Children Who Give: After Thailand Floods, A Holt Adoptee Helps His Former Foster Family

Last November, as the worst monsoon flooding in over 50 years submerged Thailand’s homes, businesses and farms, Zach and Henry Zimmerman came up with a great idea to help with the recovery effort! In particular, Zach — a Holt adoptee from Thailand — wanted to help his former foster mom rebuild her house. So Zach, 5, and Henry, 9,  put together a poster about the Thailand floods to bring to their school’s International Night — an annual event to celebrate diversity. Together, they raised $83.50 for Holt’s Thailand Rehabilitation Fund, which will help us repair and rebuild homes for the many Holt foster families displaced by the floods. Thank you Zach and Henry for your extraordinary efforts!

A Q&A with Mariia Zimmerman, mom of Zach and Henry

Henry (left) and Zach (right) with the poster they made to help raise funds for Thailand flood relief.

How old are your boys and what grade are they in?
Zachary is 5 and started Kindergarten this fall. Henry is 9 and in the 4th grade.

How long did Zach live with his foster mother in Thailand?
Zachary lived with his foster mom for 16 months. We adopted him when he was 18 months old.

What does he remember about his foster mom (and foster family)?
Zachary doesn’t remember very much, but we talk about his culture and history with him. He’s very curious to know about it all and asks lots of questions. We have pictures of Zachary with his foster mom that Holt sent to us while we were waiting the nine long months between referral and being able to go over to Thailand and bring him home. These are part of Zach’s adoption book, which he likes to read and discuss all the photos.

One of the stories we like to tell is that his foster mother lived very close to a Buddhist temple, which had an area for children to play soccer in the courtyard. Zachary spent a lot of time there when he was a baby, watching the children. His foster mom told us he always had a laugh when they played soccer and he learned to kick a ball shortly after he could walk. When we met Zachary, he already had really good soccer skills and to this day he loves to play. It was one of the things that we did a lot of when he first joined our family, since his older brother also enjoyed playing and it didn’t require either knowing how to speak the other’s language.

What is International Night?
Our school in Arlington, VA has a tremendous amount of diversity among the students who attend. A couple years ago, the PTA came up with the idea to celebrate this diversity and began hosting an “international night.” Students and their families are encouraged to celebrate their cultural heritage. The teachers also were deeply involved. Together we had games, information booths and geography quizzes. Families brought desserts to share from favorite traditional family recipes, and a local international restaurant graciously provided the food.  Kids dressed up in clothing from their culture, and students participated in a talent show, which included Irish Dancing, Japanese drumming, and many other neat musical skills.

Did the boys come up with the idea to hold a fundraiser for Holt? What inspired them?
Everyone was encouraged to participate and given that none of us had the skill to pull off Thai dancing, we discussed other options. My brother, who lives in Thailand, had been telling us about the flooding there; he had 9 feet of water in his house and was evacuated. We also got the email from Holt asking to help the foster families who had been dislocated. Zach was wanting to do something about Thailand and Henry came up with the idea to make a sign and collect money.  We made a poster that highlighted what was happening in Thailand with the flooding.

How did they inspire others to donate to Holt — what was their message?  
The poster board had pictures of the flooding, and told very briefly about Zach’s connection to his birth country and the need to help foster families there. It included a picture of Zach and his foster mom. Given that November was National Adoption Month, it seemed a good way to highlight both important issues. Our family brought in some Thai items – including Thai silk, the Thai flag and Thai candies – and made a display. We even played some traditional Thai music on our iPod. One of the most interesting things was how very few people knew that there was even flooding happening in Thailand. A lot of people wanted to discuss Thailand, adoption, the flooding, and the effects of global climate change.  It was pretty amazing.

How do Zach and Henry envision Holt using the money they raised?  What do they hope to help us accomplish?
The boys asked people to contribute $10 or $5 or whatever they could afford to help. With the flooding still happening at that point, we were asking to raise money for supplies to help the foster families and children.

Zach hopes the money is going to help his foster mom buy a new house. In discussing the flooding, he was really worried about her, and his birth mom. He is pretty sure his foster mom will now be able to get a house like ours, just a little smaller.  His brother likes to point out that is not really what is going to happen. Henry envisions Holt using it to help bring water and food to families. Their cousin Benya, who lives in Thailand, made a video showing what her school is doing to help and both boys hope that the money they raised is being used like this to help.

To read about Holt’s efforts to help foster families affected by the recent flooding in Thailand, click here.

Join Zach and Henry and donate to Holt’s Thailand Rehabilitation Fund!

In the coming weeks and periodically throughout the year, we will feature stories about children who raise funds for Holt, and parents, grandparents and others who raise funds on behalf of the children in their lives. Know of a child or family who helped raise funds for Holt? Share your story with Holt’s senior writer, Robin Munro, at



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