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Geoffrey McAllister

Bruce Bunderson's mind was racing.

Would the little Taiwanese boy who would be spending the next five weeks in his Highland home even like him? Would they be able to communicate? Did he even want to be in America?

"I can't decide if I'm more scared or more excited," said Bunderson, as he waited in the Salt Lake City International Airport to meet Yu Chen, a Taiwanese orphan. "I'm just hoping he will smile."

The smile wasn't immediate.

Yu Chen was a little shy as he shuffled into baggage claim, clinging to the six other Taiwanese children who arrived Saturday as part of Kidsave's Summer Miracle Program. Seven Utah families, including the Bundersons, volunteered to host a child between the ages of 6 and 11 for five weeks. If all goes well, the orphans will find adoptive homes as a result of their stay in America.

"We want to figure out what's best for the child," said Marilyn Bunderson, Bruce's wife. "Whether it's with us or with someone else, we'd just like to find this little boy a home."

The Bunderson clan — Mom, Dad and five children, all equipped with bright "Welcome" posters and red, white and blue balloons — huddled around Yu Chen. It was only a matter of minutes before Yu Chen was clutching Marilyn Bunderson's hand. He grinned as he swooshed a miniature American flag through the air.

Bruce Bunderson knelt to talk to him. Bunderson doesn't know Chinese. Yu Chen doesn't know English.

"I can't say a word to him," Bunderson said, with a good-natured sigh. "But at least he didn't seem scared of us."

The host families have spent 12 hours training to deal with the problems that can accompany bringing an older, foreign child into a new home. They are prepared to deal with attachment disorders, cultural differences and learning disabilities, said James Trinnaman, director of business operations for Every Child Adoption Services. Trinnaman's company partners with Kidsave to find the children, who were either abandoned at birth or come from broken homes, adoptive parents in the States.

As far as the children know, he said, they are just taking a vacation to America. If they are chosen for adoption, the children will not hear about it until they have returned to Taiwan.

"It's really just an overseas experience for the child," Trinnaman said. "You can tell a child what it's going to be like living with an American family, but they don't really understand until they experience it."

The Summer Miracle Program also gives families an opportunity to get to know a child before making the decision to adopt. Kidsave is sponsoring community activities where others interested in adopting can come to meet the children, Trinnaman said.

"I'm just excited that we can have Chin Yen in our home," said Anne Shumway, of Pleasant Grove, who is hosting a 7-year-old girl. "She is going to be a great thing for our family. We hope we can find her a forever family."

Chin Yen walked straight to her host family. She recognized them from the photos they sent to Taiwan. She eagerly pointed each person out, first in the photograph, then in real life. She proudly presented Shumway with a box of pineapple cake.

Communication didn't seem to be too much of an issue.

Did she like America so far?

Big grin.

Was she excited to stay with the Shumways?

Enthusiastic nod.

Shumway's daughter, Abby, 8, was just as pleased to meet Chin Yen.

"I'm so happy," she said. "We have a boat and we're going to take her to Bear Lake. We're gonna go tubing. She'll love it."

The little visitors have a lot to look forward to. One family planned to take their guest to the zoo. Another wanted to teach their guest to play the piano.

As for Kidsave, it has planned a family game night, a hike up American Fork Canyon and a trip to the Spanish Fork rodeo, among other things.

"America is a good place," said one little Taiwanese boy, with the help of an interpreter. "There are lots of fun things here."

Kidsave is national nonprofit organization. For more information, visit kidsaveutah.blogspot.com.


E-mail: estuart@desnews.com