AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB) — From Bogota to Buffalo, one local family shares their story of love, growth and pride in their Hispanic heritage. News 4’s Sarah Minkewicz met a couple who adopted their son from South America through the organization Families of FANA WNY.
“It was emotional because there was a lot of build up, I mean at least for me, I was getting ready that morning and I was more nervous than anything in my entire life but that all melted away as soon as they walked into the room,” said Josh Taylor, who was describing how he felt moments before meeting his son Leo.
For Josh and his wife Nina Taylor, the exact moment when they met their son was decades in the making.
This past April, the couple adopted their son Leo in Bogota, Colombia, through families of FANA Western New York. However, their journey did not start here.
When Nina was a baby, she was adopted through the same organization, in the same country, and even met her parents in the same room where she met Leo for the first time.
“There weren’t baby pictures of me in a hospital, my baby pictures were in the green room, in a little dress being presented to my parents for the first time,” Nina said. “So in my mind, that’s how I came into this world. That’s how I started, my first home was FANA.”
While growing up in Western New York, Nina still remained close to her Colombian roots.
“We’ve taken pride in adopting some of the Colombian culture and holidays into our family, whether it be some of the cooking that we try, empanadas, cheering on the Colombian national soccer team,” she said.
One of FANA’s goals is to keep those traditions going as the children adapt to their second home in America.
“They spend a week together, learning about Colombia, learning about their heritage, do things that they would be doing down in Bogota, they learn how to cook Colombian food,” said Paul Fuzak, who’s the executive director of Families of FANA WNY. “We have a fiesta at the end of the event, where the kids put on a show for all of us and the parents.”
Because of her experience, Nina always knew that when the time came, she wanted to adopt through the organization.
“We have a close tie with FANA and because I’m so proud to be Colombian, adopting from FANA, from Colombia in Buffalo was just like a no brainer for us,” she said.
Shortly after the couple began the adoption process they found out something special. Nina was going to have a baby girl.
“So we started our journey in 2019, unexpectedly got pregnant with our daughter, but picked back up after COVID and got our referral for Leo in January of this year,” Nina said.
Next was preparing for Leo’s Gotcha Day and members of the FANA community were with them every step of the way.
“There is so much that goes into it that it’s so important and so necessary through the process, that once they get to Colombia and they become a waiting family, they’re prepared for this journey and the next steps that happen,” adoption coordinator Annie Dobies said.
Annie and her husband adopted two children of their own through FANA, and on Leo’s Gotcha Day, her son Jackson was the one who presented Leo.
“It’s magical, it’s remarkable, and it’s long lasting it’s a lifetime of memories that’ll never go away,” she said. “To watch my son present that child, brought me right back to that moment.”
“It was literally a full circle moment that made it all the more special,” Nina said.
The Taylors say they’re looking forward to even more memorable moments as they raise Luísa and Leo to appreciate Colombian culture and the FANA community.
“My daughter is half Colombian and Leo is Colombian,” Nina said. “I’m excited for all of the Gotcha days, and the Colombian holidays that will be incorporated in the Bills games and the Fourth of July. There’s just so much more that we’ll be able to celebrate.”
“I always say it’s like the missing puzzle piece to our family that we wanted to have complete. He was it,” Josh said.
The orphanage in Bogota, Columbia has on average nearly 90 kids up to the age of 16-years-old. A lot of the funds raised goes toward running the orphanage. The organization also built a school in Bogota, for grades kindergarten to third grade.
“There’s nothing better than to see those kids, see them happy, see them well-dressed. To see them nourished, educated,” Fuzak said. “It wouldn’t be there without our support.”
FANA is a volunteer run organization that relies on donations.
“This organization is strictly volunteer there are no paid positions whatsoever,” Fuzak said. “So all the years that we’ve been involved, we don’t get paid or anything, we just do this for the love of our children, for the love of FANA.”
To learn more about Families of FANA and its mission, visit their website at familiesoffana.org.
Above is the original airing of this story. At the top of the page, view the extended edition from News 4’s 2022 Hispanic Heritage Special.
Sarah Minkewicz is an Emmy-nominated reporter and Buffalo native who has been a part of the News 4 team since 2019. Follow Sarah on Twitter @SarahMinkewicz and click here to see more of her work.