This past year, our organization celebrated 60 years of serving orphaned and vulnerable children and families in countries across the globe. Over these six decades, our work has touched the lives of thousands of people — people whose lives collectively tell the story of who we are as an organization. Their stories are the story of Holt International. And in 2016, many of these people once again graciously shared their life experiences with our readers.
For the first time, we held an adoptee essay contest, asking adoptees to share how adoption shapes or has shaped their identity. We received a number of thoughtful submissions, and featured the winning essay by Noel Hincha in our annual adoption magazine. I am happy to share that the essay penned by one of our runner-ups in the contest is among this year’s top most-viewed blogs of 2016!
Following last year’s trend, stories written by and about adoptees once again topped the list — receiving thousands of views on Facebook and the Holt blog. Among them is a letter one adoptee wrote to her late birth mother, grieving the fact that it was too late for them to meet; a story about a first-generation adoptee reuniting with the man who cared for him in Korea; and a piece by an adoptee from China who describes what the adoption experience was like for her.
Among our Top 16 Blogs of 2016, we also included five stories about our overseas programs — from a story written by a trailblazing woman in our unwed mothers program in Korea to a story about a boy who learned how to express himself for the first time at the Yesus Mena Deaf School that we support in Ethiopia.
And of course, stories by and about adoptive families are always popular among our readers — particularly among families new to the process who appreciate the insight and wisdom that veteran families have to offer. This year, six adoption stories had the most impact on our readers, including, at the top of the list, a heartfelt piece written under a pseudonym by an adoptive mom who wanted to share the truth about raising children with HIV. As more and more families adopt children with more involved and complex special needs, the experiences of these families become increasingly influential — inspiring other families to adopt children with HIV, congenital heart disease or, as one of our top stories explores in detail, Thalassemia.
As we reflect on the year 2016, and on the last 60 years, we thank the many, many adoptees, families, sponsors, donors, staff members, partners and children and families in our programs for your willingness to share what can be very personal and sometimes heart-wrenching experiences. You moved us. You inspired us. And perhaps most importantly, you instructed us. Every year, we continue to learn and grow from what you share with Holt staff and supporters. And we are so, so grateful for your being a part of our story, the Holt story. — Robin Munro, Managing Editor
Top Five Adoptee Stories
Over the summer, Holt adoptee Krista Gause traveled on the Holt Heritage Tour to Korea. Before her departure, she wrote an honest and heartfelt letter to her birth mother, sharing about her life and grieving the fact that it was too late for them to meet.
After Holt adoptee Emily Thornton’s search for her birth mother came to an inconclusive end in 2014, she thought that was it. Then she learned about a search tool that has brought some success to other adoptees — restoring her hope, and inspiring her to launch a second search.
When Larry Gray, one of the first Holt adoptees, attended a Holt photo exhibit in Washington D.C. in November 2013, he was amazed to find a photo of himself as a child in Korea — the only photo he had ever seen of himself before he was adopted at age 5. Little did he know something even bigger was in store.
Growing up in China, Qiulan Henderson wondered if she maybe wasn’t beautiful or smart enough to be adopted. She wondered if she would ever feel trust or love, or ever believe in herself. But when a family in Oregon saw the beautiful soul inside 10-year-old Qiulan, and welcomed her into their home, she began to learn the truth about family, about love, and about herself.
For most of her life, Holt adoptee Molly Martin viewed her adoption as something that just “happened.” But after traveling to Thailand to meet her birth mom, she developed a completely different outlook — and a deeper understanding of how loved she truly is. Molly’s story was a finalist in Holt’s 2016 adoptee essay contest.
Top Six Adoptive Family Stories
Holt adoptive mom Anne Silas* has adopted two children from China who, because of the stigma surrounding HIV, waited for a family for seven years. Here, Anne shares the realities of raising children born with HIV — and how the biggest parenting challenge she faces has nothing to do with the undetectable virus in their blood.
As a 7-year-old with albinism in China, Lucy needed the love, support and acceptance of a family. In September 2015, she came home with help from Holt’s Special Needs Adoption Fund and today she is thriving as a member of the Burleigh family.
After learning about the urgent need for families to adopt boys from China, the Griffis family switched their gender preference from “girl” to “either” — a decision that has blessed them in ways they never imagined.
Holt adoptive mom Libby Wendland writes a heartfelt letter to her daughter’s foster mom in Thailand, who cared for her in the six years she waited to join a family through adoption. This letter originally appeared on Libby’s blog, milestoeden.com.
Andrea writes a letter to her younger self, before she became an adoptive mom to five children, including four children with complex heart disease. This post originally appeared on No Hands But Ours, a site that aims to encourage, equip and support families adopting children with special needs from China.
Just 10 years ago, children with treatable conditions like Thalassemia were considered so difficult to place with adoptive families that few caregivers would try to find families for them — or even secure the medical care they needed. Through advocacy and education efforts, international adoption is changing the face of special needs. But the fight to ensure that every child receives the love, care and family they deserve is far from over.
Top 5 Program Stories
Why does the distinction between children who have lost their parents through relinquishment or through family death or abandonment matter? It matters because if we hope to create a world where every child has a loving, secure home, then we need to understand how and why women choose to relinquish their children — and work to remedy those reasons.
In Korea, unwed motherhood is one of the leading reasons for child abandonment. When a single woman becomes pregnant, she could lose everything — her family, friends, career, education, housing and the hope of these things in the future. The following story is written by a woman who lives with her son at the Holt Morning Garden unwed mother and child shelter. Because of the support she and her son, Ji-ho, receive, this young woman decided not only to parent her son — but also to pursue higher education despite the discrimination she would likely face in the admissions process.
Meet Jim De, Holt’s new India country director! From caring for foster children in his childhood home, to finding families for children orphaned by the 2004 tsunami, to greeting Holt adoptive families at the Delhi airport, he has always followed his life’s passion — advocating for his country’s orphaned and abandoned children.
In southern Ethiopia, in a town called Shinshicho, there is a special school where children from all over the region come to study. Six years ago, the deaf children of this region had no school to go to, no teachers to teach them, no knowledge of sign language — or even an awareness that a language existed for those who could not hear. The video above tells the story of one boy at Yesus Mena who, with the support of his sponsors, can finally share what he was holding inside, all along.
In September, Holt President and CEO Phil Littleton spent two weeks visiting Holt projects in China and Mongolia. “The work we are doing exceeded my expectations,” Phil said. “It was extraordinary.”
Have a great story idea for 2017? Email Holt’s managing editor at email@example.com!