December 25, 2003 - Seattle Post Intelligencer: Senegal RPCV Majken Ryherd's family is now 5 strong with latest adoptions from Africa

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Senegal: Peace Corps Senegal : The Peace Corps in Senegal: December 25, 2003 - Seattle Post Intelligencer: Senegal RPCV Majken Ryherd's family is now 5 strong with latest adoptions from Africa

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Senegal RPCV Majken Ryherd's family is now 5 strong with latest adoptions from Africa

Senegal RPCV Majken Ryherd's family is now 5 strong with latest adoptions from Africa

With latest adoptions from Africa, Seattle family is now 5 strong


"Boots off the couch, please, Bassie!





Clearly, Santa Claus was taking names in the Seattle home of Majken Ryherd and Mike James.

Should tradition hold, however, Santa will have double-checked his list by this morning and found a little slack for the family's two newest -- Bassie Leigh James, who turned 4 in September, and his little "sister," Adama Kay James, just four months shy of 3.

Caption: Majken Ryherd, Michael James and 7-year-old son Sana, rear, will share Christmas in their Wallingford home with newly adopted Adama Kay, 2, left, and Bassie Leigh, 4. Daughter Adama and son Bassie are recent arrivals from Sierra Leone, where each was orphaned by the nation's civil war. Ryherd and James adopted Sana from Guinea six years ago. Gilbert W. Arias / P-I

This is their first Christmas with presents under a tree.

Bassie and Adama both lost their birth parents in the uncivil war that, for a decade beginning in 1991, ravaged the West African nation of Sierra Leone.

For control of the nation's diamond trade, 2 million people were uprooted, an estimated 50,000 people were killed, and thousands more -- children as well as adults -- were raped, tortured or mutilated.

Bassie and Adama are among the lucky.

They emerged with someone to care for them.

Ryherd, 40, a former Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal, is chief of staff for state House Speaker Frank Chopp.

James, who turns 41 today, is a computer programmer for Safeco.

Bassie and Adama join Sana Michael Kiera James, the couple's 7-year-old, who was adopted six years ago by Ryherd and her first husband in Guinea, Sierra Leone's neighbor to the east.

In March, while James stayed home "to worry and wire money," Ryherd, her mother, Lynn Coulibaly, and Sana flew to West Africa where, for a second time in his short life, Sana experienced another dramatic change.

He became a big brother.

"Overnight he went from being an only child to one of three," Ryherd said with a laugh. "But he seems to enjoy it."

Bassie, in particular, took to Sana right away, she said, "and, really, right from the beginning both kids took their cues from what Sana was doing. We were an immediate family."

But the adoption process had not gone smoothly.

Weeks earlier, as Ryherd and James awaited word that the children's papers were in order, Bassie and Adama disappeared from their orphanage in Sierra Leone.

They had become pawns in an adoption scheme that would be unraveled only after Lynnwood resident Greg Gourley, on a Rotary Club mission of his own to Sierra Leone, was able to intercede.

Gourley tracked down the perpetrators, threatened them with kidnapping charges and brought the police to bear. When he had found the children, he called America.

"He said he was looking at two beautiful children sitting across from him on the couch," Ryherd said. "It was the best news ever."

That was on Jan. 30.

The months since have seen dramatic change in the way the two arrivals see their world.

Like big brother Sana, both children are language sponges and now chatter away in English.

What do you want for Christmas, Bassie?

"Presents and candy."

But most dramatic is their attitude toward food.

"They were very protective of it," Coulibaly said. "Any food they had they held on to. Now they are better. They are learning the concept of sharing. Not always, of course. They're still 2 1/2 and 4."

The concept will be sorely tested this morning, when Christmas ribbons begin to fly as dry leaves before a wild hurricane.

There is a package for Sana -- a skateboard.

For Adama, who loves to cook, there is a tiny play oven.

And for Bassie, who wants to be an airline pilot, there is a radio-controlled motorcycle.

There will be such a clatter.
P-I reporter Gordy Holt can be reached at 425-646-7900 or

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Story Source: Seattle Post Intelligencer

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Senegal; Adoption



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