I Won’t Give Up On Her

In the summer of 2016, Holt sponsor and then Holt employee Billie Loewen met a very sad, hungry girl in a remote village in Cambodia. She immediately signed up to sponsor her. Four years later, she receives an update that makes her heart soar.

In the first week of every month, I pull open the Excel spreadsheet with four years of monthly budgets. I open the Chase app and Wells Fargo and drift quickly over the charges, looking for anything amiss. The single line with a shortened title, “HOLT INTL CHILD,” and associated charge — $38 — always catches my eye.

Most months, paying bills is the only time I think about what it costs to sponsor the beautiful, shy, heartbreakingly sad little girl I met in a village in Cambodia on a scorching hot, dusty day in 2016.

Tiny, impossibly thin with straggly hair turning yellow from lack of nutrition, and a broad face with deep, serious eyes, 10-year-old Phal captured my entire heart the moment I saw her.

It’s been four years since I met her, and I think about her a lot.

Photos of Phal over four years of sponsorship reports. Her first photo is in the bottom right corner. Her most recent photo is top left.
Photos of Phal over four years of sponsorship reports. Her first photo is in the bottom right corner. Her most recent photo is top left.

Continue reading “I Won’t Give Up On Her”

Favorite 15 Stories of 2019

In 2019, we shared some amazing and inspiring stories from and about adoptees, adoptive families, sponsors, donors, and children and families in our programs around the world. It has been an incredible year at Holt — a year that you shared with us as you read, commented on and reposted our updates, stories and videos throughout the year.

Early last year, we merged with the adoption and child welfare agency WACAP — combining our resources and knowledge to help even more orphaned and vulnerable children both in the U.S. and in countries around the world. Throughout the year, Holt’s extraordinary donors made it possible to reach more than 280,000 children and families in 14 countries with everything from school supplies and bicycles to lifesaving food and critically needed surgery. Continue reading “Favorite 15 Stories of 2019”

Their Home is Not Safe

Families living without safe shelter face all kinds of threats — especially during the rainy season in Cambodia. Ten-year-old Linna lives in the city. Eleven-year-old Thak Kan lives in a more rural area. Neither of them have a safe place to live. 

Thak Kan sits between his parents as his mom wipes tears from her eyes and his dad holds his little sister in his lap. His little brother sits on the other side of his mom. Thak Kan looks down, his brow knit tightly together. Sleepy, he rests his head on his dad’s shoulder. He is 11, but looks small for his age.

“How do you feel when it rains really hard?”

“Scared,” he says. His voice is sweet, soft and high. Continue reading “Their Home is Not Safe”

Because They Are Brave

For generations, women and girls in Cambodia were taught not to speak their minds or stand up for their rights. But step by step, and with the support of sponsors and donors, they are learning to stand up, speak up and go after their dreams.

Sela sits in the Holt Cambodia office in Phnom Penh.
Sela sits in the Holt Cambodia office in Phnom Penh.

Sela’s voice quivers a bit as she speaks. She is slight and girlish, in jeans and a V-neck shirt, her dark hair pulled back in a ponytail and long bangs swept across her forehead. A large, black, practical watch overwhelms her slender wrist. Continue reading “Because They Are Brave”

Bringing Education To Their World

Imagine your sponsored child receiving her first school uniform or the news that he can attend school on a one-year scholarship. Imagine the opportunities that an education will provide her, knowing that going to school helps prevent gender-based violence and discrimination.

Sponsorship — and your commitment to your sponsored child — empowers boys and girls around the world to overcome poverty and achieve their dreams. 

Cambodia

At a preschool in Cambodia’s impoverished Kampot province, a sponsored girl leans on her desk. In many rural areas of Cambodia, children do not have access to a preschool education, resulting in delayed social, language and academic development. But in Kampot, children now attend one of five sponsor-supported preschools where they have a safe space to eat snacks, learn skills and prepare for life-long success in school. Students like this young girl can now pursue their dreams by receiving an early education. Continue reading “Bringing Education To Their World”

Six Families Receive New Homes in Cambodia

In Cambodia’s impoverished Prey Veng province, children and families live in conditions that no one should ever live in. 

Every day, these families sleep, study and eat their meals under roofs that leak, inside palm leaf walls – unstable homes that cannot protect them from the rain and wind. But because of Holt’s generous donors, many families in this community now have hope. Working alongside local partner Child and Life Association (CLA), Holt donors recently provided new homes and necessary renovations for six of the most vulnerable families in Pre Veng province. 

Through these new and safe living conditions, these families’ lives have dramatically changed.

VeunSam Oun's Family – Before
Veung Sam Oun's Family – After
Continue reading “Six Families Receive New Homes in Cambodia”

We Will Never Forget You

As the oldest child in a single-parent home, Mol Vey felt the need to help support his family. After losing his father at a young age, his mom struggled on one income. But he could only do so much, and often missed school to help his mom. Then sponsors and donors stepped in — providing the tools and resources his family needed to stay together, and grow stable and strong.

Mol Vey with his mother, Leng Sina, and younger brother.

Mol Vey lives with his mother, Leng Sina, and younger brother in Prey Kuy village — a small village located in Cambodia’s rural Prey Veng province.

His father died from diabetes when Mol Vey was just 4 years old, and his family already struggled to survive on minimal income. But when he passed away, their living conditions grew even worse.

Continue reading “We Will Never Forget You”

Because of You, Phal and Her Siblings Have a New Home

Poverty is complicated.

It’s never the same from one family or child to another.

And, while it can be defined by not having enough — material goods, resources, support, opportunities — there are no perfect, broad solutions that help every child escape.

Keeping kids in school helps. Providing advocacy helps. Giving food and medical care helps. And for some families, that support is enough.

But some children need more. They need the individual attention, love and willingness to go the extra mile that parents usually provide.

Poverty also has some ugly, horrible cousins: abuse, neglect, loss.

But every child deserves the chance to reach their full potential. Every child deserves the love of a family to help them grow and reach their dreams.

Phal when she was 10. I received this photo in a sponsorship update on Phal, and it broke my heart.

I want to tell you about Phal. We shared her story in December in an urgent plea for help. And you responded so generously. I finally have a happy update.

Phal is the saddest child I have ever met. Continue reading “Because of You, Phal and Her Siblings Have a New Home”

Realizing Her Potential

Widowed at 38, and supporting six children, Sao Yien struggled to make ends meet. But when she received a Gift of Hope to build a small business, she realized how strong and independent she truly could be.

Thoa Bui (left), Holt’s vice president of programs in South and S.E. Asia, hugs Sao Yien as she cries on her shoulder during their recent visit.

When Sao Yien said goodbye to Thoa, she buried her head in Thoa’s shoulder and cried. She didn’t say anything. She just cried. And so did Thoa.

Thoa Bui is Holt’s vice president of programs in South and Southeast Asia. Sao Yien is a woman in our family strengthening program in Battambang, Cambodia. A widow, Sao is the sole support for seven members of her family, including her own child, her sister’s five children and her 90-year-old grandmother. Until two years ago, when Holt’s social work team in Cambodia began working with Sao, she and her family were living in extreme poverty.

“At that moment before we parted,” Thoa says, “she was crying — and I was crying too to be honest — and I said I have a lot of feelings because I totally understand what you have gone through, and I understand the burden of responsibility that you continue to carry for these children and your family.” Continue reading “Realizing Her Potential”

Your Generosity Is Keeping Them Safe and Warm!

Choy Thy with her two children in front of their house in Cambodia after donors replaced the leaky thatched walls, roof and stairs with weather-proof tin.

Because of your incredible generosity, 10 of the most vulnerable and impoverished families in Prey Veng, Cambodia received new homes or significant and seriously needed renovations. The families and their villages helped with construction, but Holt donors provided all the tools and materials.

There are no greater words of gratitude than from the families who received homes themselves! Continue reading “Your Generosity Is Keeping Them Safe and Warm!”