Ethiopia Families Reunite in Tennessee and Oregon

Two Very Special Ethiopian Reunions


Last month, Holt families who adopted children from the same care center in Ethiopia met at a resort in Tennessee for their second annual adoptive family reunion.  “When we adopted our daughter, Maci, from Ethiopia, she was 4, and we knew that her friendships were very important to her,” Holt adoptive parent and Holt staff member Laura Sykora says. “We knew we needed to do all we could to help her maintain those friendships.”

Fortunately, the Sykoras found many adoptive families who felt the same way. “Everyone wanted to keep those connections,” Laura says.

So, during the last week of June, 13 families, including 25 Ethiopian born children, met at a resort in Nashville for a weekend of fun and memories. “The children’s faces lit up as all the families started to arrive,” Laura says.  “Attendance close to doubled the previous year’s numbers.”

Plans are already underway for next year’s reunions. “As parents, we have developed a connection of friendship as we have drawn together sharing experiences and providing each other with support,” Laura says.


Reunion with Miruk Alemu

A month later, another special Ethiopian reunion took place, this time in Oregon.

Miruk Alemu, Holt Ethiopia’s director of adoption and sponsorship, spent a full week in Oregon, kicking off her trip with a family gathering at a Portland area park. Fifteen Ethiopian adoptees and their families attended. Some traveled more than four hours to see Miruk and participate in the festivities. Since joining Holt in 2009, Miruk, has worked on nearly every adoption case, and has aided families through their process in Ethiopia. She said the time at the park, reconnecting to the children, was extremely special for her. “I can’t believe how much they have all grown,” Miruk said.


Along with the reunion, Miruk also spent the week at the Holt office in Eugene, meeting with members of the Holt team and participating in trainings.


Interested in connecting with other adoptive families this summer?  Click here to learn more about Holt picnics and find a picnic near you! 


For Deaf Students in Ethiopia, the First Day of School is a Major Milestone

Around the world, the extra cost to send children back to school is often an overwhelming amount for parents. Books, school supplies, shoes and uniforms all add up — and on top of already expensive school fees. However, for one special school in Ethiopia, you can help provide children with the supplies they need and ensure the first day of school is marked with joy and celebration.

Ethiopia Deaf School 2
In 2009, Holt came to Shinshicho — first renovating a local clinic, and then partnering with the community to build a full maternal-child hospital to serve the region’s nearly 250,000 people. In recent years, Holt also developed programs to strengthen families at risk of separation from their children. Through our work in the community, Holt heard about the need for a school for deaf children and decided to help. A Shinshicho resident donated the land and space, and we worked with the community to build a school for deaf children. Anticipating only 50 students on the first day, we were shocked when more than 200 children showed up to learn. This year, more than 500 students will attend Yesus Mena School for deaf children.

There’s a universal kind of magic in the first day of school.

The potion is simple: mix one new outfit with two cups of optimism for what a new school year may hold — one from the child, one from the parent. Add a fresh-faced teacher and 50 sets of new notebooks and school bags. Blend it all together with a dose of excitement and a pinch of nerves. Add a new best friend and a handful of lunch-time giggles. Drink it up, knowing this school year will be the best one yet. Continue reading “For Deaf Students in Ethiopia, the First Day of School is a Major Milestone”

Thank You for Supporting the Special Needs Adoption Fund!

babyIn February, we reached out to all of our friends, child sponsors, adoptive families and more to raise money for the Special Needs Adoption Fund, which provides financial aid and grants to eligible families waiting to bring their child home. Your gifts are already working miracles in the lives of children and families. Since the beginning of the year, you’ve helped more than 39 families receive SNAF grants.

For over two decades, Holt supporters like you have helped children come home through the Special Needs Adoption Fund. Since 1994, over 600 families have received SNAF grants — giving them the critical support they need to adopt a child with a special medical or developmental condition.

But every year, the need grows bigger and bigger. Most of the children Holt now places with families have some form of special need — and in 2014, over half had moderate to major needs. As many of these children will face expensive medical procedures once home, the financial burden on families is often unbearable.

Your gift to the Special Needs Adoption Fund eases that burden — making a child’s dream of a family come true.

Last year alone, Holt awarded 37 SNAF grants totaling $91,300. This year, we will need to raise the same amount to ensure we can support every family who needs help funding their adoption. But so far, our 2015 SNAF campaign has raised just $42,346 of our $100,000 goal.

Would you consider giving again?


Continue reading “Thank You for Supporting the Special Needs Adoption Fund!”

She Could Have Been Just a Number…

ViviShe could have been just a number. Just another kid in an orphanage. Just another kid with special needs.

When Holt matched Vivienne with her family three years ago, she was about to receive surgery for her cleft lip and palate — a common condition among children living in orphanage care in China. At the time, she was in care at Peace House, Holt’s medical foster home in Beijing.

“It was hard being so far away, wondering if all was well,” her mom, Catherine, reflects.

Fortunately, Holt’s staff in China regularly sent updates about Vivienne’s progress —including medical records, photos and video. “We knew she was safe and well cared for,” says Catherine. Continue reading “She Could Have Been Just a Number…”

The Single Best Decision

As options expand for single applicants hoping to adopt internationally, one single mom shares her story of opening her heart and home to a son from China.


“You know what, Mom?”

“What Timothy…”


“I love you, too.”

This is a game my son and I play almost every day. And those are words that I thought I would never hear. I am single and in my 40’s, but ever since I could remember I had always wanted to be a mom. I was confused as to why God would place such a longing in my heart, but not have me married and having children. Then, a few years ago, God turned my heart toward adoption. At first I rebelled. Was I out of my mind? Being single and a busy career woman, I had my hands full managing my job, my home, volunteer work and a personal life. And, to be honest, I was a little selfish about giving it up. How in the world did I think I would be able to add a child to this…all by myself.

But once the seed of possibility was planted, the longing only got stronger. I talked with my pastor, my closest friends, my family (all of them live out of town), and carefully surveyed my support systems. As it turns out, I have several friends in my church family who have adopted, so I talked to them. Then, I took the plunge and called Holt International.

Fifteen months, a completed home study and a dossier later, I was traveling to China with my aunt to meet my 2-year-old son, Timothy, and bring him home. The trip to get my son was a wonderful experience and well supported by Holt staff. But the real adventures began when we arrived home.


My aunt stayed for a few days to help with my adjustment to motherhood, but she was tired and jet-lagged, too, and really needed to get back to her life. I could not have survived those initial weeks had it not been for the support of my closest friends and my church family. Before I went to China, they had arranged a ‘baby shower’ that included not just the usual gifts for a small child, but an organizational chart of meals, errand runners, diaper bringers and prayer support for the first several months after our return. My friends, respecting our initial need for bonding time, stood at the ready to provide the emotional support and encouragement that I needed to begin my motherhood experience. They would send emails, call, drop by briefly with a meal or help me recover from a meltdown. And, when we ventured out to a park, they would meet us there to play ‘separately, together.’ Continue reading “The Single Best Decision”

Forever a Part of Our Story

The vast majority of children in Holt’s sponsorship program live with their birth families. For these children, Holt sponsors provide vital support while their parents work to get back on their feet — and ultimately, regain their ability to independently care for their children. But for a small number of orphaned and abandoned children, Holt sponsors stand in the gap while the children wait to join loving adoptive families in country or overseas. Their monthly commitment ensures these children have everything they need to thrive — from food and medical care to the nurturing care of devoted caregivers. And often, when the children go home to their families, their parents will reach out to their former sponsors with letters expressing their heartfelt gratitude. Below, we share two recent letters from Holt adoptive families to the sponsors who cared for their children while they waited to come home…

Dear Holt Sponsor,

Nattinach before she came home to her family.
With the support of sponsors, Eden Nattanich was able to stay in a loving foster family in Thailand while she waited to come home to her adoptive family.

I cannot describe the gratitude that our family feels for the support that you have provided over the past 2.5 years in our daughter’s life. With that, I wanted to take the opportunity to reach out to you and give you a personal and heartfelt thank you along with some updates on her.

My family and I are from Las Vegas, Nevada. My husband and I have a birth son (Kai) who is 5 years old, 2 huskies, and 2 little parakeets. My mother was adopted from China when she was four years old, and I have wanted the opportunity to give to a child what my grandparents gave to her so many years ago. Before my son was even old enough to walk, we began our process with Holt. Since then, Thailand saw flooding and coups and general political turmoil which delayed our process greatly.

FINALLY, October 21st we were able to meet Nattanich in real life. She was super nair-30spunky, and even her social worker warned us that she was definitely in the midst of her terrible-twos! She wasn’t though. She was an angel. Still is. The saddest part of the whole journey was leaving her foster family. They were amazing people, and the support that you provided, assisted them in providing a wonderful and loving home for our daughter. I have heard horror stories of the care that foster families sometimes provide, and this is most certainly not one of those. She is well loved, well nourished, has excellent hygiene, and best off all – beautiful teeth! My girl LOVES brushing her teeth. (My 5-year-old could learn a thing or two from her!) Continue reading “Forever a Part of Our Story”

Conquering Mt. Can’t-Afford-Adoption

A few years ago, Amber Kanallakan and her husband began to feel God prompting them to grow their family through adoption. They felt prepared to parent a child with a limb difference and because China has so many children with this particular special need, they applied to Holt’s China program in August of 2013 after holding a garage sale to cover the cost of Holt’s application fee. Fearing finances may hold them back from adopting, the Kanallakans started hosting fundraisers and ultimately ended up raising the money to cover 100 percent of the cost of their adoption. Amber and her husband travel in March 2015 to bring their son, Oliver, home from China. Here, they reflect on their journey and give advice to other families considering fundraising to cover adoption costs. 


When my husband and I began to seriously consider growing our family through international adoption, there were two giant mountains that quickly overshadowed our conversation.

The first mountain was called “perfect timing.”

When was the “right” time to start the process? Continue reading “Conquering Mt. Can’t-Afford-Adoption”

Multiplying Our Efforts

 After adopting two children from Ethiopia, physicians Andrea and Andrew Janssen decide to leave their small town in eastern Oregon and move their family across the world to teach at Addis Ababa University. Here, they will train some of the first doctors in Ethiopia to specialize in family medicine.

The Janssen Family.As a college freshman at Westmont I had never experienced rural medicine. Leaving Santa Barbara for rural Zambia to work with Dr. Rob Congdon opened my eyes to malaria, malnutrition and mongu. (Mongu —fried caterpillars — are crunchy and akin to bacon, a good protein source in rural Zambia.) Although I suffered from a bout of cerebral malaria during my four-month trip to Luampa Mission Hospital, it was the suffering of one malnourished girl that indelibly changed my future.

Mbambi was 18 months old, 11 pounds and came to the hospital with “kwashiorkor,” or protein calorie malnutrition. She had been brought by her uncle, her closest living relative. Her muscles were so wasted she still couldn’t muster sitting or smiling. Diligently, I fed her millet cereal with peanut butter, long before the creation of Plumpy’Nut — the peanut-based paste now commonly used to treat severe malnutrition. I learned to carry Mbambi on my back African-style. I taught the uncle how to bathe her and soon all the patients in the male hospital ward began to care for her. I was filled with joy when, after several months, Mbambi was able to sit up and play a few small games. God birthed the idea of adoption in my heart through that one small child in Zambia. I returned inspired, challenged and changed. Continue reading “Multiplying Our Efforts”