For My Korean Sisters

Holt adoptee Kate Pyle shares what inspired her to launch a campaign raising over $16,000 for the Holt Morning Garden shelter for single mothers and their children in Korea.

A single mom and her son who stayed at the Morning Garden shelter.
A single mom and her son who stayed at the Morning Garden shelter.

My name is Kate Pyle and I’m a Holt Korean adoptee. At the beginning of September, following a six week campaign, my wife, Laurel, and I raised $16,450 for three women at the Achimddeul “Morning Garden” shelter in Daejeon, South Korea. It was the first time Laurel and I had ever fundraised. Soliciting donations is never easy, but even in this bizarre time in history, we were successful! We both believed in the cause, in Holt and in ourselves.

So why did we do this? Let me tell you a little story.

My family has been deeply involved with Holt since 1973. My mother, Janice Pyle Noll, was a Holt social worker. She made sure we all had ample opportunities to meet with Grandma Holt prior to her death in 2000. My father, Charles J. Pyle, was a benefactor of the Ilsan Center, the long-term residential care center that Harry and Bertha Holt and David Kim founded in the 1960s for children and adults with special needs. And my brother, C. Greg Pyle, is also a Korean adoptee. As a family and independently, we’ve all been to Korea. I’ve visited a number of times, each visit more compelling than the previous one.

Kate (right) during her visit to the Morning Garden shelter on the Holt gift team trip to Korea.
Kate (right) during her visit to the Morning Garden shelter on Holt’s 2019 gift team trip to Korea.

Nine years ago, Dad, Greg and I went on the Holt Gift Team Tour to Korea. It was the 50th anniversary of Ilsan. On this trip, I would learn about the Achimddeul “Morning Garden” shelter. At this time, rather than a post-partum mother and child shelter, it was a prenatal maternity shelter. Women who came to the shelter would decide as to whether they’d be parenting their child, or giving their child a life with an adoptive family. During our visit, we had the opportunity to meet with many of the women in the shelter. The women were given the option to meet with us or not. The majority of the women who chose to meet with us were considering relinquishing their child, or those still in shelter who had recently done so.

The visit was heart-wrenching.

Through tears, many of the women asked the adoptees if we hated our birth mothers for giving us up. They asked the adoptive parents if they truly loved us, their children, as much as they did. One of the single mothers was so overcome with emotion, she excused herself. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room. That visit stayed with me for years and I would talk about it ad nauseam with Laurel, family and friends. Often, I would see the faces of the women and hear the anguish in their voices — the pain of making such a difficult choice.

Laurel and Kate.
Together, Kate and her wife, Laurel (left), raised $16,300 for the women at the Morning Garden shelter.

Laurel and I got married in 2012. For years, we had talked about going to Korea but timing was always an issue. However, last December, we decided it was time to visit. Similar to the trip in 2011, we traveled as part of the Holt gift team. It would be my fifth visit to Korea and her first. Until we got together, Laurel knew very little about Korea and even less about adoption, but through the course of our relationship and marriage, she has gained a new understanding and appreciation for both. Having been to Korea many times, I tried to prepare Laurel, but some things need to be experienced — firsthand.

The visit to Achimddeul was early on in the itinerary. I was amazed at how much the shelter had changed. What I noticed this time around was the focus on keeping families intact. In 2011, the Morning Garden was a prenatal maternity shelter. Today it’s a home for single mothers focused on parenting their children. Even though the stigma toward single mothers still lives and breathes in Korea, the women are encouraged to continue with their education and vocational training. The home felt positive, uplifting and empowering. I was thrilled!

A group photo of the 2019 Korea Gift Team participants!
A group photo of the 2019 Korea gift team participants!

Our little group — there were only seven of us in total — probably met three or four young women, toured the facility, and sampled their hand-made cakes and desserts. It was an enjoyable afternoon but I could see that my wife was getting overwhelmed.

Towards the end of the visit, Laurel looked at me and instantly burst into tears. Director Chung, a tenured, maternal, kind and empathetic woman, took Laurel into her arms as she sobbed. And that’s when I had a revelation. It was Director Chung’s compassion and the compassion of the staff and all the social workers that makes the Morning Garden shelter such a special place. Harry and Bertha Holt had that kind of compassion. It left a mark.

In late February of this year, after reflecting on our incredible trip, Laurel and I decided we wanted to give back. But how? We thought about sponsoring a child, perhaps we could donate to the Ilsan Center, and of course, we thought about the Morning Garden shelter. I know nothing about my birth mother, but I’ve always believed that she was old and unable to care for me. However, maybe if Morning Garden had existed in the 1970s, she might have made a different choice? That alone was my reason for fundraising for the shelter.

Laurel and I wanted to find a way to make the biggest impact that we could for the residents, and this financial assistance would empower these women to make their own decisions about their own lives.

The Holt Morning Garden shelter for single mothers and their children in Korea.
Holt’s Morning Garden shelter for single mothers and their children in Korea.

I’ve done some really neat things in my life but I can honestly say that fundraising for the Achimddeul “Morning Garden” shelter has truly been one of the best. I relish in the thought of giving back to Holt, my “Korean sisters” and to the country that gave me life.

Kate Pyle | Holt Adoptee

Inspired by Kate’s story? Give a gift to empower a single mom in Korea or another country where Holt works!

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