Merry Christmas, From Aynalem to Degefech

p1b2n85snlp061h3nmd81t3i1tf83Six-year-old Aynalem was adopted from Ethiopia five years ago. One way she and her family stay connected with her birth culture is by sponsoring a child in Ethiopia — a girl named Degefech! This year, in her family’s Christmas card to Degefech, Aynalem — with some typing help from her parents — included a special note just from her.

Hello Degefech, my name is Aynalem. I am 6 years old and I live in Oregon, USA. I am in first grade, in elementary (your primary) school. I play soccer (your football) on a team called Fútbol Club Portland. I like to dance and sing, and I really like to draw. Continue reading “Merry Christmas, From Aynalem to Degefech”

The Story Behind the Photo: 86 and Counting

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At the beginning of November, to kick off National Adoption Month, we shared a collage of all the children on our waiting child photolisting — just a small glimpse of the hundreds of children who we are seeking families for at any given time. We hoped it would kindle a passion in our supporters to help advocate for children who need loving families of their own. And it did!

You shared our waiting child stories. You reposted our advocacy blogs. You helped us tell the story behind each and every photo that we featured on social media during National Adoption Month.

The photo above represents the number of children from our photolisting that we have — thanks in part to your advocacy — matched with families so far in 2016. The black and white blocks represent the children who now are, or soon will be, part of a loving and secure family. The ones in color represent the children who we still need your help advocating for.

In total this year, Holt has matched 86 children from the photolisting — and another 200+ directly with a family! This is something to celebrate!

But we seek a world where every child has a loving and secure home. And until that day comes, we intend to keep working hard to advocate for the children left behind — and we ask you to join us.

One of the best ways that you can support our advocacy efforts is through sharing the stories we post about waiting children. That can be anything from pressing “like” or “share” on Facebook to leading an informational meeting in your community. Creativity is encouraged and we look forward to hearing what you come up with!

Thank you again for your heart and compassion for children who need families. Allied with you, we can achieve anything!
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Becoming a Person Again

When her husband died of AIDS at a young age, Sebele felt hopeless and unsure about how she would support her five children. But with a small business grant and training from our partner in Ethiopia, she has kept her family together — and has become “a person again.”

_hlt0526Sometimes, people say bad things to Sebele’s children. They taunt them because their father died of AIDS. They avoid them because their mother still carries the virus. They push them to the point of tears.

“They come home and they cry sometimes,” says Sebele*, her eyes cast downward, hands neatly folded in her lap, as she sits on her porch beside four of her five children. “They find their father’s picture and they cry.”

Sebele and her family live in Shinshicho, Ethiopia — one of the southern region’s impoverished woredas, or districts, where Holt has for nearly a decade worked alongside local partners to strengthen struggling families, in particular families headed by women. Here, the stigma against HIV remains so strong that the local hospital — a hospital Holt worked alongside the community to help build — has a separate wing to help HIV patients keep their health status private. When Sebele’s husband died, her neighbors shunned her. Friends and relatives became distant. And even though her children are not carriers of the disease themselves, they too experienced discrimination at school and in their community.

“The only thing I wanted was not to live,” she says.

But life was not always so bleak for Sebele and her family. Before her husband died, he earned a good income working in the local government. Her children attended private school. They ate well. They lived well. And they were respected and embraced in their community.

“Their life was normal,” Sebele says of her children, speaking in Amharic to our translator. “They used to get good support. They learned very well. But the only source of income was from their father. So after he died, that made it even harder.” Continue reading “Becoming a Person Again”

Confidence, empowerment and the unexpected lesson from a furry friend

When Ed and Laura Sykora brought their daughter Maci home from Ethiopia, she was shy and timid. Now, she’s a confident and charming 7-year-old. Laura credits an unexpected friend for helping Maci discover her inner voice and feel empowered to handle life’s most difficult questions.

Laura and Ed with their son, Jax, 7, and their daughter, Maci, 7. Both Jax and Maci were adopted from Ethiopia.
Laura and Ed with their son, Jax, 7, and their daughter, Maci, 7. Both Jax and Maci were adopted from Ethiopia.

In my parenting journey, I have learned that I can’t always be there to speak for my children each time they are challenged.  I have learned that my job as a parent is to support and encourage my children and help them develop their problem-solving skills so they are empowered to work through situations.

Three years ago, my husband and I brought home a sweet, sensitive and smiling 4-year-old girl named Maci.

In those first few weeks home, she struggled with her confidence. Quiet and soft-spoken, she didn’t inherently believe that her voice mattered or that what she said was important.

As a mom, I talked to her about how she could feel safe to ask for what she needed and wanted. She could tell her classmates and rowdy brother if they were treating her in a way she didn’t like.

But, though my words were many, I never could have guessed how they would pale in comparison to the power of bringing a new, special family member into our home. Continue reading “Confidence, empowerment and the unexpected lesson from a furry friend”

The Story Behind the Photo: What Social Workers Actually Do…

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With stern faces and plastic inspection gloves, adoption social workers Kris Bales and Kathie Stocker illustrate what prospective families THINK they do — not what they ACTUALLY do.

Social workers. They come into your home with a white glove and a watchful eye. They check under your bed for dust mites. They go through your medicine cabinet. They call your neighbors to inquire how long you wait to mow your lawn. They take note of every imperfection, just looking for a reason not to approve your family for adoption.

Is that about what you had in mind?­­

Well meet Kathie Stocker and Kris Bales, two of Holt’s most devoted — and beloved — social workers. Kathie has worked with Holt for 23 years and Kris for 14. K­athie is often the first person families hoping to adopt from Korea will speak to, while Kris advises families interested in the China program. Both and have guided hundreds of families through their adoption process. At Christmas time, their walls are covered in cards from families and photos of children they’ve helped place. Both will be the first to tell you that the job of a social worker is not to be taken lightly — entrusting a family with a child is no small decision. But they will also tell you that the homestudy process is not about judgment. No family is perfect. And neither are they.

Above all, their passion — and their role — is to find the right family for every child.

Today on the Holt blog, learn more about what Kris and Kathie ACTUALLY do as adoption social workers for Holt.

Continue reading “The Story Behind the Photo: What Social Workers Actually Do…”

Their World Has Opened Up, Because of You

In southern Ethiopia, in a town called Shinshicho, there is a special school where children from all over the region come to study. Some walk up to six miles every day just so they can learn there.

It is the only school for deaf children in a community of over 250,000 people — a community that also happens to have the highest rate of deafness in all of Ethiopia.

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. Without a way to communicate with the outside world, they lived lives of loneliness and isolation — completely unable to express their intelligent thoughts and complex emotions even with their own families. They were barely recognized as human.

But when the Yesus Mena School for the Deaf opened in Shinshicho, suddenly a world of possibility also opened up for these children. Today, with the support of Holt sponsors like you, 395 students who are deaf or partially hearing are finally receiving the sign-language-based education they need and deserve.

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.

Thank you for all you do for your sponsored child. Wherever they live, whatever their struggle, your sponsorship has opened a world of possibility in their life.

Recognized as human for the first time…

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In the Kembata-Tembaro zone of southern Ethiopia, the prevalence of deafness is the highest in the country.

Deaf children in this rural community face multiple difficulties that hinder them from reaching their full potential. Marginalization, limited participation in their community and exploitation for child labor are a few of the hurdles that affect their lives.

Today, deaf children in this region are able to pursue their education at the Yesus Mena School for the Deaf enabling them to communicate with their families for the first time, and empowering them with the skills and knowledge to overcome poverty.

Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 8.37.25 AM Continue reading “Recognized as human for the first time…”

For waiting kids, it’s all about “reach.”

We need your help!

During the summer, we consistently receive fewer applications than throughout the rest of the year. Maybe it’s because families are going on vacation or their lives are full of activities, but whatever the reason, lower application numbers mean that we are finding homes for fewer children overall. We want to counteract that trend and we need your help.

One of the major ways that we find prospective families for children is through social media, and when working with social media, it’s all about “reach.” This is where you come in.

Photo Release: Further_Marketing_Use Adopted Child's Country of Birth: China Report Month: : 24 Month Adoptive Parent's Info:  Adoptive Father's First & Last Name: Brian Murphy Adoptive Mother's First & Last Name: Jessica Murphy State: IN E-mail address: mrsjessicamurphy@gmail.com Adopted Child's Information:  Child's Original Name: Yu Bing Yan Child's New Name: Alaina Murphy Child's DOB: 01/16/2013 Arrival Date: 05/30/2014 Caption for each photo:  AlainaMurphy-01.jpg The Murphy family on vacation in Brown County, Indiana. We love spending time outdoors together. AlainaMurphy-02.jpg Alaina dressed in as a princess for Halloween. AlainaMurphy-03.jpg Alaina and Jessica (Mother) spending time together at the beach. Our family visits the same place in Florida every year! AlainaMurphy-04.jpg Alaina, excited to ride the train at the Cincinnati Zoo. AlainaMurphy-05.jpg Alaina and Brian (Father), together on a beautiful nature trail. AlainaMurphy-06.jpg The Murphy Family on vacation together in Florida. We spent the week swimming and playing together on the beach. AlainaMurphy-07.jpg Alaina dressed as her favorite Disney character, and holding one of her "babies". AlainaMurphy-08.jpg Alaina dressed in her beautiful silk dress for Chinese New Year. We celebrated together with our extended family and ate some delicious food.We often use our Facebook page to advocate for children on our waiting child photolisting. In order for our Facebook campaigns to be successful, however, we rely on people like you to spread children’s stories through sharing, liking and commenting. Facebook thinks it knows what people want to see on their feed, and it figures that out by looking at what is getting the most engagement. So the more shares, likes and comments that our posts get, the more Facebook assists in spreading them around. Basically, the more engagement that a post about a child receives, the better chance we have of finding them a loving and secure home.

Take Suzanna. Like many other children on our waiting child photolisting, we wrote a blog post about Suzanna and then posted it to Facebook. Here is where it gets exciting. People like you started sharing it, liking it and commenting on it, and within the first day, 40,000+ people saw it! That number is still climbing.

Suzanna

 

Now, that is a lot of people and we get excited about that. But what we are really excited about is that we had 40+ inquiries about adopting Suzanna, and one family is going through the process to adopt her now!

Helping us spread the word about children who need extra advocacy has a real and tangible impact on the lives of the people that we “reach” — and most importantly, on the lives of children who are waiting for a family of their own.

 

Sincerely,

Emily Lund

Adoption Counselor

Holt International
Ready to advocate for children? Hunter, Gabbie and Brady need your help right now:

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A Clear Path to Success

With the generous gift of an anonymous Holt supporter, a 6-year-old girl in Ethiopia receives treatment and glasses for a debilitating eye condition.

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Birhanesh and her father.


Birhanesh walks along a dusty, broken sidewalk in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Holding her father’s hand, she frolics down the uneven ground — bringing up gravel that dirties her pretty white flats. She wears a pink, pleated skirt and a forest green zip-up jacket. Her eyes, already teary and red, fill with dust as she strains to see on this bright day in November, one of the driest months in Ethiopia. Standing at almost 7-feet-tall, Birhanesh’s father holds his daughter’s hand tightly as the heavy Addis traffic rushes around them. The father and daughter are almost 200 miles away from the place they call home, a traditional mud hut in the Wallana district of southern Ethiopia. Accompanying them on this long-awaited journey is Miruk Alemu, then Holt Ethiopia’s child sponsorship coordinator. They have arrived in Ethiopia’s capital for a very special reason. Today, 6-year-old Birhanesh will, after years of discomfort, visit an eye specialist for the first time — hopeful that he can finally give her some relief. Continue reading “A Clear Path to Success”

Just look at the striking differences in these children and families…

Holt’s supporters are amazing. Because of gifts to our President’s Top Priority Fund last year, we have seen striking changes in the lives of children and families we serve. Hopeful adoptive families have been able to offer a loving home to children with special needs, while children with special needs living with their families around the world were able to receive the vital medical care and therapies they need to thrive. Through family strengthening initiatives, many struggling families now have the tools and resources to independently support their children. Holt’s supporters created pathways for children to go to school, provided lifesaving food to orphaned children in North Korea and created hope and opportunity in the lives of children and families as near as Haiti and as far as Mongolia and Vietnam.

Below, we share some of our favorite stories from the year — stories that show the lasting and meaningful difference you made in the lives of children and families in 2015. Thank you, and enjoy! Continue reading “Just look at the striking differences in these children and families…”