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Adopted brothers from Sierra Leone are experiencing many 'first moments' with Waxhaw family

Joe Walker went to Sierra Leone to meet some of the neighborhood kids. He quickly fell in love with two brothers who soon became a part of their family.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A video of a Charlotte teen celebrating his first birthday in America is quickly going viral on social media. 

Jamie Walker, Abraham Walker's mom, posted the heartwarming moment on her Facebook page hoping to share some of the joy she felt with the rest of the world.

"It's been crazy, totally unexpected," Jamie Walker said of the viral video. "We have been trying to film as much of their firsts as we can since they've arrived,"

Abraham, and his older brother James, were adopted by the Walker family at the end of October 2021. Their father, Joe Walker, took a trip down to Sierra Leone with his friend who started an orphanage there.

Credit: Walker family photo

"It was their 10-year anniversary. And I wanted to go play with the kids. I wanted to see what was all about," Joe Walker said. 

While over in Sierra Leone, Joe Walker said he played a lot of soccer and read a lot of books with the local kids. That's where he first met James. 

"James and I formed a really close bond," Joe Walker said. The Walker family began sponsoring James and was able to Skype with him every month. 

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"So we were able to maintain a relationship," Joe Walker said.

Unfortunately just six months later, as Joe Walker explained, James was forced out of the orphanage. 

"But I got him a phone because I wanted to stay in touch," Joe Walker explained. Joe Walker was able to meet James' little brother Abraham when James went back to his village.

So the Walkers Facetimed the brothers every day for 30 days.

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"And we knew that if they didn't get back to the orphanage they were going to be put back on the streets," Joe Walker said.  "And so we put a team together."

Through that team, Joe Walker was able to get the two brothers reunited and sent back to the Raining Season Orphanage. 

Joe Walker immediately hopped on a plane to Sierra Leone to visit James and Abraham. 

"And by then we had formed this really special connected bond," Joe Walker said. "And I came home from that trip and said to my wife, 'I just feel like there's more being asked of us.'" 

Joe Walker and his wife Jamie Walker sat down with their four kids and discussed the possibility of adopting James and Abraham. It was an immediate and unanimous yes. 

Then the pair asked the brothers if that was something they would be interested in. 

Credit: Walker family photo

"And we told them that they weren't allowed to answer us that day," Joe Walker said. "We asked him to think of all of the positive things and then to think of the things that would be really challenging and hard."

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When asked what part of the process would be the scariest for him, Abraham said the plane ride. 

But the two brothers were really excited and as quickly as the conversation came up, the Walkers were getting the adoption papers ready. 

"They were really excited and they wanted to be a part of the family and know what a family was," Joe Walker explained. 

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During the adoption process, COVID-19 hit, and a travel ban put in place meant the Walkers couldn't travel to Sierra Leone. 

Joe Walker said the second COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, he was on a plane to see his boys. 

"I got back over there and was visiting with them and that's when we got the notice from USCIS that it was time to actually go back and pick them up," Joe Walker said. 

So Joe Walker flew back to Sierra Leone a month later the boys were officially home. When asked what he loved most about America, Abraham said everything. 

It's really, really fun," Abraham said. "And getting used to the weather, the food and some of this stuff. It's kind of a new experience for me. And it's also nice."

Joe and Jamie Walker said it's amazing to watch the two brothers experience their "firsts" in America like car washes, Christmas and birthdays.

That's where the viral video of the birthday celebration comes into play. Joe and Jamie Walker wanted to make sure Abraham's first birthday cake in America was extra special. 

When the cake came out, Abraham was unable to control his emotions. He was just overwhelmed with joy.

"It feels like a joyful in your life," Abraham exclaimed. "Because that was my first birthday cake since I was born with my name."

Abraham said back in Sierra Leone they don't even celebrate their birthdays. 

"So here that was my first birthday cake. And so it blew my mind when everybody was like close your eyes," Abraham reminisced. 

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The viral video on Facebook has racked up more than 50,000 interactions and has earned over 700 comments. 

When asked why they think the video is taking off the way it is, the Walkers said people are just looking for a little happiness right now amidst all of the bad news.

Credit: Walker family photo

"I just think we're looking for authentic, joyous moments," Joe Walker said. "And I think this was so pure. It's a reminder of how the simplest things can be super impactful to people." 

The Walkers said in Sierra Leone, they don't put a lot of care into record-keeping and said because of that they believe their birth certificates are not accurate. The Walkers can't pinpoint the exact age for the boys but said  Abraham is in 6th grade and James is in 9th grade. 

Contact Meilin at mtompkins@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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