10 Ways You Changed Children’s Lives in 2020

The year 2020 was truly an unprecedented one. The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we work and live, and caused a tragic loss of life and livelihood on a scale few if any of us have ever seen. But as we look back on the year, and feel sorrow for the lives lost, we also feel immense gratitude for Holt’s incredible supporters who responded to this crisis with selflessness, compassion and generosity.

Because of you — because of your kindness and generosity — 288,405 children and families in 14 countries around the world received the life-changing care and services they needed to stay strong and healthy throughout this unprecedented year. Your devotion to children in need during this time of global crisis is truly inspiring. And we’re so incredibly thankful for you.

Here are 10 specific ways that your heartfelt giving changed the lives of children and families in Holt programs last year:

Last year, we were truly humbled by your generous giving in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Early in 2020, when we told you that orphanages in China didn’t have enough masks and PPE to protect children in care, you gave above and beyond our expectations — making it possible to care for kids in more orphanages than we partner with. When we told you that lockdown measures were causing children to go hungry in countries like India and Mongolia, your donations ensured our teams on the ground could distribute emergency food to thousands of families.

Even as COVID-19 devastated our own communities in the U.S., you continued to give monthly for your sponsored child. You made sure children could continue studying from home, helped women and children escape domestic violence, helped reunite families separated by crisis and poverty, helped unite children with their adoptive families, and so much more. Because of you, Holt reached more children and families in 2020 than ever before — providing care and support to 288,405 children, families and individuals in 14 countries around the world.

For families close to travel and children waiting to meet their moms and dads, last year was especially challenging. As the pandemic halted international travel, many adoption processes also went into a standstill. Many families, especially those in the China process, are still waiting to unite with their child.  But thankfully, travel eventually resumed in many countries — making it possible for 161 children to join loving families through international adoption. This was in no small thanks to child sponsors and donors, who not only support children while they wait to join their families, but also support the advocacy work required to complete the adoption process for every child. Through your generous giving in 2020, you also helped 38 children join adoptive families domestically in the U.S. and 234 children join adoptive families in their birth country.

Sometimes, parents feel they have no choice but to relinquish their child to an orphanage — hoping they will at least have food to eat and be able to go to school. This was especially true in 2020, as quarantine measures caused businesses and factories to close and left hundreds of families jobless and unable to feed their children. But for over 30,460 children last year, you provided the critical support their families needed to stay together.

Your generous giving made it possible to provide emergency food, medicines and cash transfers so parents could pay rent and avoid eviction. You also provided microgrants and job skills training so out-of-work parents could start their own businesses and continue earning an income to support their children. You helped Holt’s on-the-ground social workers provide counseling for families in crisis, empowered single moms to parent their children, and so much more.

When you provide the supplies, uniforms, books and scholarships kids need to attend school, you empower them to one day escape poverty. You help protect them from child labor, child marriage, child trafficking and child abuse. And you give them the tools to not only lift themselves out of poverty, but to lift their families and communities up and out as well. With many schools closed to help keep children and families safe in 2020, your generous giving made it possible for children to continue their studies from home. You provided everything from special workbooks and science kits to digital devices for families that can’t afford laptops. In rural Uganda, where few homes have electricity, you provided solar lamps so kids could see their lessons. By supporting our staff and partners around the world, you also helped them innovate ways to keep kids engaged in their education during this challenging time.

When quarantine measures went into effect in spring 2020, some children and families went days without food. During India’s first countrywide lockdown, families could not even leave their homes to go to the grocery store. As factories and businesses closed in Thailand, 83 percent of families in Holt programs were financially affected — either losing their jobs or receiving reduced pay. In Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, the garbage dump closed to families who survive by collecting and returning recyclables. With schools closed in just about every country, thousands of children missed out on the one meal they could rely on each day.

Everywhere, families struggled to feed their children. But because of you, over 19,000 children received the nutritional support they needed to survive this global crisis in 2020. You provided everything from formula and food for children stuck in orphanages, unable to join their adoptive families, to emergency food kits for families living in urban slums.

People often assume that kids living in orphanages have their basic needs met. Even parents struggling with poverty assume their kids will be better off in orphanage care. But so many orphanages around the world are overcrowded and underfunded, leaving thousands of children underfed, poorly clothed and neglected. In 2020, this reality became even starker for children in even the most well-funded orphanages. With travel at a standstill, children waiting to unite with their adoptive families remained in orphanages and foster homes months longer than expected. At the same time, as families around the world lost jobs and income due to the pandemic, more and more began placing their children in temporary care.

Orphanages quickly became overwhelmed. They didn’t have enough food, formula and diapers. They didn’t have enough caregivers. They didn’t have enough masks and sanitizers. But because of your support, 6,835 children in case-managed orphan care programs received everything they needed to stay healthy and well. You gave so much that Holt was able to provide emergency COVID supplies for orphanages we don’t normally partner with — protecting 7,280 children in orphanages and foster homes around the world.

In 2020, Holt donors gave a whopping 7,566 Gifts of Hope for children and families in need! For families and children in crisis due to COVID, you gave everything from emergency food, masks and sanitizers to microgrants for out-of-work families to start small businesses that would give them an income during the pandemic. You also gave life-changing gifts of livestock such as cows, goats, chickens and pigs, garden kits to help families grow food at home, and school supplies and scholarships for kids at risk of dropping out of school.

You gave formula, cribs, blankets and extra caregivers for children in orphanages, and surgeries and medical care for children with special needs. You gave gifts to help women and children escape domestic violence, which has increased significantly since the beginning of the pandemic. And you helped provide loving, attentive foster care for children waiting to join adoptive families!

Whether you provided routine vaccines to prevent measles and other childhood diseases, delivered medicines for families in quarantine and medical supplies to protect children in orphanages, supported physical therapy for kids with special needs, bought a child a pair of eyeglasses or helped ensure a child received surgery, you completely changed the course of a child’s life in 2020 by giving the gift of medical care. You saved the lives of children, protected them from COVID, and in some cases, provided emergency medical care to their parents. You kept children healthy and strong throughout this crisis year.

Today, the vast majority of children waiting for adoptive families in the U.S. have some kind of special needs. Some have a cleft lip or a heart condition. Others have Down syndrome or cerebral palsy. But we are so happy and excited to see more and more families open their hearts and homes to children with complex, often misunderstood special needs. We know that you believe in what we do: that EVERY child is beautiful and EVERY child deserves a home. And this past year, by giving to the Special Needs Adoption Fund, you made it possible to award adoption grants to 38 families — helping 38 children with special needs join the loving, permanent families they need and deserve!

In total, 50 percent of children who joined adoptive families through international adoption in 2020 had a special medical or developmental need. And that’s not including the sibling groups and 52 children older than age 5 who joined families in 2020. As older children and sibling groups also often need extra advocacy to find the right loving families, they too are considered to have “special needs.” Without your support and advocacy, many of these children may never have joined a family of their own.

We are so grateful that you share our heart for children and families, and chose to give to Holt International in 2020. It is your compassion and generosity that makes all of this work possible, and you truly are exceptional. Thank you for sponsoring a child every month, or for giving a Gift of Hope in honor of a loved one, or for responding to one of our emergency or special appeals, or for giving just because you felt moved to give. Most of all, thank you for continuing to care for the vulnerable children and families in Holt’s programs during this unbelievable, unprecedented year. The COVID-19 pandemic affected all of us in ways large and small, and your unwavering devotion to children is truly extraordinary. With tremendous respect and admiration, we humbly thank you for everything you did to help children and families in need this past year!

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