A Priceless Opportunity to Travel with Holt

In early 2011, Holt introduced a pilot adoption program for older children in the Philippines. Ambassadors — many of them social workers, adoptive parents or staff — traveled to the Philippines to meet a group of older children waiting to be adopted. After getting to know the children, the ambassadors returned to the United States and got to work seeking families for them in their communities. Below, previous Holt ambassador and Holt adoptive mom Kari Bargstadt-Wilson shares about her experience on Holt’s 2012 trip to the Philippines. 

Holt is now recruiting ambassadors from the western U.S. for the 2015 Philippines Ambassador Trip to be held May 3-10, 2015. For more information, contact Danielle Peebles at daniellep@holtinternational.org.

Let me introduce myself.  My name is Kari… I’m a physical therapist, mother of six, cook to eight, wife to one and a Holt ambassador to 15 beautiful Filipino teenagers.  In 2012, my husband and I talked about taking a much-needed anniversary trip — for the first time without our children — for our 16th year of marriage.   When our friend asked me if we were interested in Holt’s Philippines Ambassador trip, I never would have guessed that I could talk my husband into it, but I did.  So we packed up and left our six kids in order to vacation for 10 days with 15 teenagers!  My husband would have to admit that it was a life-altering trip.

Kari (right) and a couple of her fellow ambassadors observe kids on the 2012 trip as they work on an art project.
Saying goodbye to our children, spending our “anniversary” vacation money to go, and traveling half way around the world to give a few strange kids some hugs = PRICELESS!  That is how I feel about the trip we took.

While in the Philippines, our team of five played, laughed, cried, hugged, held hands with and loved on these teenagers.  When we took the call to go, I guess I expected to meet dysfunctional kids who didn’t know how to love.  What I found were some amazing, talented, smart and compassionate youth who were waiting to be loved and accepted for who they were.  We were able to see who they really were on the inside; more than any document or picture could ever reveal.  Leaving them in the Philippines was the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my adulthood.  My heart was so heavy and the thought of finding them homes was overwhelming when we returned.

The 2012 Philippines Ambassador participants. Kari stands in the back on the far right.
After many speeches, presentations and personal times of sharing, I decided that it wasn’t up to me. I needed to turn it completely over to God.  That is when the doors started to open for these children.  I am so proud to say that four of the kids are right here in my hometown.  My family and I get to celebrate with them for birthdays, holidays, summer events and on and on.  They have become part of our extended family.  I am also happy to say that four more have found forever families in my neighboring states and a few more have been placed across the country.

When I think back on that trip, I am so happy that we chose to go.  Never underestimate the power of the human touch.  Those kids needed to know that they were so special that some lady and her husband would travel across the world just to give them a hug and tell them that they are loved.  Our trip gave them hope for a brighter future and gave us a perspective on what life is all about.  I hope that you will consider the next ambassador trip with Holt International, as I know it will be PRICELESS!

Kari Bargstadt-Wilson | Omaha, Nebraska

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