In July, Holt advocates and donors met children at one middle school in northeastern China who are receiving support for their education.
Summer holidays have just begun and the corridors at Meihekou Middle School in Jilin Province, China are quiet, except for the echo of nine shuffling pairs of footsteps. Bright art hangs on one wall, and light from the windows that line the opposite wall floods in, revealing a courtyard with a worn cement basketball court. It’s a hot and sticky July day in China, and the nine American guests spill into a large classroom with two long wooden tables covered in red tablecloths and flowers. To their delight, they are greeted by more than 30 students — each wearing white and blue collared shirts and kahki pants — a few teachers, the headmaster, a parent and a graduate of the school. The guests place colorful gift bags of books they have brought from the United States especially for today on the table, and then find a seat directly across from the children.
All of the American guests have something in common: a strong heart of advocacy for impoverished or at-risk children, as well as a dedicated support of Holt International to help make a difference. They are Holt board members, long-term supporters and adoptive parents who have traveled with a Holt Focus Team to China to see first-hand the impact Holt’s programs are having in the lives of vulnerable children.
All 30 of the students have something in common, too. They study at Meihekou Middle School because of the support from their Holt sponsors and other supporters of our family strengthening work here in China.
One student stands to speak on behalf of all the Holt-sponsored children here. She is the daughter of a single mother, and shares that without support from Holt, she may not have the opportunity to be in school. Paying for school supplies and uniforms is often an untenable cost for families like hers, who struggle to afford basic necessities, like food and housing.
“Thank you for your love and thank you for your care,” she says. “And not just for your support for our education, but for reducing the burden on our families. This support from Holt gives me warmth and care and heart. My mother and I are very happy you care.”
Around the world, Holt sponsors and donors who support family strengthening efforts in China help more than 7,000 orphaned, abandoned or vulnerable children receive the uniquely tailored support they need to thrive. For 3,856 children, this includes funding to cover the cost of school fees as well as supplies and other vital resources to support their education. It may also include medical care, assistance to receive adequate food, or assistance for parents who either can’t work or could benefit from education or job training.
In addition to Holt sponsorship, other Holt donors and supporters — such as the seven American guests visiting Meihekou Middle School — allow Holt to serve thousands more children through educational partnerships, support to foster families, special medical care projects and a global nutrition initiative. These supporters give gifts to specific Holt programs, such as the Peace House in China, Ilsan Center in Korea or daycare in Vietnam.
Unlike many child welfare organizations, Holt focuses on children and families individually — identifying their unique needs and responding with services specific to their situation. This one-on-one approach enables Holt to most effectively serve children and families, and help families grow to a place of independence and stability. Sometimes, Holt serves whole communities experiencing the same hardship, such as families affected by HIV, or children who share the same disability and struggle to find support and services — our program in Ethiopia to support education for 400 deaf children being one notable example. Always, Holt identifies and works with the most vulnerable children around the world, filling in the gaps to help children reach their full potential.
Over the past 25 years, Holt sponsors have improved the lives of nearly 45 thousand children. That’s 45 thousand lives forever changed by the generosity of strangers.
Those lives also represent a big step toward the world Holt envisions: a more just and equal world, where every child is valued and loved; where every child attends school, regardless of gender or economic status; where no child suffers from malnutrition; and where every child with special needs has the same opportunities as every other child.
In the world Holt envisions, children at Meihekou Middle School in China would not have to rely on sponsors for the opportunity to attend classes. For all who support Holt, it is a joy to provide basic and critical services to orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children, yet we dream of a world where they don’t have to.
In the schoolroom, the young girl completes her message of thanks. “There is a saying in China that money has numbers,” she says. “Everything has a value … but you cannot calculate love. Your support comes with a lot of love. It is not just materials. It is also motivation for our spirit.”
The students Holt helps to support in China understand the burden their education places on their parents, which is a concern Holt hears from students in our educational support programs in many countries.
As the first young speaker concludes her message of thanks, a mother to one of the children in Holt’s sponsorship program stands to tell her story — and how Holt is making a difference in her life.
Four years ago, her life was struck with difficulty after her father was diagnosed with cancer and her mother fell ill with a heart condition.
“We spent all our savings to help keep them alive,” she says. Then, when she needed surgery herself for a bone disease, she was left unable to work. “This put a lot of extra burden on my family. My husband supports five people through daily small jobs.”
After the illness, her family of five moved into a tiny apartment, but they still struggled to provide basic necessities for her son. Fearing that everything could fall out beneath them if one more financial need struck, she worried her family could be homeless. She felt fear at how she would afford school fees for her son.
Then, fearing that one more catastrophe could break her family apart, she met with Holt, and together they formed a plan to help stabilize her family and their finances. Her son received educational sponsorship, which lifted a huge burden from the family.
He now attends Meihekou Middle School, and is performing very well. “When I see my child secure because of your care, I am very happy,” she says.
Another student stands to speak, and already Holt’s director of programs in China, Jian Chen, is in tears as she translates. This student is in high school now, which she attends with support from Holt. She once was a student at Meihekou.
“You relieved the burden on us and made things easier,” she says. “It is you, Holt International, that shows us that society is good. We know your support comes with hope. This kindness is high as mountains and deep as seas.”
She paused, and the room was quiet except a few sniffles from the American guests who are moved by her testimony and hope for the future. “We will use knowledge to arm us,” she promises, “to become useful people for the future of this country,”
With the conclusion of the formal presentation, the students grouped around the guests — eager to communicate in simple English sentences and to take the team on a tour through the halls of their school. The students were eager to share about their lives: their siblings, hobbies and home life. They are excited about what they are learning, and excited to be in the spotlight for a day. In their khaki pants and matching white collared shirts, it might be impossible to tell the Holt sponsored students from the rest of the crowd of 3,000 students who attend this middle school. And that’s how it should be.
If you would like to learn more about how your gift can help children in China and other countries to stay in school, please contact Rose McBride at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also make a lasting impact in the lives of orphaned, abandoned or vulnerable children by sponsoring a child through Holt today. Click here to learn more about Holt sponsorship.
Billie Loewen | Creative Lead