Harjinder and Geeta Kalsi had always wanted to have a child together but had struggled to conceive naturally.
Determined not to give up on their parenting goal, they decided to look into adoption, having deemed IVF too intrusive, and got in touch with Adoption@Heart in early 2020.
The agency, run by the four Black Country councils, approved Geeta and Harjinder as adopters and the eager couple had decorated a nursery ready to welcome a child home.
But tragedy struck when they both tested positive for Covid-19 in January this year.
Sadly Geeta’s condition quickly deteriorated and she died in hospital five days later.
Now her grieving husband has embarked on a fundraising campaign for adoption charities in Geeta’s memory and wants to encourage more people from black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds to consider adoption.
The 41-year-old, who lives in Bilston, said: “Geeta was the warmest, kindest and most caring person you could ever meet, she was the light of our lives. Her family have lost a sister, a daughter, an aunt. Her work has lost a colleague and a friend, I have lost my wife, my partner, my soulmate.
“We both wanted to be parents, it was her dream to become a mum, she would have been an amazing mum and when we couldn’t conceive naturally, we decided to pursue adoption rather than the intrusive procedures of IVF.
“We were so close to achieving our dream together, we had been through the process with Adoption@Heart and were looking forward to welcoming a child into our lives. We had decorated the house and created a nursery in anticipation.”
Harjinder, a call handler with Staffordshire Police, continued: “Then in January, we both became unwell with Covid, Geeta was admitted to hospital and within just a few days she passed away. It was so sudden, so unexpected, nothing can prepare you for it and I still don’t think I have been able to grieve or come to terms with it.
“When Geeta died I felt like my dreams and my future died with her. The life we were planning together as parents was over.”
He said the loss of his 45-year-old wife, who worked as a customer service manager at Tesco in West Bromwich, was still “incredibly raw”, adding: “What is keeping me going now is to do something positive in Geeta’s memory – something I know she would want me to do. I’m raising money for an adoption charity and I also want to get the message out there to encourage people to adopt – to tell them that the process is not as scary and daunting as they might think.
“Too often people think of adoption as a last resort, but I want people to think of it as a first resort. If you want to be a parent, you can fulfil that dream through adoption and at the same time give a life full of love to a child who has not had the best start in life.”
Harjinder continued: “There is a stigma with some people in the Asian community around adoption, with many people not really understanding the process and those who are worried about what others may think. In fact, it took us a while to tell friends and family we were adopting, however once we did, everyone was very supportive.
“There are a lot of fears, myths and misconceptions within the community and I want to really get the message across that adoption is for everyone, there is no stigma or shame attached to it and within the Asian community, we should talk about it and consider it as a way of enabling people to fulfil their dream of becoming parents.
“There are so many children who need families, and so many people who want to be parents, so it’s about educating people that adoption can be your first choice, not your only choice.”
A total of £2,800 has so far been raised in memory of Geeta and Harjinder hopes to raise much more by telling his story.
As a regional adoption agency run on behalf of local authorities, Adoption@Heart is unable to accept donations but instead suggested Adoption Focus – a voluntary adoption agency in the region who it frequently works in partnership with – should benefit.
Mark Tobin, Adoption@Heart’s head of service said: “Everyone you speak to at our agency about Geeta, always remembers her as a happy, friendly and caring person.
“I know the money Adoption Focus will receive will make an amazing difference to the children and families they support, helping the most vulnerable children in our society achieve a happy and secure childhood.
“We will do all we can to help Harjinder honour his wife’s memory and support Harjinder at this incredibly difficult time.”
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Anna Sharkey, chief executive officer at Adoption Focus, added: “All the staff at Adoption Focus would like to extend our deepest sympathies to Harjinder for the loss of Geeta.
“We’re extremely grateful to Harjinder for choosing to pay tribute to Geeta’s memory by raising funds for a generous donation toward the support we provide for adopters in the region.
“Adoption Focus is also fully supportive of his drive to encourage people of Asian heritage to consider adoption and are looking forward to welcoming any adoption enquiries that we receive as a result of this.”