Gifts of Hope

Can you put a price tag on Hope? Can you calculate the worth of something so abstract?

The worth of something is, after all, relative — it changes from place to place, person to person, currency to currency. Hope is relative too, and looks different for everyone.

By definition, hope is a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.

The expectation that something is about to change.

Something is about to get better.

Hope is also a feeling — a very powerful one — that drives us to continue to push through hard situations, eager to find the light in the darkness.

Chok Lay, a 41-year-old mother of four, is a smart and eager farmer in Cambodia. Her family lives on a very small plot of land in rural Kampot province, which they farm to feed their family and earn enough income to meet their needs.

But despite efforts to diversify their crops, this year’s yield wasn’t enough to live on — much less produce excess to sell. Forced into a desperate situation, Chok Lay took out a high interest loan to try to make ends meet and spark her business.

When she could not afford to pay back the predatory high interest, the increasing debt knocked the already vulnerable family into full-blown poverty, with no end in sight.

Chok’s world became dark and cold — with not enough to eat, not enough to send her children to school, not enough to live.

If hope is the expectation that something positive is coming, the opposite of hope is despair.

The abandonment of heart.

The lack of will to continue.

The complete loss of faith.

Despair is a heavy, day-to-day burden. It is the constant expectation that life can never improve without divine intervention. Despair knows that only a miracle will change your fate.

In Cambodia, the average college graduate makes about $200 per month. For a family living in a rural region, the average income can drop to as little as $30 per month or less. That’s less than a dollar a day, which means the odds of saving money are slim to none — and, one small misstep, bout of bad luck or family sickness could be catastrophic.

To put this standard of living into perspective, consider this: the average American family spends about $749 on Christmas alone each year. Even during the worst part of the recession in 2009, that average only dropped to $681.

In one year, many of the families Holt serves in Cambodia live on less than 5 percent of what the average family spent on Christmas last year. This huge disparity is why something as simple as owning chickens or a pig can make a tremendous impact on a family’s livelihood in Cambodia — or in many of the other countries where Holt works.

A single pig can produce an extra income each year of $100 or more — a huge amount for a family struggling to afford basic necessities. However, the cost of purchasing a pig or chickens is far too high for the average Cambodian family to save enough money for the initial investment.

Truly, a little pig can be a miracle.

With debt growing every day, and her children on the brink of dropping out of school, all Chok Lay could do was pray for a miracle.

Chok Lay with one of her daughters.

Two years ago, someone in the United States purchased a pig for $100 through Holt’s Gifts of Hope catalog. The generous donor didn’t know who the pig would help, and they may have never even considered that their gift could be a lasting miracle for a family we serve.

The stranger’s generosity changed Chok and her daughter’s lives — and gave them hope for the future. Suddenly, rather than feeling like everything was falling apart, everything was falling into place for Chok Lay. The family could see the light in the darkness.

Hope came to them with four little hooves and a wrinkly snout.

Chok’s family received microloans to purchase two pigs, which live in a small stall on her property. She also received one-on-one training to help her learn to raise the pigs. In Cambodia, these pigs would have required diligent savings for months or even years — if at all. They are worth almost the same amount Chok’s family makes each year.

As the pigs grow, they will have piglets, which can be sold for profit — or raised for meat for the family’s needs. The income is enough for Chok’s children to stay in school and for the family to independently meet all of their basic needs, and even save a little for the future. The pigs are a safety net.

Now, Chok dreams about college for her daughters. She also participates in a woman’s empowerment group in her village that meets each month to offer support, teach about finance and business, and offer positive reinforcement. The group is also investing in a local microloan project to give back to other women in the community.

Thanks to a Holt supporter who gave a $100 Gift of Hope to a stranger, Chok Lay’s entire village is feeling the impact.

Shop online today at Be the miracle a struggling family is waiting for. And honor your own loved ones in the best way possible! When you give a Gift of Hope in honor of your family or friends, we will even send a card to let them know what life-changing gift you gave in their honor.

If you’ve never given a Gift of Hope, #GivingTuesday is the perfect day to jump in!

What is #GivingTuesday, you ask?

It’s simple: right after the two big shopping days of the year — Black Friday and Cyber Monday — comes the day for giving back. It’s a simple notion with a tremendous impact.

December is an especially critical time for Holt. We work hard to ensure that, before 2014 officially ends, every child and family we serve has what they need to survive the holiday and thrive in the upcoming year. We focus on our four most vulnerable areas — North Korea, Ethiopia, South Korea and China — where our work to end child abandonment, stabilize vulnerable families, fight poverty and care for orphaned and abandoned children is only possible thanks to people like you, people who give generously.

This year on #GivingTuesday, we encourage you to partner with us — and spread a little holiday magic to families in need!

Tell your friends and family about the work Holt is doing by sharing an “unselfie” on social media, like those in the video below.

Or give a Gift of Hope and be the miracle in the lives of an at-risk family — a family  like Chok Lay’s.

Or simply give to our four projects in greatest need by donating to Holt through our #GivingTuesday page.

If you give a Gift of Hope on December 2, your contributions will be matched by a private donor — making twice the impact! Our goal is to raise $100,000 in 24 hours to benefit women like Chok and orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children around the world. Learn more about how you can make an impact on Giving Tuesday by visiting

And from all of us at Holt, Happy Holidays!

Giving Tuesday is December 2nd! from Holt International on Vimeo.

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