My name is Trista Goldberg and I am the founder of Operation Reunite. We are a 501 c3 that focuses on supporting Vietnamese adoptees and the process of discovering our past. We also help Amerasians in their search for citizenship and birth fathers.
I started my journey back in 2000 when I started to wonder about my heritage when my birth brother, also adopted, asked me to search for our family. It took us about three months to actually find them but it took me almost 28 years to build the courage to get to that point. In April of 2001, we found our birth family and our family continues to grow even to this day with our own children. My experience of finding my family gave me the idea to form an organization to help others in the future navigate their own search. I also found out through this process of connecting with adoptees that not all of them wanted to search for birth parents, some just wanted to connect with other adoptees with similar experiences. I was able to respect that but also tried to help them talk about their culture and heritage which was very different for most adoptees growing up in a foreign land. The internet has helped us rejoin as a group though social networks (facebook) and skype. We started having mini reunions all around the globe and then someone had a great idea of doing a reunion in Vietnam for the 35th Anniversary. We were doing weekly skype meeting and formed the planning committee and stayed true to the ideas of being there to support each other along the way. We talked about adoption issues and invited guest speakers like Tammy Nguyen Lee; producer of “Operation Babylift, The Lost Children of Vietnam”, and our group grew. Everyone also had a desire to find out more about their genealogical connections. Is it possible that we might have siblings within the adoption community? So, we brought in Family Tree DNA to help us.
We just returned from the Operation Reunite Adoptee Tour. We planned this trip for over a year and it was so rewarding to see our hard work pay off. Operation Reunite and Project Return II (Le-Thanh) organized events during this two week period. The activities included a pool party at the Rex Hotel, initial gathering at the Caravelle Hotel, tours of Saigon, District 5 and 7, VAD to be Back dinner, a bonding day at Dam Sen Park, the emotional memorial at the C-5A crash site, and many group dinners that were planned when we arrived in Saigon.
The most impressive accomplishment was to be invited on the top rated TV program in Vietnam and the coverage in the newspapers was wonderful. We launched a project called “Operation DNA” in Vietnam. This is the first ever project to reunite Vietnamese Adoptees with their genealogical lineage. Within the first hour of broadcasting live, the show received over 240 birth mothers calling in. The segment was aired three times later that week and we’re waiting to hear the outcome. Our DNA tests are the newest on the market and still in the beta phase so you can’t even get these kits without going through our DNA project. This DNA project can connect up to five generations of families with just a swap sample in the cheek area. Operation DNA will help to reunite mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, siblings and even half siblings. We hope to find funding to help include all of these people in our DNA database. We are also accepting private donations to help fund the birth mother’s tests in Vietnam. All donations are tax deducible and will help bring us closer to healing after 35 years of separation.
I wanted to comment that the trip was a collaborative effort with all the adoptees planning and making the reunion what they wanted it to be. We did it together so it made it even more special. A special thank you to Son Michael Pham (Kids without Boarders) and Tammy Nguyen Lee (Against the Grain Productions for sponsoring the tour buses for this trip. The trip went so smoothly because of the help of Chu Son and all of the press coverage via Tuoi Tre and the reunion Show in Vietnam. Thank you for everyone’s participation and we look forward to the next reunion.
Founder of Operation Reunite