "So that was it. And look at the sweetheart that we got!

"It's our Christian belief that these kids were suffering and that if we could, we should do something."

Kimon (pronounced Kee' mon), who these days is a setter with the Brandon Volleyball Club Under-18 boys' team, was adopted in June 1997 when he was three years old. He arrived in Winnipeg with a group of other African children who had been adopted by Westman families through the CAFAC agency in Minnedosa.

His first name was given to him by Lloyd and Sharon while his birth date of May 15, 1994 was assigned to him at the orphanage.

"If they didn't take me, maybe I would have gone somewhere else but I could have just died, I guess," Kimon said. "I find it so amazing that it worked out the way that it did. I just think that it's really cool that they chose me and I have this family."

The process to adopt Kimon was arduous. It took two years and a seemingly endless stream of demands for money from the Ethiopian government and the placement home where Kimon was living during the adoption process.

"Once you've started and sent thousands and thousands of dollars, you couldn't stop, you had to see it through," Lloyd said, noting he and Sharon continue to be required to file yearly reports about Kimon with the Ethiopian government. "We don't know where the money was going. The children weren't being looked after. When he came he was very malnourished. He had the distended stomach and parasites. And he didn't understand a word in English."

Now 17 years old and a multi-sport athlete who has excelled in football, volleyball, basketball and track among others, Kimon will graduate this spring from Crocus Plains Regional Secondary School as did his four siblings before him.

Older brothers Jarrod, now 29, and Joel, now 25, both played university volleyball -- Jarrod with the Winnipeg Wesmen and Joel with the Brandon Bobcats. Sister Erin, now 27, played volleyball at Calgary's SAIT college. Joel, who played with Canada's national men's volleyball team, has coached Kimon in club volleyball.

Sharon and Lloyd estimated it cost a total of about $12,000 to adopt Kimon and about $10,000 to adopt Katherine, now 20. But the couple said their adopted children have been joyful additions to their family, embraced instantly by their three other children.

Joel, 25, joked that it changed his status in the family.

"I went from the youngest to middle child which I may have used to my advantage," he laughed.

Kimon has no ties to Ethiopia -- no family he can trace -- and doesn't know if he'll ever want to visit the country.

"I'm very grateful that it (the adoption) happened. I have everything I could want here, a family, a house, a car, clothes, a great life," he said.

Sharon and Lloyd are extremely proud of the young man Kimon has grown to be -- a well-rounded individual who works hard in school and sports, self-taught in guitar, enjoys wood-working and has an easy-going personality and a quick laugh.

"There isn't a week that someone that knows Kimon and tells me what a lovely young man he is," Sharon said.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 18, 2012 C5

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