This is a guest post from a 23andMe customer, who took a journey to learn about her ancestry.
By Alyssa Gradstein
I took the 23andMe DNA test to find out who I was.
I was adopted and ethnically mixed. I can’t count the number of times in my 30 years I’ve been asked:
“What are you?”
It stung every time someone would decide for themselves what I am. I needed to know who I was and where I came from.
I was fortunate to meet my biological mother but never my biological father, who my biological mother never knew herself. In addition to the common questions regarding health and genetics, I’d always wondered about my biological father’s background. I knew he was African-American, but I wanted to know more about my roots.
Because I’ve always wondered about myself, I often lacked the confidence I see in others who know themselves fully. I believe, to be a complete person, you need to be confident in yourself and who you are before you can be that person for others.
After taking the 23andMe DNA test, I found I was most genetically similar to people who come from Ghana in Africa. I immediately made the decision to visit. I was totally open to the journey ahead.
When I landed in Africa I felt like I’d finally come home.
When I first decided to go, I’d researched different trips and I found an organization I could wholly identify with. I discovered the Happy Kids Foundation.
I am a teacher with a decade of experience. I have always loved helping children find their own voice, their self-esteem. I want them to know how important they are as individuals. As an adopted person, I understand the feelings of neglect. I understand feeling disconnected and what it’s like not knowing your personal history. I understand that these children need extra love and nurturing. That’s why when I went on my personal journey of self-discovery in Africa, I pointed myself toward the Happy Kids Foundation.
Happy Kids was founded in 1995 in order to provide housing and schooling for orphans and underprivileged children in the rural region of Wegbe, Ghana. The month I spent volunteering at Happy Kids was unforgettable. It changed my life, forever.
In Africa, I learned about my culture, what it meant to be a member of a community, and what it felt like to work hard for the people you love. Touring the slave castles there gave me an incredible sense of empowerment and an appreciation for my freedom that I had so often taken for granted.
I am forever grateful to 23andMe. With their help, I was able to find my missing pieces. A few years ago, I didn’t know who I was. 23andMe helped me find my story
Most importantly, when people ask: “What are you?”
I have an answer for them.