An American Girl in Haiti

Last July, Tiffany Marshall spent a month volunteering at the Holt Fontana Village, the childcare center Holt supports in Haiti.  An elementary school teacher in Portland, Oregon, Tiffany put her skills to use setting up a child-friendly space for the children at the village.  She organized the children’s toys and games into three themed rooms – one for reading and writing, one for arts and crafts, and one for playtime.

During her stay, she also helped develop an educational sponsorship program for students in the communities surrounding the village.  Tiffany joined Sarah Halfman and Mansour Masse – Holt’s country directors for Haiti – to identify possible schools.  Together, they interviewed 10 school directors in two days, and unanimously chose four schools to support.  At each school, Holt will sponsor between 50 and 100 children – funded entirely by the Holt sponsorship program.

In Portland, the school year has begun and Tiffany is back in the classroom — educating and inspiring her fourth grade students.  But for 23 children at the Holt Fontana Village, her presence is still felt.  She has enriched their lives by creating a space for them to explore, learn and play.  It seems they left an impression on her as well…

Read excerpts from Tiffany’s blog, An American Girl in Haiti, below…

Continue reading “An American Girl in Haiti”

Holt Forum Speaker Profiled in The Washington Times

Juntunen family on holiday.

Several years ago, while volunteering at an orphanage in Haiti, Craig Juntunen’s heart was captured.  Her name was Esperancia.  “I can’t explain it at all, other than to say she instantly captured my heart.  I called and told my wife that we were about to become parents,” he told a reporter for the Washington Times. Today, Craig and his wife Kathi are parents to three children adopted from Haiti — Quinn, “Espie” and Amelec.

A father for the first time, Craig felt inspired to write a book about his experience. It’s called Both Ends Burning. Moved to advocate for safer, more efficient and more cost-effective adoption practices, he later founded a nonprofit — also called Both Ends Burning.

“We have a moral obligation to fix this immediately and allow them to come home to loving families,” he says of the children who continue to languish in orphanages.  “There is no shortage of families wanting to adopt and there is no shortage of orphans.  Adults have a responsibility create an efficient and reasonable system to allow these children to flourish.”

On April 15th, Craig Juntunen will speak at the Holt Forum in Washington D.C., a historic gathering of adoptees, families, policymakers and adoption professionals working to “move forward from a 55-year perspective.”

To learn more about this exciting event, click here.

To read the full article on Craig Juntunen in the Washington Times, click here.

With Cholera Threat Still Imminent, Holt Empowers Haitian Families to Protect Themselves

Families in the coastal town of Montrouis learn to treat cholera symptoms using Oral Rehydration Solution.

In the year following the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that rocked the island nation of Haiti, killing over 230,000 and leaving one million homeless, little has changed.  Only five percent of debris and rubble has been cleared from the streets, and over 800,000 people continue to live in temporary camps – half of which are children.

In fact, circumstances have grown increasingly dire.

First, cholera – a disease not seen for over 60 years – spread throughout Haiti’s cramped and unsanitary tent camps, killing over 3,600 people.  Hurricane Tomas quickly followed, intensifying the outbreak.  Then in December, after election results suggested fraud, political rioting erupted in the streets of Port-au-Prince.

With each new crisis, Holt has coordinated efforts with staff on the ground to protect the children and families in our care.  As cholera spread through a nearby region, the staff at the Holt Fontana Village were able to successfully isolate the children from the disease.  For the 234 families in our family preservation program, Holt stepped up prevention efforts – offering weekly wellness trainings to discuss health and hygiene.

“In every session, we talk about prevention, prevention, prevention,” explains Mansour Masse, Holt’s country director in Haiti.

Of the 665 children in the program, only four fell ill from cholera.  And because Holt staff educated families on when to seek assistance, these children received timely and appropriate medical care for this deadly disease.

All four children have since recovered.

But the worst isn’t over yet.  The Pan American Health Organization estimates another 400,000 Haitians may get cholera over the next year.

With the threat of cholera still imminent, Holt went a step further in November and December, teaching families how to make Oral Rehydration Solution as children become symptomatic.  “Cholera causes severe dehydration due to diarrhea and vomiting,” explains Sarah Halfman, Holt’s program director for Haiti.  “That is what is most dangerous about the disease and is the primary cause of death in nearly all cases.”  The rehydration salts do just that – they rehydrate the body from all the fluids lost, effectively protecting cholera sufferers before the disease grows deadly.

As every one of the 234 families participated in these sessions, every family is now equipped with both the knowledge and resources to directly treat the symptoms of cholera.

Holt is taking every action in our power to prevent more children from falling ill.

But we need to do more.

We need to build anew.

“More than 50 families are without appropriate facilities,” says Halfman of the families enrolled in family preservation.  “With cholera having a foothold in every department in Haiti, it is critical that we assist the families to build latrines.”

In the coming year, Holt also hopes to build a well baby clinic to provide care critical to the optimal growth and development of the children we support, as well as a day care center to ease the burden on families struggling to rebuild their lives.

To help support our efforts in Haiti, click here.

To learn more about our ongoing work in this region, click here.

Haiti a Year Ago Today: Prayer for the Children and Families in Haiti

The Holt International magazine featured Haiti in our Fall 2010 issue. Read more about our ongoing work with children and families in Haiti.

January 12th marks the one-year anniversary of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that devastated Haiti and killed an estimated 230,000 people. On this day, we remember those who lost their lives, the thousands of children now orphaned and the millions of people left homeless and still struggling to survive.

“But the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the afflicted ever perish.“–Psalm 9:18

Please, join us in prayer for the people of Haiti, today. Pray that God’s healing hand will be on the sick, hungry and helpless children and families, and that He would continue to bring the people of this devastated country peace, courage and strength in a time of continual suffering.

Read more on our website.

Though the Earth Give Way

Holt’s work in Haiti after the earthquake…and how you can help

Near Port-au-Prince Airport Road, in a Haitian community called Village Solidarite, 22-year-old Nahomie holds in her arms her ailing 2-year-old daughter, Nournia. Nahomie has just returned from her fourth trip in eight months to St. Catherine hospital in Cite Soleil – a slum of Port-au-Prince. Nournia, they tell her, is extremely malnourished. She also has tuberculosis.

Abandoned by Nournia’s father, Nahomie earns what she can as a part-time housekeeper, but it’s not enough. Unable to provide the care her daughter needs, Nahomie stands helpless as Nournia wails in pain and hunger. Nahomie begins to weep with Nournia. She weeps for her mother, who died one year ago, and weeps for her poor daughter. It seems impossible that their situation could get much worse.

And then the sun rose on January 12th, 2010.

In just 60 seconds, 230,000 people were dead. Millions were homeless and an estimated one million children were orphaned. For many already living in the clutches of poverty and hunger, life became even grimmer.

“I had never seen a city so devastated as Port-au-Prince,” says Will Dantzler, Holt International’s board chairman, who traveled to Haiti in June. “To see the hopelessness and emptiness of spirit in so many people as we drove through the city shed light on the magnitude of this disaster, and its long-term effect on an entire society.”

Just two of millions whose lives changed forever, Nahomie and Nournia lost their one source of stability in the January 12th earthquake – their home.

After five months living in the streets, Nahomie sat in a church service in Port-au-Prince and prayed. Prayed for her daughter, prayed to survive. Here, she heard of a temporary care program offered by Holt Fontana d’ Haiti – Holt International’s partner in Haiti. Nahomie applied and her daughter was accepted into a 3-month temporary care program at Holt Fontana Village in the western city of Montrouis.

“Nahomie said it was the first time in years she felt a moment of joy,” says Mansour Masse, Holt Haiti director. “Her daughter would be taken care of.”

Continue reading “Though the Earth Give Way”

Update: Holt Responds to Cholera Outbreak in Haiti

As of October 27th, the Ministry of Health in Haiti reports at least 303 people dead and more than 4,700 sickened by a cholera epidemic that’s swept through Haiti’s northern regions in the past week.

“There have been no cases to date that have been reported that have affected any Holt children or families,” says Sarah Halfman, Holt’s director of programs in Latin America, Haiti and Romania. “As for preparing a coordinated response to the outbreak at this time for the families in the family preservation program, ongoing preventative education on cholera and hygiene seems to be the best course of action.”

Continue reading “Update: Holt Responds to Cholera Outbreak in Haiti”

Miracles Happen

Manel’s journey from Holt Fontana Village to his home in the United States

by Laura Conners

The road to bring Manel home from Haiti was a long one, but one we would travel again and again.

After deciding that international adoption was the answer for us, Scott and I quickly chose Haiti. At first, we were leaning more toward Ethiopia since our niece is from Liberia.  Once we read about Holt’s Haiti program, however, we both felt pulled in that direction and knew in our hearts that this was meant to be. After applying to Holt in April 2008, we were quickly matched with Manel who, at that time, was nine months old. I remember seeing his big brown eyes in the photo that Mike Noah sent to us, and I knew that Manel was my little boy!

As we watched the news coverage on the evening of the earthquake, Scott and I were numb with fear for Manel’s safety and for the Haitian people.  We saw the Haitian government buildings in ruins and knew that our adoption paperwork was lying amongst the rubble. A long night followed before we heard from Holt and found out that the children and staff at the Village were safe. I just remember feeling so helpless and didn’t know how to answer the questions from family and friends on what was going to happen. Continue reading “Miracles Happen”

A Time to Heal

“To everything there is a season, and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven.”—Ecclesiastes 3:1

The following is a glimpse of Holt’s work in Haiti since the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake…..

A time to embrace……

Three weeks after the earthquake, Holt Fontana Village staff in Haiti gathered around to say goodbye to 21 children leaving the Village to unite with their permanent families in the United States. The children, already matched with adoptive families prior to the earthquake, had their adoptions expedited and have been home for 4 months.

“When the talk of Humanitarian Parole Visas started, Scott and I were afraid to believe that Manel’s case would qualify. Within days, however, we received phone calls from our senator’s office, the governor’s office, and from our social worker telling us to believe it,” said Laura Conners. “When Manel’s eyes met mine for the first time, and I heard him yell “Mommy!” the anxiety of the last two years melted away as he jumped into my arms. A miracle had happened….read the rest of the Conners family’s story

A time to Love….

21 children had departed Holt Fontana Village and only four children remained in care, giving Holt the opportunity to protect and care for children affected by the earthquake. Through the hiring of additional Village staff and the completion of new houses on the property, Holt welcomed 40 orphaned and vulnerable children into Holt Fontana Village.

“Appropriate permanency planning services will be provided for the children including family tracing and search for kinship care placements,” says Dan Lauer, Holt Vice President of International Programs.

22 of the 40 children are currently receiving temporary care at the Village while their family members stabilize and can prepare a better home for them. With the loss of housing and income, many families are struggling to care for their children, and Holt is happy to provide these children protection, love and stability while their families get back on their feet. Continue reading “A Time to Heal”

National Public Radio Interview with Holt Adoptive Parent

John Seabrook, staff writer for The New Yorker, and his wife, Lisa, adopted their daughter, Rose, from Haiti in 2009.  Rose, along with 20 other children living at Holt Fontana Village, had her adoption expedited due to the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake.

Seabrook recently wrote an article about international adoption (read the New Yorker article here), and National Public Radio (NPR) conducted an interview with him about his family’s adoption experience and bringing Rose home.

listen to John Seabrook’s interview here