How social networks made my dream come true | Gabriella Kern | TEDxPanthéonSorbonne

Translator: Catherine Dean
Reviewer: Maria Pericleous There are 7.3 billion of us on Earth. There are 3.7 billion web users, and among them, 87% use
social networks every month. Some use them to follow the news, others to play Candy Crush, or even, to find a long-lost
childhood friend. As for me, Facebook enabled me
to find my biological family. My name is Gabriella, I am 20 years old and this is my story. I was born in 1995, in Bogota, Colombia. Four months after my birth, I was adopted
by a Franco-Colombian couple. I had a peaceful childhood with
the arrival of a brother two years later. We are incredibly close. I am one of those adopted
and “lucky” children. I didn’t lose my dual culture,
or my native language. My adoptive mother is Colombian. You must have all wondered
who you looked like when you were younger. And if you didn’t think about it, there was always a caring friend
or the baker from around the corner, who looked for a resemblance
with your parents. So, you just needed to go up to the attic, to delve into the family photo albums
for an hour or two to find the answer. At around ten years old,
I had my first science lesson. We were studying heredity. The girl to my right told me,
“I have my mother’s hair.” And the boy to my left told me,
“I have my father’s eye colour.” And that evening, I went home
and I asked my adoptive mother, “Me, who do I look like?” These are some questions
I asked myself as a child, and to which I only got answers
when I became an adult. Colombian law obliges us
to wait till adulthood to begin this research. I patiently waited for my 18th birthday,
that arrived very quickly. I remember, all my friends
were waiting for something: to go to a nightclub for the first time, to get their driver’s licence. Me? I was only thinking of one thing:
finding my biological family. I started, like many adopted children, by contacting
the Colombian social services and the institution I came from. A month later, two days before Christmas, I received a file, an eight-page file. This file related my birth, my past, and there was
my biological mother’s identity. So you can imagine our Christmas that year. I had some answers
but other questions emerged. What did she look like? My head was telling me not to continue this research because it would disrupt my life
and my law studies, but my heart was telling me one thing, “What are waiting for? Go for it!” You’ve probably guessed,
curiosity got the better of me, and I continued my research. So I re-contacted
the Colombian social services. If some of you think that
French administration is slow, don’t go to Colombia. Add the seven-hour time difference to it, minutes were hours, hours were days. Two months later, still no news from
the Colombian social services. So I thought of other ways
to find my biological family. I had a surname, a first name, a town, and an approximate age. So I thought of Facebook, but it seemed so crazy to find
my biological mother on Facebook. And yet, I did. For a week I looked through profiles and I finally found a profile that fit. Here’s Diana. She is now 36. Thank you Facebook,
but what was I going to do now? I had the profile before me,
on this Febuary evening, I was overwhelmed. What would you have done? Should I friend her, poke her? We are never prepared. I decided to send her a friend request. I was sure she would accept,
or even send me a message. She didn’t, because she didn’t understand
who I was straight away. I decided to be brave
and to send her a message: “I was born on the ninth of November,
1995, in Colombia, under the name Louisa.” And she answered, “I know who you are.” And the emotions translated
into capital letters. She told me how much she thought of me, how much she thought of me
on each birthday, how much she regretted her decision. I held back and I let her write bit by bit
the pages of our new story. Bit by bit, we wrote to each other,
we got to know each other. My first words were
to tell her that I’m okay, that I live in France,
that I have loving parents, that I’m studying, and that she mustn’t regret her decision. If Facebook had not existed,
I would probably have found her address, written her a letter, sent it to her. This letter may have arrived
in three weeks or three months, or may not have arrived at all. So, I discover that I have a sister,
a year older than me. My sister discovered my existence
when she was ten. My sister, throughout
her childhood and adolescence imagined a sister out there,
living on a different continent. Alive or not, she didn’t know. Bit by bit, we talked; through Facebook,
we got to know each other. And the more the weeks went by,
the more I wanted to put a face, words, and a voice
to these two people I cared for. We decided to move to Skype, the same tool that is used
by families and friends, to keep in touch during holidays. Me, I used it to hear the voices of my biological
mother and sister for the first time after
an 18 year separation. During our first Skype chat
with my sister, this encounter seemed unreal to me. We looked like each other, we cried, we laughed at the same time. We looked for a physical ressemblance, we compared the shape
of our eyes, our laughter. We were happy to be able to enjoy the opportunity
that life gave us to find each other. I heard Diana’s voice for the first time, I finally put a face and a voice to this woman who carried me
for nine months. Through these Skype calls, I decided
to travel to Colombia to meet them. I organised this trip
with my adoptive parents. Together, we looked for
the best place to meet Diana. So, we thought
of the institution I came from. It was a way to end
this bad chapter for her, with a beautiful reunion. I decided to make this trip alone, because it’s a purely personal quest. The day of departure
and the 11-hour flight arrived quickly. I had already made this trip
with my family. With my brother, we made a habit
of eating everything that was free, of watching as many films as possible, and of sleeping. This time, I spent the 11-hour flight
without eating or watching a film, and I did a lot of thinking. I tried to imagine
this first encounter with Diana. Before leaving, I had organised
my trip and the first few days, as I like to do, and the day of my meeting
with Diana arrived very quickly. That morning, I woke up early, I went to the institution early
to meet with a psychologist and to prepare this encounter with Diana. So imagine a building with three floors with wide corridors, and in these wide corridors,
there were frames. In these frames,
there were a dozen photos. None were duplicated. What was the probability, that in leaving the psychologist’s office, a frame would catch my eye? That a photo would catch my eye? That this photo was of a young couple
18 years earlier, with a baby of four months in their arms? A tiny probability, and yet, it happened. A few minutes later,
I would be with the woman who began this story, and I knew that my parents,
thousands of kilometres away, were with me and were thinking of me. I was to meet Diana in the room
where my parents received me. This time, I actually
had to face, I couldn’t… I couldn’t duck out of it and blame it
on a bad internet connection. Diana was in front of me, she was smiling, she was beautiful, and we were relaxed in meeting each other. You’re never prepared for an encounter
with your biological mother. Do you shake her hand, kiss her,
or do you take her in your arms? Everything happened very naturally. And her first words were, “You have the same eyes
as the day I left you.” I was faced with a stranger
and yet I owed her my life. So we sat down and we talked, we got to know each other and we talked about our shared past. The day I met my sister
for the first time, we became inseparable. We laughed, we had a rapport, and we spend hours and hours
talking about our 18 years: our first loves, our first experiences, our first travels. I was again faced with a culture shock. My sister is 21 years old and she already has two children. My trip to Colombia went very fast, I got to know my new family, even though I missed my adoptive family. Today, and two years after
my trip to Colombia, I’m teaching my sister French so she can come to Europe
and make a fresh start. I have a good relationship
with Diana thanks to the internet. Nowadays, many of us
seize the opportunity of social networks to find someone we care about. Lorean and Yaqueline
are two Colombian sisters, adopted by two different families. They lost their biological parents
during a mud slide in Colombia, that killed hundreds of people. They found each other
thirty years after their loss, thanks to a Facebook video
one of them shared in order to find her sister. Since the launch of social networks,
people are searching, especially the children
of parents unknown. Hundreds and hundreds of children are looking for their biological mother
thanks to Facebook. And, like me, they want
to find their origins, to know where they come from,
to know their biological mother. But will the biological mothers who gave birth anonymously be able
to keep this legal anonymity? I’ve been trying to write
a book for two years, and in my book, I want to question the prejudices that we
so often have regarding adoption. No, it isn’t charity. No, it isn’t an act
that should only create unease. On the contrary, I’m not scared to say that I am the fruit
of two destinies of love; it’s the proof of love. I’m also here to testify
to the magic of social networks. This tool doesn’t just deal with data,
or calculations, it is used to make paths
that life seperated, cross again. Thank you. (Applause)


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