A Welsh woman has shared an incredible story about how she adopted a little baby found on a roadside in Turkey. Carren Lewis, who is originally from the Gwynedd town of Penrhyndeudraeth, adopted her son, Bedri, nearly 15 years ago. More than a decade on, the family now live in Pembrokeshire.
During a compelling interview with Welsh broadcaster, Beti George, on her BBC Radio Cymru show Beti a'i Phobol on Sunday, Carren talked about her decision to move from Pwllheli - where she lived at the time, to Turkey as a holiday rep following the breakdown of her first marriage.
Speaking to the Welsh-language broadcaster, she said: "I didn’t know what to do with myself - I didn’t want to go back to Penrhyn, I didn’t want to stay in Pwllheli. I was working at this caravan park in Morfa Bychan, where I would look after the swimming pool.
"Somebody told me that I would make a good holiday rep, that I was good at talking to people and enjoyed a chat. And I did think, yes - I could do that, it sounds very glamorous, it would be fantastic to live abroad and be paid for it."
'I wanted a baby, I wanted children'
Carren moved to the tourist destination of Marmaris in Turkey, where she met her partner. After the two got married, they set up a holiday business and wanted to start a family, but the couple were faced with difficulties.
Carren said: "I wanted a baby, I wanted children. But when I was expecting, I was losing every time. We decided to try IVF. It was really difficult to have a business and trying for IVF. The IVF hospital was four hours away and we would be travelling back and forth, and trying to work at the same time was really difficult".
Carren undertook three IVF treatments, all of which were unsuccessful. She described the experience as "stressful and heartbreaking". It was then that the couple decided to try adoption instead.
She explained to Beti: "We waited for a year before being able to adopt because we had put down our names but what they hadn’t explained to us was that you would only be able to adopt from that county - the county that you lived in.
"After a year, nothing came up and we didn’t know why. We asked and they told us it was because we lived in a certain county and it was a rich county, where all the tourists go to. So there was a bit of money in the area and there weren’t many children that come up. We didn’t know what to do and we didn’t want to move."
At this point, Carren admitted that her marriage was in a "bad place" and was breaking down. She decided to take a week away to see parts of Turkey that she hadn't seen yet and visited Diyarbakır in the east of the country.
'I was determined to stay and go on with my journey'
As Carren mentioned on the show, Diyarbakır is known as the "unofficial capital of the Kurdish people". She added: "I flew down there, it was such a beautiful place. There was so many children living on the streets - thousands of them, they were in groups from the ages of four to 15.
"They were all so lovely, I would talk to them and they would tell me that they lived on the streets and there was quite a lot of children there. I went back to my hotel, looked up Google and read a UNICEF program that said 120,000 children lived on the streets in Diyarbakır.
"I called my husband and told him where I was and that I had been with these kids, and he went completely nuts that I was down in the east and in a place he said was dangerous, especially for a foreign woman on her own. He demanded that I came home at once and that it was too dangerous over there. I was determined to stay and go on with my journey.
"I asked him if he could check if we could adopt here - he knew the director of social services where we lived, so we contacted him and he said he would come back to us. He contacted the next day and said there was a huge welcome for us there to see the kids".
With her husband and her mum, Carren went to visit an orphanage in the Kurdish city. During their visit, they met two babies - a girl and a boy. Carren recalled: "I was holding this little girl - she was four months old when she had just come [to the orphanage]. She had a lot of hair, these big brown eyes, chubby cheeks and a squished nose.
"Mum was holding this little boy that was called Muhammad and he was six months old. He had a dirty little nose, cross eyes and chickenpox scars all over him. But when he opened his eyes and smiled at us, it was the best feeling. Mum said to me: 'look at him, look how beautiful he is'.
'We had to choose in five minutes and we chose Bedri'
Carren and her husband wanted to take home both babies, and a day before Christmas they were told that they would be able to adopt. But when they arrived at the orphanage, they were told that they would only be able to adopt one child and that they had to choose between the two babies.
"It was a massive shock," Carren said. "I wanted to take the girl because I felt like I could give her a better life. My husband wanted to take Bedri because of the issues he was having with his eyes.
"We talked to the people at the orphanage and they said that girls go very quickly here because families feel they can give them a better life as it’s very hard for when they leave the orphanage at the age of 16 or 18.
"The reason why they didn’t allow us to take the two was because I was a new mum and they wanted to see how I would do with one, and then I would be able to take the second. We had to choose in five minutes and we chose Bedri - it was the best decision I had made."
Following the adoption, Carren found out how Bedri ended up at the orphanage. She explained: "A 15-year-old boy was on his way to school and thought he could hear a kitten crying in these boxes on the side of the road. He looked through the boxes and rubbish and there was a baby wrapped in blankets.
"Police were nearby and the boy called the police over. They took him straight to the hospital and he was in intensive care for a bit before going to the orphanage. They named him Muhammad because that was the best name to give a child in Turkey in order to protect him".
'He’s a strong boy, he’s focused'
The couple decided to name their adopted son Bedri as it was a name that was both Kurdish and Turkish, but sounded Welsh. Carren's marriage with her second husband eventually came to an end, which prompted her to move back to Wales with Bedri.
Carren, now a teaching assistant, lives with Bedri and her partner Giles in Pembrokeshire. Her son will be sitting his GCSE exams this year and dreams of becoming a nutritionist. Although it hasn't been easy for the family, Carren said she was proud of her son.
She said: "He’s a strong boy, he’s focused - he meditates and keeps himself healthy. He knows about his background. From the very start we started telling him a story but as someone else’s story and as he got older we would change the story, so that he could understand more.
"Three years ago, we decided to tell him the whole story. He didn’t want to go back to Turkey… but this year Bedri has decided he would like to go to Turkey for a week this summer to see his dad and his family. I am so happy about that - it’s so important. I’ve told him everything about the history of Turkey, we watch Turkish films, and listen to Turkish music in the house. He is very proud of his background and that he comes from Turkey, even though he calls himself Welsh, he’s also proud that he is Turkish."