During Holt’s recent heritage tour of Korea, adoptive mom Nancy Becker kept a blog about her family’s experiences. Here are some of the highlights from their trip.
Thursday, June 27
Our children couldn’t understand why Del’s and my eyes were leaking as we toured the Holt Reception Center and relived the days 10 years ago when we traveled for 4-1/2-month-old Samuel in October 2002. The Reception Center is located just around the corner from the Holt office and Samuel had lived here for a couple of months after leaving his foster home until all the paperwork was ready for us to bring him home.
I can best describe it as magical — flying 7,000 miles to meet our baby who didn’t grow in my belly, but surely grew in my heart. It was an amazing week of becoming familiar with him and the workers who provided such loving care in his birth country. Because we stayed in the guesthouse on the floor above the Maria Room, we also had ample time to play with the other 3 to 5-month-old babies waiting for their times to join their forever families.
Sunday, June 30
Our next stop was at Achimddeul, a home for unwed mothers. Without family support or government safety nets, it is very very difficult for single mothers to raise a child in Korea. Socially it can also be difficult for mother and child. The young ladies receive the gift of time, the chance to continue their educations, and supportive counseling by the staff at Achimddeul to help them make these incredibly difficult life decisions.
Several of the residents showed what they had learned to play on their Korean zithers and then the instructor demonstrated her incredible talent. (It had the sound of a harp with an Eastern flair.) Beautiful! An artist who donates his time to work with the residents generously offered to come in and make fans with our names in Hangul. So talented and kind! They also supplied us with yummy snacks and the opportunity to make a rice paper bookmark. And of course there was the special treat of holding babies!
Many from the Holt group brought gifts and shared photos of their families with the young ladies who were anxious to see our children and ask questions about their lives. This was an important time for all involved who intimately understand that one family’s gain comes from someone else’s loss.
Wednesday, July 3
Today we had a very special reunion with the housemother who had cared for Samuel in the Reception Center for a couple of months. We exchanged gifts and emails and hope to keep in touch in the future. Samuel was the only child she has seen again after being adopted and it was very meaningful for her.
We also showed her photos of another child whom she remembered immediately once she saw her baby pictures. She was glad to see updated photos of this little girl’s family and to receive the message of gratitude passed along by her mother with whom we are in touch on Facebook…
Paul Kim spoke to us in the evening about Holt’s work helping orphans in North Korea. Yes, North Korea. The Holt organization is very impressive in the scope of their compassion, assistance, and mission.
Friday, July 5
“Who will answer for these children when we stand before God?”
Holt Ilsan Town began in 1961 as a modest cluster of five small buildings, built by the late Harry Holt to care for Korean War orphans. Since then, it has grown into an extensive modern complex offering programs for nearly 300 developmentally and physically disabled residents ranging in age from toddlers to adults. They live in group-home settings and receive physical, occupational, and speech therapy, counseling, special education programs, vocational training, athletic programs, social rehabilitation medical services, and adult activity programs. Perhaps most importantly, they are accepted as valued members of society. We were blessed by a greeting from Molly Holt, daughter of Harry and Bertha, who has devoted her entire adult life to this mission.
After Del and I visited Ilsan in 2001, we decided we wanted to sponsor a resident. Today we were able to meet Lee, Jae keun and present him with gifts in person. We receive routine updates on Jae keun, but it was wonderful to be able to greet him in person!
The facilities at Ilsan are beautiful and allow the residents to live productive lives. Some marry, some produce items sold in the gift shop — providing them spending money — and some are in the choir, and some are adopted. They all continue to change society’s ideas about persons with disabilities.
Saturday, July 6
Our Farewell Dinner at Korea House, a beautifully restored noble home, was very special. All the adoptees and some of the moms presented a delightful rainbow of traditional hanboks. We were blessed to have Molly Holt at dinner as well as the some of the leaders of Holt Korea were instrumental in putting this trip together.
Dr. David Kim talked about how he came to be involved in Holt’s work in South Korea starting back in the 1950’s. It literally took an act of Congress for Harry Holt to bring the first Amerasian children to the states. Harry Holt and Dr. Kim were trailblazers in international adoption! Even though he told me his part in this was very small, we know it’s because of their persistence in providing homes to children that our families are blessed with our kids.
Sunday, July 7
Magical. Exciting. Enriching. Enlightening. Educational. Emotional. What an amazing trip this has been for our family!
Paul Kim’s experience, knowledge and unflappable nature make him the best tour group leader imaginable. He has his finger on the pulse of not just the physical trip but also addresses the emotional journey adoptees and families face. Beth Kim and Kim Hanson’s personal experiences and warm personalities provided insights in this heritage tour that have been invaluable. All three of these friends were excellent resources. Michele’s (Hyung sook) and Lina’s tour guide skills were key to making the daily excursions interesting and enjoyable for all. They taught us so much about the history and culture of this beautiful land and its adaptable and hard-working people. The Holt post-adoption services staff’s incredible work made reunions with foster and birth parents possible. Experiencing the sights, sounds and smells of their homeland has strengthened our children and our families.
This morning, parents met with Paul and Kim to receive guidance on how family members might feel after returning home. Their experience in leading these trips and handling the spectrum of emotions it evokes is something you can’t get from a book and was much appreciated by all…
It is hard to say goodbye to our new friends but the connections we’ve made will last a lifetime. Until we meet again.