"I quit university to adopt my brother and sister."

Jemma Bere made a quick decision that would change the course of her family's life when they were in dire straits.

"I quit university to adopt my brother and sister."

Jemma Bere made a quick decision that would change the course of her family's life when they were in dire straits. Jemma was able to focus on her two half-siblings, at a time when most people are too preoccupied with careers and relationships.

Jemma's childhood was not typical.

She recalls that she used to spend a lot of time sleeping in a sleeping bag looking up at the stars.

The family, crammed into their Land Rover blue and white, had traveled from Bali through Malaysia to Thailand in the Land Rover.

Jemma states that her mum was a free spirit. "She believed it was a wonderful experience to be educated in the process travelling and meeting new people.

Jemma was able to speak many languages by the age of 10. The family lived on a small, shabby sailing boat off the coast of Turkey for a year. After her mother broke up with her husband, Jemma and Calvin, four years old, returned to Powys in Wales.

Jemma says that Jemma believes her mum liked the idea to have a cottage in the country with many children and dogs and roses at the front. "And she was very close to my Nan, so we returned to Brecon."

Jemma had just completed her GCSEs when Jane, Jemma's mother was pregnant. She married a bricklayer known as Shakey and they had a son and a daughter, Alex and Billie. They were 14 and 15 years older than Jemma.

Jemma states that Shakey was charismatic and they shared a real love. "But he did drink quite often."

Shakey enjoyed a pint after work, sometimes several pints. Jane would worry when it got late. Jane would try calling him but he wouldn't answer or there wasn't a signal. So she got in her car and went looking for him. Jemma was left to care for the children.

Jemma said, "And I wouldn’t know when she was returning."

Everything began to fall after Jane started drinking heavily.

Jemma states, "When I returned from school, there were things that wouldn't normally be done - cleaning up the kitchen after breakfast, these sorts of things had been left over all day."

Jane and Shakey then decided to move to Andalucia, Spain, while Jane was studying for her A levels in 2001. Due to Shakey's drinking, they had been in financial trouble. There was plenty of work for bricklayers.

Jemma states that she believes it was a fresh start. "From what I could see, the first few months were really good."

Jemma, who was in Wales with her Nan, thought she might move to Spain to finish her exams. Calvin, Calvin's younger brother, moved to Wales to live with his father.

A few months later, devastating news came: Jane was in an accident on the road.

Jemma attempted to call Shakey for more information, but she was unsuccessful. In desperate need of information, Jemma used her A-level Spanish and called all the hospitals in southern Spain to locate her mother.

Shakey was not in his best mood when Jane finally managed to talk to him. Jane was walking along a quiet street when she was struck by a speeding truck. He said that Jane had died. She was only 40 years old when she died in a matter hours.

Jemma states that she felt "utterly, utterly lost." "It was like I was at sea, without any anchor, compass, or anything."

Shakey and Billie returned to Spain after Jane's funeral in Brecon.

Jemma said that "that surprised quite a few people", but she believes part of it was because his mum was happy there.

Jemma was still open to the idea of joining them in Spain. However, she had passed her exams and now has other options.

She says, "And I decided that I would go to university - partly as I believe that's what my mom would have wanted."

Jemma would search for the cheapest flight to Spain every holiday, giving her friends at uni the impression she lived an extravagant lifestyle. She says, "It wasn’t quite like that."

The children and Shakey lived in a small community. Everyone knew him as he was a frequent drinker, and he ran up huge bar tabs around town. It was clear that he wasn’t managing well when Jemma visited. He would work as a builder and then spend his entire earnings at the pub. Or he'd disappear for days after smoking. He was unwilling to seek treatment, even though he had become more dependent on alcohol.

Jemma recalls that they had many arguments when Jemma went out. He wouldn't admit that he had any problem, and he was totally in denial."

"I believe he believed he was doing his best in extremely difficult circumstances. He spent more time at the pub than with his children.

Marisa, the nanny Shakey hired to look after Jemma's children during term time, kept everything in order while Jemma was at University.

Jemma says that she made arrangements for the children to attend Spanish school. "She was absolutely amazing, she loved them, and she arranged it."

Marisa was informed by her mother that she was unwell. She had to go back to Argentina immediately.

Jemma received a call a few weeks later confirming that Alex and Billie were now in her care.

She says she was "heartbroken" but not surprised.

Jemma went to Spain right away. Shakey had to stay sober for three month, have a steady job for at least the same time, and buy a house in order to get his children back.

He was behind on his rent, and had lost his home after the children were taken from him. Jemma helped him to find a job, and a place where he could live. She couldn't get him off of the alcohol.

Jemma states that he knew he was an alcoholic, but he never admitted it to me. "He couldn't stop."

Three months later, Spanish authorities informed Jemma that Alex and Billie would be placed for adoption unless someone in the family was able to care for them. It was not possible to guarantee their safety or that they would be reunited with an English-speaking family. Jemma may not be able to see them again.

"And I heard myself saying to myself, "Well, I'll take care of them then - send the forms to me."

Jemma hung up the phone and began to wonder what she had done.

She says, "Not whether it was right or not, but whether I felt the right person to do so." "I was concerned about taking them away form a language or a culture they knew... Adoptees usually have lots of money and nice homes. I had nothing."

Jemma's family was shocked at what Jemma had signed up for six months after she graduated.

She says, "They were so mad at Shakey that they didn't understand why I had to throw my life away to fix a problem he created." "They used that phrase, but I didn't see it that way."

Jemma was just 23 years old, and many people worried that she didn’t know what she was doing.

The formal adoption process was complex and took a long time. Jemma was constantly warned throughout the 18-month process that took to make a decision about adoption that her chances of getting custody of the children were slim.

She says, "I was constantly being told that I wasn't going to get them because of my lack of a house or the wrong set-up or I didn’t have this, but I didn’t have that."

Jemma returned to Brecon because she felt it was the best place to be if Jemma got custody. Alex and Billie were transferred from a Spanish care home to a strict Catholic orphanage. Jemma says that the sight of nuns makes them shudder to this day.

They didn't know what she was doing.

"I didn’t want to make their hopes high. They stopped asking if they were going home at that point.

One sunny afternoon in July, Jemma was contacted by the adoption lawyer to inform her that she could travel to Spain to pick up Alex and Billie as soon she wanted.

She says, "I cannot really describe the feeling - it was either relief, excitement, fear or all of these."

Jemma was able to organize a new home and furnish it in a matter of days. Her mum had only told her to use the credit card for emergencies. She paid the same amount for the flights to and from the airport for Jemma and her children.

Alex and Billie had no idea of what was coming.

Jemma said that they were "absolutely delighted". "It was incredible, but they didn't believe it at all - they had been disappointed so many times."

Jemma, now 24, suddenly became the mother of two children, aged nine and eight years old.

Things were difficult financially. Jemma couldn’t work as she couldn’t afford childcare. She was not yet Alex or Billie's legal guardian so she didn't have access to the majority of benefits. The three of them lived on PS90 for six months.

Jemma recalls that "they were happy times", but "they were also extremely poor times."

Alex and Billie were initially glued together.

Jemma states that "one of the most positive signs was when they began arguing." "They hadn't been together for so long. That was my opinion. It was a sign they were becoming independent.

Jemma's university course on teaching English as an additional language helped them to recover most of their English. To help her children remember words that they'd forgotten, she stuck Post-It Notes to their home in English and Spanish.

"And they just started to say, 'Jemma', but now they don't speak Spanish. We speak English now.

Parenting is a very difficult job.

There are many things to do. She says that you can't stop to think about it.

The children can be quite a handful.

"There have been many times when I was head-in-hand and thought, 'I wish mum were here, because she did this to me, and I am so, SO sorry.

Jemma was granted a special guardianship order after a year, which made her the legal parent of the children. This was a significant turning point for Alex, Billie and Billie who had grown so used to being moved about that they didn't believe they would be able stay with Jemma forever.

Jemma took about the same time to feel comfortable with going out on a night, and she never thought of getting into a relationship.

She says that dating wasn't something she was interested in for a while, and only when the children were 16 years old.

She struggled with "proper mom guilt" when she began working full-time at the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority.

She says, "I was so conscious how hard I'd fought to get them here." "If I was working, or too tired to deal the way they wanted, it really hit me."

Shakey, a Spanian national, eventually returned to the UK. When Jemma visited him in 2017, he was in Swansea's homeless shelter.

She says that he had lost his spark and mischievousness. He had many regrets, I think. However, I can assure the children that their father wasn't a bad person, he wasn’t malicious, and he was very ill.

In 2018, Shakey drank himself into death.

Jemma now understands why people feel she made a mistake when Alex and Billie have the same age as her when she adopted them.

"If they said to me they were adopting two children, I would be a millionaire!" She laughs.

She is incredibly proud of their achievements.

They've been through so much. They could have taken a different path, but they are such wonderful, well-rounded human beings."

Both inherited the passion of their mother for traveling and have continued to do so. Alex spent a year travelling around New Zealand, and then became a snowboard instructor in Canada. Billie was a college student studying travel and tourism.

As time goes by, Jemma feels less like a mother and more like a sister.

She says, "I'm like my big sister, but with extra superpowers. I think that is the best way to describe it."

A second change is that strangers don't seem so confused when they meet them.

Jemma says that when they were younger, or when I was younger, people asked me how old I was. I could see them doing math in their heads and raising an eyebrow. "I told them sometimes, but most of the time I let them think as they wanted."

Jemma is 38 and has her own house. She also has less laundry to do. Although she's been in a relationship for seven year, she says that she never wanted to have children. She has no regrets about raising her siblings.

"It was the best decision I have ever made."

All photos courtesy Jemma Beere

Do you have an amazing story to share? Email lifechanging@bbc.co.uk

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