From Poverty to Privilege: An Adoption Miracle

PROVO, Utah – Apr 20, 2018 – Through the first Ballard Story Competition, students shared how the Ballard Center classes and programs help them Do Good Better. Students from a variety of majors and backgrounds describe their journeys, impactful insights, and passions for social change. You can read more stories by following the hashtag #BallardLove on social media or by viewing our Meet the Students page.

Marieka Creek is a sociology major and the first place winner of the Winter 2018 Ballard Story Competition

As a young girl, I would often flip through the pages of old scrapbooks that documented my adoption journey from a small, impoverished village in Hefei, China, to an affluent suburb in the midwestern United States. My village was infested with pollution, disease, and overpopulation, so my birth mother left me on the doorstep of a nearby orphanage, hoping that someone else could provide for me what she could not. Along with dozens of other orphan girls, my fate rested in the hands of someone who could rescue me from a future plagued with poverty.

Fortunately, I was soon adopted by a loving mother who gave me a life full of opportunity and empowerment in America. Twenty years later, as a college student, I continued to reflect daily on my adoption miracle. Because I had been given much, I, too, needed to give. After I served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in South Korea, where I reconnected with my Asian roots and grew to love the Korean culture, I returned to Brigham Young University, hungering to make a difference in the lives of the Asian people. 

Through an introductory class to international development, I became involved with a Cambodian development project that seeks to increase public health knowledge and awareness among Cambodian youth through peer mentored discussion groups in high schools and orphanages. I learned how teen pregnancy and HIV infections afflict Cambodia, perpetuating a cycle of poverty and lack of opportunity. I also became painstakingly aware that I was the lucky one. Had I remained an orphan in that small Chinese village, I would be in the same place as many of these people I am trying to help. This thought continually swirled in my mind—What if this had been me? As we were developing our Cambodian project, my fellow classmates and I were struggling to find funding to bring our peer mentored discussion groups to the Cambodian youth. After many dead ends and little progress, we began to feel hopeless and discouraged.  

One day our team stumbled upon the Ballard Center’s Y-Prize Education, a competition where students can win money to enact their solution for education in developing countries. The Y-Prize instantly renewed our hope and opened our eyes to the possibility of implementing our development project in Cambodia. Competing for Y-Prize money has motivated and enabled us to find partners and contacts, prototype, and secure valid test locations where we can implement our intervention. Before we learned about the Y-Prize competition, we felt like a ship without a rudder, with all the equipment ready but little direction to move our project forward. However, through Y-Prize, we feel empowered to actually impact the world as we seek to go to Cambodia this summer to implement the Cambodian peer mentor groups among the youth. Not only has the Ballard Center’s Y-Prize competition given me a glimmer of hope for our project’s sustainability and impact, but it has also become an opportunity for me to empower and serve those who still languish in an impoverished fate from which I miraculously escaped. 

Marieka Creek
Marieka Creek is a sociology major and the first place winner of the Winter 2018 Ballard Story Competition.

Media Contact: Alicia Gettys (801) 422-9009
Writer: Marieka Creek