DJ You started her career working with families and children in 2000 as a social worker for Holt Children’s Services of Korea, a separate but closely tied organization to Holt International . Recently, she accepted a position as Holt Korea’s outreach program director after serving as a social worker in Seoul for the last 16 years. “I’m very happy to still be serving children in different countries,” DJ says. “I was called to love the children of the world.”
Below, DJ shares about her cherished career uniting children with families through adoption — many of them Holt families in the U.S. — and what it has meant to her to work with the organization Harry and Bertha Holt founded 60 years ago in her native South Korea.
Since I was in 6th grade, I’ve wanted to be a social worker. Serving orphaned children has always been my dream, and I know God called me to care for orphans. My mother was a social worker and great role model for me. She ran an orphanage with my aunt in Seoul, South Korea, and I was around children all the time.
My mother’s love and passion for orphaned children was unstoppable. One of her friends introduced her to the Holt reception center that was not too far from my mother’s orphanage. Whenever my mother had some extra time, she went there and volunteered to take care of babies. She remembers working with Harry Holt. She said he always took care of the most vulnerable children — loving them, feeding them and “making them chubby,” then giving them back to the caregiver when they were healthy enough. Then, he would take care of the next vulnerable child to come into care. My mother still remembers the children’s names and nicknames. They are all probably grandparents now.
Like my mother, I had hoped and dreamed to work in an adoption agency one day, especially an international adoption agency. When I was a junior in college, my sister and I did a volunteer escort trip, bringing a baby to the United States and into their new family. Continue reading “Living Her Dream”
Around the world, education is one of the most effective ways to help children and families escape long-term poverty. But in the countries where Holt works in SE Asia, this basic right of children is not easily obtained.
In impoverished communities across SE Asia, parents often let their children drop out of school to enter the labor workforce at very early ages. But high dropout rates, lack of education and poverty are all primary factors contributing to child trafficking.
Children as young as 12 who drop out of school have become easy targets for traffickers who recruit them with the promise of job placements in big cities. Sometimes, they end up in very harsh working conditions. Others are trafficked for far worse reasons.
Preschools or daycare for children ages 3-5 are also not available in many rural areas in SE Asia — resulting in delayed social, language and academic development. In some countries, the frequent migration of parents to seek jobs in big cities has resulted in children not having access to preschools. Many parents simply can’t afford to send their children to preschool, or do not understand how education impacts the development of their children prior to Grade 1.
Without your help and partnership, Holt could never reach so many lives in SE Asia and the many other countries where we work. Thank you for being part of a big cause serving children and families around the world!
Thoa Bui | Senior Executive of South & Southeast Asia Programs
In February, I spent a week visiting children and families in Holt’s program in rural Cambodia, where extreme poverty, under-development, food shortages and un-policed exploitation threaten the stability, health and wellness of children, families and entire communities.
On our last day in Kampot, an older woman met our Holt group just as we were returning to our vehicle to head back to Phnom Penh. She didn’t speak English, so I shook her hand before hopping in the backseat of the SUV. I have no idea how far she walked to find us.
She walked to the driver’s side window and told our community development officer that her family really needed a new roof, and to ask if we could help provide one. He discussed her request with Holt’s director of programs in Cambodia, Kosal Cheam, who translated her request to us as we drove away.
While I didn’t actually see her home, I imagined it was similar to those I had visited all week. It was probably a thatch roof with thatch walls, built on stilts.
A leaky roof in Cambodia is a huge threat to children’s health and safety. During the rainy season, children will be more susceptible to colds and illness. The leaking can rot the floor and ruin the whole home.
I asked how much the new roof would cost, and Kosal said it would be about $100.
Upon returning to the U.S., I donated $100 to our Cambodia program, designated for this family. It was such a minimal cost to change a family’s life and keep them safe.
Last week, I received an email from Kosal and I opened it excitedly, expecting to see pictures of the new roof.
I was heartbroken by her news.
The roof was delayed because the grandmother died just a few days prior and the mother, father and children were preparing for her funeral.
As if that weren’t sad enough, Kosal also said that because the family’s home was in such poor condition, there wasn’t enough support from the walls and central pillars to support the weight of a new roof.
Kosal included two attachments, and I clicked them open. I was shocked by what I saw.
This is a picture of the family’s home.
And this is a picture of the family. Thann, the little boy on the left, is in Holt’s child sponsorship program, so he receives help with his school fees and other critical, basic needs, like emergency food. Thann is a good student and doing well in school. His younger sister is too little to enroll in school. The family makes their income farming rice, but Holt’s on-the-ground staff are helping them to learn new income generating skills, like animal raising. Also, Thann’s mother is in a Holt-funded self-help and low-interest loan group in her village. You can read more about Holt’s self-help groups here.
Children and families in our programs tend to be among the most vulnerable in the world. In Cambodia, poverty is especially pervasive. However, even by that standard, this home is in very, very rough shape.
I can’t imagine the sadness this family is experiencing, having just lost a dear loved one and family elder. And to go through the excitement of learning that one of grandma’s last wishes for her family — a new roof! — was granted, but then impossible to complete… That must have felt just hopeless.
But I know we can make a miracle for this family and give them some hope in their time of need.
For $400 more, we can not only replace the roof, but fix the family’s home to support the new roof.
To make a donation, call Holt Development Associate Courtney Young at 541-687-2202 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and let her know you want to donate to Thann’s roof project. She will be happy to take you donation over the phone. You can also donated here, but be sure to write “Thann’s Roof Project CBACE15-002” in the comment box.
Any amount you give will be used 100 percent to help this family. Anything above $400 will be redirected to a similar program of greatest need.
Thank you for giving this family the resources they need to get back on their feet. Your gift will be truly inspiring and life changing for them.
If you make a gift, we will email you when we receive an update from Cambodia.
If we ever wish to see a world where every child has a permanent, loving family, then keeping families on the verge of separation together is critical.
In Cambodia, this concept is absolutely central to Holt’s programs.
With the generosity and commitment of sponsors like you, Holt’s on-the-ground partners are empowering women to combat some of the biggest threats to family stability — migration, trafficking, poverty, poor job opportunities and food shortages.
By training moms in diversified sustainable agriculture (a fancy way of saying farming and ranching), they are able to generate enough income to provide for their families without migrating for work. This helps to keep children safe. By creating women’s self-help groups and community loan programs, women are learning to save money and also have access to low-interest loans. This helps ensure children’s basic needs are met. And, by providing children with school supplies, teachers, advocates and education-based leadership opportunities, children are staying in school longer and staying safe from exploitation, abuse and trafficking. And, children share what they’ve learned with their parents, too.
All together, these efforts mean healthier, happier children, stable families and stronger communities.
And it’s all because of you, because you provide the support to ensure these programs are possible. By sponsoring a child, you are giving a voice to the voiceless and preventing child abandonment, and not just in Cambodia but everywhere Holt has programs.
In early February, Holt staff had the opportunity to visit children and families in Cambodia, and we hope you will take a minute to see how sponsorship is transforming the lives of children and families in two of the poorest districts, Prey Veng and Kampot.
In Cambodia, poverty often forces parents to migrate for work — sometimes hundreds of miles away — which puts children at greater risk of malnutrition, trafficking and exploitation. But, by supporting microloans and women’s self-help groups, Holt sponsors and donors are helping families learn sustainable agriculture skills so they can independently provide for their children, without having to travel.
At 4:30 p.m., the garment factories in southwest Cambodia are letting out for the day. Beyond the fences and gates that surround each giant, metal warehouse, a row of industrial flat-bed trucks wait, some already filling with women in bright pants and T-shirts. The two-lane road leading from the nation’s capital city, Phnom Penh, to the small fishing town of Kampot is stacked with these trucks — some with 20 or 30 passengers who sit in the back, shoulder to shoulder, their legs stretched straight. Some have more than 100 passengers, mostly women, who are packed so tightly they must stand with their stomach and back pressed into the women around them. The air is dusty as they drive, and many cover their faces with medical masks or scarves.
“When a truck wrecks, many women die,” Kosal Cheam, Holt’s director of programs in Cambodia, says grimly, shaking her head.
In Cambodia, poverty is so widespread that thousands of families are forced to migrate from rural areas to large cities like Phnom Penh or even bordering countries like Thailand to find work — often low-paying jobs in crowded garment factories. Agriculture, mainly rice production, is the dominant economic driver in the region and many families survive on what they grow. But drought is a common occurrence. And when nothing grows, many families are out of work. Continue reading “Preventing Family Migration and Child Trafficking in Cambodia”
The year 2015 was an excellent year in stories on the Holt blog — so much so that we expanded our Top 10 list to a Top 15 of the year!
In 2015, Holt’s creative lead, Billie Loewen, and I traveled to India, where we witnessed the incredible impact of Holt’s child nutrition program, gained new understanding on how Holt’s local partners are helping some of their country’s most vulnerable children and families, and met profoundly inspiring young women who refuse to accept the gender inequities that are far too common in their native India. In 2015, China announced major changes to their one-child policy — inspiring an essay by Chinese adoptee Lillian Schmaltz — and significantly expanded options for single applicants such as Vicky Baker, whose story of opening her heart and home to a son was among the most viewed of the year. Perhaps what’s most exciting this year is that a number of submissions from adoptees topped the list. In fact, the top four most viewed blog posts of 2015 came from Holt adoptees!
Without further ado, we are so excited to share Holt’s Top 15 Most Viewed Blogs of 2015, including five adoptee stories, five adoptive family stories and five stories about efforts to strengthen families and uplift orphaned and vulnerable children in our programs around the world. — Robin Munro, Managing EditorContinue reading “Top 15 Stories of 2015”
Six-year-old Sokha and his family live in the most impoverished region of Cambodia where many families are forced to migrate or make their children work to earn extra income. But now, with help from Holt and the Child and Life Association, they have hope. Equipped with resources, education and support, Sokha and his family can now escape poverty and transform their future.
When it rains in rural Cambodia, 6-year-old Sokha* and his family have little hope of staying dry. The wind and water easily make it through the palm leaf walls and deteriorating steel roof of their small home. They do their best to dodge the drips and drops, but eventually end up drenched.
In Cambodia, as more and more families migrate from rural villages in search of work, their children are placed at greater risk of exploitation and trafficking. Here, in one rural province, Holt is working to keep children safe in the care of their families and communities.
A young girl — 13 years old — just had her last day of school. Not because the school year ended and let out for the summer. And not because she graduated one grade to move on to the next. For this girl, her last day of school came abruptly — disrupting her education when it all but started. Next week she will move to the city, all alone, where she’ll start work. She was promised a good job, but she knows better than that. She’ll probably work in a garment factory or maybe as a maid in someone else’s house, with long hours and meager pay. Her mother worries and tells her to be careful of strange men who may seem nice at first, but may want to hurt her. She is scared and doesn’t want to leave her friends and village, but she knows she must go to make money and help her family.
A letter from Holt Cambodia staff to Holt child sponsors and supporters.
On behalf of our colleagues and the children we serve in Cambodia, I would like to thank you very much for your support for all of our programs. It is very helpful to children in rural areas who have little access to education. Education is a key factor in the development of our country as well as the development of stronger, more self-reliant families. Without your support, our children may not be able to have a good education or stay with their families. Your support is a valuable gift for all of them.
In 2014, your support enabled Holt Cambodia to directly serve 871 children. Through your sponsorship, you have helped to support educational programs, family strengthening activities, a community library, rice bank, women’s self-help groups and income-generating activities to help families independently support their children.
In 2014, 546 children benefited from educational support. All children received schooling materials, uniforms, emotional support, and some hygiene materials. Sixty-one students continued their schooling until the end of university.
Sien Sok-Ny is a young girl from Porsat province who graduated in 2014, earning a degree in management. She now is very proud to have a full-time job at Cambodian Indigenous Youth Association as a program officer in charge of women’s issues. She hopes to be able to help other children stay in school and complete university.
Last year, you also helped provide approximately 53 families with a one-year loan to start an income-generating business and enabled approximately 270 families to participate in Holt-supported self-help groups. For example, the Pav family in Takeo province faced great difficulties as they were very poor and not able to afford school fees for all four of their children. Continue reading “It All Started With a Holt Sponsor”