Lisa’s Journey of a Lifetime: One woman’s search to find her biological mother in Colombia

By Arjun Harindranath May 1, 2018

Lisa Vander Eecken’s Facebook video on the search for her biological mother. 

Despite having a Belgian name and Belgian parents, Lisa Vander Eecken never felt completely at home in Belgium. Growing up in the small village of Teralfene, a half hour from Brussels, the 23-year-old educational sciences student always wondered if her true place in this world might be in Colombia.

In 2011, at the age of 16, Lisa went on a family vacation to Bogotá to find out. The truth dawned on her the very moment she got here. “The first step that I took out of the plane…I just knew I was back home,” she said. “It was really weird for me because I’ve never really had that before. It was so strong, and I related to Colombians immediately.”


Lisa wasn’t always Lisa. She was born Sandra Sanchez in Bogotá and, along with her brother Óscar, was put into foster care at a young age. In 1997, Jean-Marie and Marleen, a Belgian couple unable to have children of their own, decided on adopting two children from Colombia. They arrived in Bogotá full of hope that the adoption agency, Á la Croisée des Chemins, could connect them with children that would complete their family. They found Sandra and her younger brother Óscar, and they brought them to Belgium as Lisa and Andres.






Unlike her brother Andres, Lisa’s desire to know about her origins raised many questions that she needed answered. “She always asked about her biological parents and we didn’t know enough to answer her questions,” Lisa’s father Jean-Marie told us. When the family decided to finally fly to Bogotá in 2011, they were able to meet with the original foster parents as well as the woman who brought them to the foster home. And although Lisa had no memories of her first four years, she stepped into the foster home and certain features–the stairwell, the odour–seemed familiar, as if from a song she’d long forgotten.

When Lisa turned 18, she was able to return to Bogotá, this time alone, to find out more about her mother. On becoming an adult, she was able to access documents that would provide clues to her past. Her documents included pictures of both her and her brother as children as well as their mother’s name: Nidia Patricia Sanchez.

Four years later Lisa became a mother and a new sense of urgency took over in the search for her mother. Her baby boy is almost 2 now and, assisted by her boyfriend Rodgers, she’s given herself a further year to find her biological mother by way of a social media campaign called The Journey of a Lifetime. On Sunday morning, she reached out to us to get the ball rolling on her search.


Nidia Sanchez was around 19 when she gave her children up for adoption. Lisa was alarmed to find out that, in addition to being an alcoholic, Nidia had been abusive and negligent as a mother. “But I believe that in there somewhere she’s still a strong person,” Lisa told us, “Because it would be really hard to just leave your kids. Me being a Mum, I would not be strong enough to do that.”


Lisa has little more than a name to go on with her search but she’s certain of what she might expect to see if she was successful in finding her. “I’ve got a little dimple when I smile I like to think that maybe I have that from her!” She’s also certain of what she would do when she does finally find Nidia Sanchez. “I don’t think I would say a lot. I would just give her a really long and big hug and maybe just tell her that, after all this time, I still love her, unconditionally.”

If you have any information that may help Lisa on her search for her biological mother, Nidia Sanchez, you can contact her directly on her Facebook page or email her at [email protected].