Oleg Lougheed, 27, was adopted from Russia at the age of twelve years old through Hands Across The Water’s international adoption program. More than a decade later, Lougheed is working as a motivational speaker and in 2017, founded a non-profit organization and podcast called Overcoming Odds, a platform for adoptees and foster youth to share their experiences, embrace their own individual journey, and to learn that they are not alone.
“I am driven by a passion to create a space where we can understand each other,” said Lougheed.
Despite overcoming adversities and obstacles as an international adoptee, Lougheed noticed a trend among other adoptees from similar backgrounds who struggled to make it through the barriers that he once endured and ultimately, wanted to determine what factors helped to influence his own journey.
The mission of Overcoming Odds is to help other adoptees live a better life, despite their hardships and misfortunes. Through storytelling and shared experiences, Overcoming Odds restores a sense of community and belonging, provides a safe place to develop one’s individual voice and connect individuals through unique life circumstances.
Within weeks of launching his website, he received over 100 stories from people all over the world who were adopted internationally. People began to reach out, looking for a place to be seen, heard, and valued— a place to share stories without judgement.
“In hearing other people’s stories, I am also healing myself. I choose to see myself in other people’s journeys. That helps me to stay aligned with what I am trying to do,” said Lougheed.
His message to everyone is that we all have a choice in the life that we want to live and the future we want to hold. The labels that society and individuals in our life may place upon us are not who we are, they may be a part of our story, but one part of our life doesn’t limit our identity, explained Lougheed.
“I am on a mission to make sure every orphan knows that they are more than just a word. Every single one of us is more than a label that we choose for ourselves or is chosen for us by someone else. Words have meaning and words are powerful.
Regardless of the circumstances that we were born into, our path does not define our present and it doesn’t have to define our future, there’s another opportunity for you to create the life that you want to have.”
We can relate on the larger elements that impact us; depression, anxiety, common emotions and hardships, and these emotions provide a basis for us to empathetically respond to each other based on shared emotional experiences, even if our lived experiences are different.
As this platform grew, Lougheed began to hear from people that did not have experiences that included foster care and adoption and realized how many commonalities he had with others with marginalized identities and could empathize due to their own hardships and untold stories and experiences. He believes everyone can benefit from these messages.
“It’s something that I choose to pass on to every single person, You never know where they are along the journey, you never know what battle they’re fighting, you never know what they’re wanting to express, but If you give them the opportunity that’s when you allow something great to happen within their lives.”
In the past year took the next step forward to create an additional element of support and host events around the country for people to feel like they’re not alone, that there are others who have been in this journey. Inspire hope and empower them along the way.
To learn more about Oleg Lougheed’s story and his podcast Overcoming Odds, visit https://www.overcomingodds.today/.
As part of his journey, Lougheed reconnected with Hands Across The Water three years ago to take a step forward with his story of being adopted from Russia at the age of 12. Along with influencing his own growth, Lougheed decided to return to HATW and thank the people involved of his adoption.
He wanted to reconnect with the people who helped him to get where he is today and explore his roots, but also hoped that sharing his experience as an adoptee could assist parents who are building their family at HATW.
“In order for you as a prospective parent to make the best possible decision when it comes to your adoption, you must able to know as many sides to that [child’s] story as possible.”
As a motivational speaker and entrepreneur, Lougheed often speaks about his personal challenges of integrating into a new family, culture, language, and friend group. In 2018, he shared his story during a Tedx Talk at Kent State.
You can hear his Tedx Talk here (insert hyperlink) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D6WuBhe9ajk.
The most important thing he has learned, said Lougheed, is that adoption helped him redefine certain things, one of those being family. It helped him redefine what it means to have a family, and most importantly that he has a choice of who to have in that family.
“My definition of family has been expanded and I’m a firm believer that my family does not only consist of what I was born into or those who adopted me… my family also includes my closest friends and supporters, people that walk alongside me on this journey.
Adoption on a principal level helped me understand that there’s a choice, that family is a choice that I can make. The other thing that I’ve learned through adoption is that it …gave me an opportunity that let me be a part of different environments that I could be a part of.”
Lougheed believes that adoption gave him a second chance to look at life and see that he could “flip the script and change some of the outcomes.”
“For me, I don’t look at adoption as the ultimate event that shaped who I am. Adoption, along with many other events, has been part of who I am, but at the end of the day, if I’m asked ‘Who are you?’, I would say that I am a culmination of all the events that occurred through my life: the good, the bad, and everything in between. Because everything molds who you are, and that’s how I choose to look at it. There is no good or bad…everything is an event, and everything has the capacity to show me ‘What can I learn from this and what are the takeaways?’. Adoption was an opportunity for me to start my life over again but there are no guarantees.”
Lougheed looks at the influence of personal characteristics, community connections and support, and mindset as factors that heavily impact individual success.
“I think that is the biggest message we can pass on to people: it’s possible, no matter what age you are, no matter what you’ve been through in life, it’s always possible to either look at a situation differently, or develop a different perspective, or to meet someone along the way that can help shine a light that you can do it. The biggest thing we can do is inspire each other that we can do it, no matter what we’ve been through, we can do it.”
Want to share your own story of overcoming obstacles? Please visit https://www.overcomingodds.today/your-story.