It was the summer of 2012 when Yale student and Chinese adoptee Jenna Cook traveled to China to search for her birth family. Accompanied by her adoptive mother and funded by a grant, Jenna felt obligated to search: She felt her birth parents needed to know how she was doing. But she also had a personal need to search.

In the United States it’s quite common, in closed adoptions, for adult adoptees to search out their roots. Often, adoptive families help in the search, knowing that the adoptee’s life can be fuller, questions answered, and hearts set at peace when a search results in finding and reunifying with families. For Jenna, even the search itself would be healing.  And it proved to be healing not only for her, but also for dozens of Chinese birth parents.

Jenna was abandoned on a street in China in the early 1990s. Abandonment was so common at the time that the government stopped keeping track of babies that were found on street corners, in shops, and elsewhere. When Jenna and her mom began the search in China, it drew such media attention that many birth parents came forward. The stories were varied, and each one was heartbreaking. Many of these parents use the word “missing” rather than “abandoned.” Their hearts have not healed. They wonder each day about the daughters they left, often with special keepsakes to bring them luck.

Jenna chronicled her experience and shared the stories of many with whom she came into contact. She was grateful to serve as a surrogate daughter, immediately granting forgiveness as well as gratitude for life. Read Jenna’s full heartwarming story here.