The charity helping adoptees to connect and share their stories

Alex Gilbert never set out to connect fellow adoptees around the world. But after feeling a lack of connection to fellow adoptees during his own experience of searching for his birth parents back in Russia, he was inspired to create a community to help others in a similar situation.

The result is I'm Adopted, a support network enabling adopted people to connect with each other both online and face-to-face and share their stories and experiences. 

I'm Adopted is one of the inspiring charities chosen to take part in Z Energy's (Z) Good in the Hood campaign for 2023. Good in the Hood supports local community groups by giving them a share of $1 million to do good in their neighbourhood.  

Gilbert says he was "really, really pleased" when he found out I'm Adopted was chosen to be part of Z's Good in the Hood campaign "because it shows you that adoption, and providing a support network to those who need it, is important". 

Born in a town in the north of Russia, Gilbert spent the first two years of his life in an orphanage before being adopted by a Kiwi family and moving to Whangārei. 

And although his parents were always open about the fact he was adopted, Gilbert, 31, says it wasn't until his late teens that he had a yearning to track down his birth parents.  

"As a child, I was never interested and I didn't want anything to do with my blood culture in my birth country," he says. "But then I grew curious later." 

Alex Gilbert with his birth mother Tatiana in 2021.
Alex Gilbert with his birth mother Tatiana in 2021. Photo credit: Vera Kuzmina

Gilbert eventually reconnected with his birth parents in 2013, at the age of 21. Since then he has learnt to communicate in basic Russian and continues to "build those links" with his birth family, although admits his connection with his birth mother is "not strong at all".

Despite managing to successfully track down his birth parents, Gilbert says the process of finding them and reconnecting was not always easy, and at the time it felt like there were few people who understood what he was going through to help him along the way. 

"I always felt like I just needed some help, I needed to reach out to a community," he says. "I really needed that sort of community to be there with me because I would have probably felt more prepared."

It was that feeling that inspired him to start I'm Adopted in 2015. 

With thousands of followers on social media, I'm Adopted is a thriving community where adoptees from all around the world can come together to share their stories and experiences about what it means to be adopted.

The charity acts as both a first port of call for adoptees who "don't know where to begin" and a hub for others already deep in the process of reconnecting with their roots. It also provides a safe space for people to get emotional support from other adoptees during the more challenging aspects of the process. 

"A lot of adoption journeys are not all amazing," says Gilbert. 

"It's going to have good and bad points and there's going to be parts where it's really difficult. So that's where it's good to turn to a community and have peer support to help you along the way."

Gilbert says it's not uncommon for some adoptees to feel like they are "left out of the puzzle", with a lack of information available about their birth families, or to have questions about their own sense of identity. 

"There's a lot of different elements within your journey and in research," says Gilbert. 

"And you're never going to be 100 percent satisfied." 

Alex Kuch (left) who is a Romanian-German-NZ Adoptee with Alex Gilbert at the Z Energy morning tea for Good in the Hood.
Alex Kuch (left) who is a Romanian-German-NZ Adoptee with Alex Gilbert at the Z Energy morning tea for Good in the Hood. Photo credit: Supplied

And while Gilbert will occasionally help people track down their birth family - such as in the TV show Reunited, which Gilbert hosted - he hopes that searching for birth families is something he can do full time with I'm Adopted down the line. While the charity does provide a number of resources on its website guiding people in the right direction, the emphasis is on connecting adoptees so they can help support and inspire each other.

One way in which the charity has been doing that recently is through "An Adoption Story", a video series where adoptees in New Zealand and abroad share their stories. 

"Not everybody is adopted, of course, but somebody may know somebody who is, and having that support from Z Energy has just been great because it helps spread the word."

This year, Z will surpass the $10 million milestone in donations to community groups and charities throughout Aotearoa New Zealand since 2011, largely enabled through its Good in the Hood programme.    

Article created in partnership with Z Energy.