Meet Tess, WACAP’s Youngest Volunteer

Four-year-old Tess Ketarkus was found in Xi’an, China in early 2011 and adopted by Joe and Becky Ketarkus in November of 2012.  She is the ninth of ten amazing Ketarkus Kids.  Tess was born with a congenital heart defect that required two incredibly complex surgeries.  Her mom is a wonderfulTess volunteer for WACAP‘s China Program as a Parent Advocate, working to spread the word and answer questions about children who need families. Tess always works alongside her mom.  After Tess’ most recent heart surgery, she was given a job of her very own.  This job turned out to be incredibly important to Tess’ recovery.  It gave her a purpose with a cause she loves– helping waiting children.

Tess’ volunteer task is to give pseudonyms to some of the children who are waiting for their families, so that they can be posted on WACAP’s secure waiting child website. Tess takes this job very seriously and sometimes has to really think about the child and their name for a very long time.  She keeps a baby name book near her bed, and a running list of possible names.  Her mom shows her the child’s picture and often she’ll run off to “think about it.”  Later, she’ll come back and say “I’m ready to give my baby a name.”  Sometimes, Tess’ babies are older than she is.  When asked about this, Tess said to her mom “that’s okay, they can be my babies until they’re someone else’s.”  She doesn’t care if they’re two or twelve, they’re all “her babies.”

Tess recently sat down with her mom to tell us a little more about herself, her family, and her volunteer work with WACAP.

Tess2Can you tell us a little bit about your family?

Tess: There are 10 kids in my family.  They are all adopted! (Tess pronounces it ‘da-dopted’).  I like playing with all my kids.  I love them so much.  I don’t like it when they go to school, but pretty soon, they won’t.  Because it’s ALMOST SUMMMMEEERRRR!!! *insert shrieks of delight*​

How did you get started with this volunteer project?

 I like to name all the babies who don’t have mamas yet.  My mom’s friend, [WACAP Waiting Child Case Manager] Lindsey, sends me emails.  ​We look at a baby name book and I pick a name.  Then, it’s the baby’s name until they’re ‘da-dopted.’  I like that when they’re ‘da-dopted’.  Did you know that Louis will be ‘da-dopted’ soon?  I saw his picture and I love him.  He’s got a mama now.  That makes me feel SO HAPPPYYYY!!! *again, shrieks of delight* Now I want baby Emilio to find his family.  Okay?

What do you like best about volunteering with WACAP?

​ I like to see the babies.  Sometimes, they look like my sister, Cate, or my brother, Bo.  They’re from China too!  I’m from China.  Do you know that?!?​  Sometimes the babies are big like my sister, Ally.  We still call them babies.  They can be their mama’s baby.  I’ll still be my mama’s baby, even when I’m growed up.  

What do you like to do when you’re not volunteering for WACAP?

​ I like to play.  I like unicorns, princesses and things that are pink.  I like to do yuga (yoga).  I go to yuga class.  Did you know that?!? ​

What are your plans for the future?

​Well…my heart is fixed now.  Did you know that?!? I had a heart defect, but it’s fixed.  So,Tess3 now I’m going to have a party.  But, not yet, and not a birthday party.  My birthday isn’t for a while.  This party is for my heart, because it’s fixed.  But, my party isn’t today.  So, maybe, I’ll just go out to lunch today.  That would be fun!  ​Did you know that?!? 

Thank you, Tess, for all the great work you do for waiting children!


WACAP (World Association for Children and Parents) is one of the largest and most experienced international nonprofit adoption and child assistance agencies in the United States. Since 1976, we’ve placed over 10,000 children with loving adoptive parents and provided food, medical care and education to more than 200,000 children around the world.
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