Not Dwelling on the Hard Things

A military wife with a personal connection to India recently came across one of our Waiting Child of the Week blogs. “Even though my heart was sad that he might never walk,” says Beth Anne Shwamberger,” I never felt that he wasn’t meant to be our child.” Here, Beth Anne describes her excitement at being matched with little Hudson, and the open-mind and flexible approach she is taking in preparation for his arrival home. The Schwamberger family has fully embraced Hudson’s physical challenges and eagerly await the time when they can wrap him in their arms.


By Beth Anne Schwamberger

Chris and I have been matched with a 15-month-old boy in India! A lot has happened in the last couple of weeks. It’s been a whirlwind. The good kind of whirlwind that makes wheat fields look gorgeous and makes blossoms fly. The world is just full of more flowers and trees and life because of the whirlwind… I still look back at everything in absolute awe of God and how He has worked.

I am going to go on and on about our precious child. I have fallen in love with this little boy. I think everything about him is exquisite and wonderful, and I want to plaster his picture on billboards, have Chris write in the sky that he’s ours…..and announce it at the Super Bowl! I am so incredibly proud to be his mommy.

Sixteen days ago, Chris and I were thinking it would be years before we could bring a child home. We gritted our teeth and hunkered down for a really long wait. Then, on Thursday, January 12th, I saw a blog post from Holt on one of their “waiting children.” I love to check out these posts, share them on Facebook, and pray for these children to find families. This little boy tugged at my heart right away. I thought, “he would be a perfect fit for us, but he’s in India. We’re not old enough to adopt from India.” Continue reading “Not Dwelling on the Hard Things”

For the Least of These

New York Times best selling author Donna VanLiere recently returned from India with Christian music group NewSong.  “God is here.  Among us,” she says.  “Disguised as an 8-year-old orphan.”

by Donna VanLiere


Years ago, I read that the apostle Thomas made India his mission field. Remember Thomas? He was one of the twelve apostles who made it clear that he would not believe Jesus had risen from the dead until he saw the scars on His nail-pierced hands. Doubt nips hard at the heels of belief. That was Thomas’ problem. In John 14, Jesus was speaking of Heaven and said, “You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas, always confused, always doubtful, said, “… We don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” We can’t be too hard on Thomas. Even the wisest among us doubt and question and scratch our heads.  Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This is a crucial moment for Thomas. A choice has to be made…believe what Christ says is true, or that he’s either a diabolical liar or clinically insane.

Time marched on and doubt and disbelief still drummed away at Thomas’ mind and nerves. When Christ was crucified, then flung off his grave clothes three days later, the other apostles came to Thomas and said, “Great news! He’s alive!” Thomas shook his head. That’s the nature of doubt. It’s a head-shaking disease.  His reunion with Christ is laid out in John 20. Jesus held out his hands like a magician proving there was nothing up his sleeves.  “Go ahead,” he said. “Touch them. They’re real. Stop doubting and believe.” And Thomas did. The last time the apostles were with Jesus he gave them a simple directive—Go into all the world and spread the gospel. “Go Thomas. Be brave. I am with you always. Remember, I tell you the truth. Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” According to ancient records, Thomas traveled farther than any other apostle. His life reveals that he came to know Christ best through his missing him. His desire grew stronger and his longing deeper.  He loved and fed the people of India as if feeding God himself and Thomas gave himself for that love, dying at the end of a spear.

I just returned from a 9-day trip to India. My husband Troy and I went there with members of the Christian music group NewSong.  In Bangalore, we visited a care center run by a beautiful, saintly woman named Mary Paul. One night at dinner, NewSong member Eddie Carswell and his wife sat with Mary Paul and she told them that twenty generations ago her great, great, great (do this twenty times) grandfather met the apostle Thomas and Thomas shared the truth with him. I doubt I will ever again meet anyone who can trace their faith journey directly back to one of the apostles!

Ancient documents do not describe Thomas as a dynamic orator like the apostle Paul, but rather, a quiet man who drew people to the gospel of peace through his saintly ways and the message of truth. Twenty generations later, Mary Paul sees God dressed as abandoned children and shares hope and love with them.

You would expect me to write of the misery of the orphans, but that’s impossible to do when writing about the care center Mary Paul runs. The walls are bright, the staff is warm and the children are loved. Very loved. They smile and laugh easily and are quick to wrap their pencil-thin arms around you. A little boy walked up to Troy and I, grinning. “My name’s Vanej,” he said. “I’m nine years old.” NewSong sang a couple of songs for the children and then the children sang for us, little Vanej holding one of the two microphones and singing loudly. Eighteen months earlier, Vanej was on an outing with his parents when he was somehow separated from them. The orphanage advertised in the papers, on TV and radio, looking for his parents. They traveled where Vanej said he lived and put up flyers and talked with people on the streets, with no results. In a country of 1.1 billion people, it’s much like finding a needle in a haystack. Vanej talked of missing his mother and his sister. It was heartbreaking, but he still smiled. Continue reading “For the Least of These”

The Most Hopeful Thing

In 2007, the Smith family brought home Jenni, the first child with HIV adopted from India. Today, their daughter is a bright, busy, healthy toddler thriving in the love of her parents. In sharing their story with Holt, they tell the truth about this particularly stigmatizing special need – a truth that is much more hopeful than many might expect.*

Any advice or HIV information in this article should be discussed with a medical professional specializing in the treatment of HIV/AIDS.

When Dr. Ken Alexander first met Jenni, she was “laying on the bed, just floppy like a ragdoll.” At 11 months old, she was the size of a newborn.  She was listless and dehydrated and suffering from chronic diarrhea.  She could not lift herself to sit up.

Standing by Jenni’s side were her new adoptive parents, Sarah and Mark Smith. Turning to the Smiths, Dr. Alexander said, “I know there’s nothing you want to do more than pack her in cotton and take her home and love her, but it will take at least ten days before she can go home.”

After a four-flight, 32-hour journey to bring their daughter home from India, the Smiths were relieved to place her in the care of Dr. Alexander, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital.

Ten days apart would be manageable – especially given Jenni’s hopeful outlook.

Continue reading “The Most Hopeful Thing”

From Oregon to India to Vietnam

coordinated efforts to serve children and families span around the globe

In the spring issue of Holt magazine, Minalee Saks, executive director of Birth to Three, described a workshop she led last February – in India. Birth to Three is a non-profit organization in Eugene, Oregon that provides parenting education and support for families of young children. Organized by Holt, the workshop drew 19 social workers from six countries for a four-day training in Birth to Three’s “Make Parenting a Pleasure” curriculum.

At the end of the workshop, the participants returned home to put Minalee’s practices to work – making the act of parenting both more enjoyable, and more effective, for families from Ethiopia and Uganda to the Philippines and Vietnam.

In Vietnam, the two social workers that participated are making quick progress.

With the lessons still fresh in her mind, Holt social worker Nguyen Thu Ngan led a one-day training session for fellow social workers and staff in Vietnam. In turn, the Holt-Vietnam staff will soon begin training families we serve throughout the country – beginning with 50 struggling families we support in the north, near Hanoi. The children of these families are all in preschool, and all at risk of neglect or separation from their parents. Through basic support services, we are helping these families give their children a safe, stable home. And now, thanks to Minalee Saks and Birth to Three, we can help them become better parents for their children as well.

Read about Minalee’s time in India….

Make Parenting a Pleasure – in India, Ethiopia or Oregon

Tell me and I forget.  Show me and I remember.  Involve me and I understand.

As a trainer of parent educators, Minalee Saks has often quoted this proverb to explain how children learn.

Until recently, she had never heard it sung. “Suddenly, I was hearing social workers attending a training in Pune, India, combine their voices and actions to add new meaning to the words,” she recently wrote in a guest article for The Eugene Register-Guard.

Minalee is the founder and executive director of Birth to Three, an organization that provides parenting education and support for families of young children. In previous years, Holt partnered with Birth to Three for trainings in Romania and Ukraine. The program was a great success with parents and educators alike.  So when Holt decided to organize a training for social workers from around the globe, they asked Minalee to lead it.  In February, 19 women from 6 countries traveled to Pune, India to learn Birth to Three’s “Make Parenting a Pleasure” curriculum.

From day one, Minalee couldn’t stop smiling.  After four days, she left India resolute about one universal truth: “Parents are parents throughout the world. Regardless of cultures, allegiances, experiences, living situations or countries — people love their children and want the best for them. Whether living in Creswell, Eugene, Kiev or Addis Ababa, all parents have hopes and dreams for their children.”

Read Minalee’s full article here.


When you send a girl to school…

After completing her education, Shyla returned to VCT to teach children at the care center.

“In the Indian culture, when you send a boy to school, you change his life and that continues to be so important. But when you send a girl to school, you can change an entire generation.”

So says Mary Paul, director of Vathsalya Charitable Trust (VCT), a Holt partner organization in India.  Every year, Holt’s wonderful sponsors send hundreds of children in India — mostly girls — to school.  Most of these girls would otherwise be working as domestic servants, earning income to help support their families.

Recently, the Center for the Study of Women in Society at the University of Oregon featured the story of one girl and her strong single mother* who, determined to give her daughter an education, asked VCT to sponsor her education.  That was 11 years ago.  Today, this girl is 29 years old.  She works as an assistant teacher at the same place that gave her an education — teaching children in care, and changing generations to come.

Click here to read Shyla’s story in full.

To learn more about Holt’s work in India, click here.

Click this link to read about Holt sponsorship and how you can send a girl to school in India.

* Correction:  In the story, Shyla’s mother is described as “unwed.” She was in fact married, but raised Shyla on her own as a “single mother.”

Season of Love, Gifts of Hope: Whoever Welcomes a Little Child

Mrs. Suja Pillai, a 41-year-old foster mother from Pune, India has loved and encouraged 65 children in the last 13 years. Some children have stayed with her for only a few months. Some she has nurtured for several years. She often cares for two children at the same time. One of 26 families currently participating in Bharatiya Samaj Seva Kendra’s (BSSK) foster care program, Suja cannot imagine her life without the children.

BSSK introduced foster care in 1982 as a way to provide loving, temporary care for children. Being a foster mother requires a lot of time, work and love. When foster parents join BSSK’s program, they participate in a 5-day training to learn how to safely and effectively care for children. Foster parents learn a range of skills, including how to bathe children, boil bottles and prepare food. Regularly scheduled foster parent meetings follow the initial training. In addition to providing training and guidance to foster parents, BSSK helps to offset some of the costs involved by providing a small subsidy for each child, plus money for supplies, clothes and transportation to doctor’s appointments.

Although this support helps with the actual cost of supporting each child, the love and affection each foster parent contributes is priceless.  Suja smiles when asked why she became a foster mother. “Initially I had financial problems and wanted to work from home. Now, I love it and cannot live without the children!” she says.

Suja is now considered one of the most experienced foster mothers in the program, offering guidance and support to some of the less experienced foster parents. She has the formal title of “Head Foster Mother” in the area, which makes her responsible for coordinating 16 foster homes, organizing the distribution of supplies, performing home visits and arranging local transport for doctor visits.

Holding up the photograph of a smartly dressed little girl, she says: “The hardest part of being a foster mother is being able to let go. One child stayed with me for three years before she was adopted internationally.” There are tears in her eyes as she talks about the child she has not seen in ten years. “I don’t know what her life is like now, but I will always know I had some influence.” She smiles through her tears. “That is what being a foster mother is about.”

Wishing for the Best

Ranjan has a family!

by Robin Munro, senior writer

“Good Morning! All the best!” *Ranjan says in one breath, with a thumbs-up to greet the child care staff at Vathsalya Charitable Trust (VCT) – a child care center in Bangalore, India.

Today, Ranjan is hopeful and optimistic, wishing for the best – an extraordinary attitude for a boy who, in 5 years of life, has experienced child abandonment, severe health problems, developmental delays and hearing impairment.

Born premature with multiple medical conditions, Ranjan was abandoned at a large government hospital at just a few weeks of age. He came into VCT’s care at 2 months old, weighing a mere 1.5 kg. Shortly thereafter, Ranjan joined a foster family provided by VCT. This blessing has proven instrumental to Ranjan’s growth and development.

Ranjan’s foster mother, a crèche nurse trained in child care, tackled Ranjan’s speech, motor and mental delays as challenges to overcome – relishing small victories as Ranjan worked toward major milestones. “Ranjan smiled today,” she’d enthusiastically report during early visits with VCT child care staff. She noticed, with delight, the first time Ranjan moved his toes. And after two years of occupational therapy and encouragement from his foster family, Ranjan finally learned to walk. Continue reading “Wishing for the Best”

Changing a Generation

Give a Gift of Hope to a girl in India

By Brian Campbell, creative services director

Bangalore, India – Traditional music blasts out of a makeshift shrine to Ganesha – a deity worshiped in the Hindu religion. It’s festival season here in India and people from all over have traveled to Bangalore to be with family and participate in the celebration. Families have scraped together their meager wages and purchased idols and treats for the elephant god – the Hindu god of success.

On this particular day, however, individuals moved by a different God step out of their cars and follow VCT Director Mary Paul into the depths of the Bangalore slum.

The guys from NewSong and a group of school-aged girls in Vathsalya Charitable Trust’s (VCT) child sponsorship program – a program that keeps young girls in school when families cannot afford their education –make their way through the rough alleys. Today, these girls will invite NewSong into their humble homes.

One girl, *Seveta, momentarily pauses to observe the half-clothed children running through the alley and women washing clothes in pans filled with dingy water. The alley smells of waste.

“I’m ashamed to show these men my home,” says Seveta to Mary Paul. “It’s much too small for them.” Mary Paul just smiles and encourages Seveta to carry on, but only if she is comfortable. Seveta rocks her head from side to side – a common gesture of agreement in India.

Arriving at her home, Seveta disappears through the small, dark doorway and, without hesitation, Eddie, Russ, Billy and Matt follow Mary Paul inside. Measuring about 7 feet by 10 feet, this tiny, one-room home – shared by Seveta, her parents and sister – is tidy and clean.

Seveta’s sister attends college, but her parents could not afford Seveta’s education. Her father suffered from alcoholism, and her mother became the principle provider for the family. With Holt’s help, VCT provided Seveta with books, paper, a uniform and other supplies needed to attend school.

The guys are impressed with Seveta’s story and her willingness to work so hard. Continue reading “Changing a Generation”