These are the hands and feet…

Contemporary Christian music group NewSong, founder of Winter Jam, is currently traveling in India to view Holt’s childcare and family preservation programs there.

by Brian Campbell, creative services director

Pune, India – The van stops at the mouth of a back alley neighborhood, where Billy, Eddie, Matt and Russ of the Christian music group NewSong step out with Roxana Kalyanvala, BSSK’s director. As they wind through the alley, the NewSong members begin to notice the houses that line these narrow streets – tiny, one-room dwellings with makeshift doors composed of wood, sheet metal and roofing tin.

The guys pause outside the doorway of a family in BSSK’s family preservation program, where a woman named *Shveta answers the door. With gracious gestures, she welcomes the NewSong members into her home. The guys politely remove their shoes and enter the home’s one room – roughly 8 feet by 12 feet in size. They stand beneath a corrugated iron roof, which, heated by the sun, has turned the room into a sauna. But the guys are eager to hear Shveta’s story and don’t seem to mind the heat as they listen to her talk, and Roxana translate.

Day laborers, Shveta and her husband work when they can. In India, the average day laborer earns an annual income of roughly 4,000 rupees, or less than $100 a year. To help support the family, their two children – a teenage son and young daughter – quit school to work. With day-to-day survival the main concern, the long-term goal of

education had fallen to the wayside.

Recognizing their need, BSSK stepped in to help this family out of dire poverty. The social

NewSong in the alleys of Pune, India

service organization provided tailor training for Shveta and employment leads for her husband. BSSK also provided the resources the children need to continue school.

“How does a family live on less than $10 a month?” Matt whispers as the group steps out of the house. Then, the thought sinking into his heart, he continues, “What did these children eat for less than $100 a year?”

In the alley outside Shveta’s home, Russ and Matt turn and look around for the answer.

“The folks of Holt International are the feet and hands here on the ground,” says Eddie. “They come in here and do what they can for these kids to have a better future.”

Holt International’s child sponsorship program is the best way to support the continuing efforts of BSSK’s family preservation program.

NewSong Kicks off Tour of Holt childcare projects in India

Contemporary Christian music group NewSong, founder of Winter Jam, is currently traveling in India to view Holt’s childcare programs there. Here, Holt’s creative services director, Brian Campbell, describes their visit to BSSK – a model childcare and social service center founded by Holt in 1979.

by Brian Campbell

Pune, India – The children line at the window. For the last few weeks, they’ve eagerly anticipated the arrival of the four performing artists who make up the Christian band NewSong. They’ve prepared songs and dances for Eddie, Russ, Matt and Billy, and can’t wait to do a little performing themselves.

When the vans pull up and the guys step out, the children squeal with excitement. As Newsong begins to climb the stairs, the children call out “Mama, mama!” – the word for uncle in Marathi, the main Indian dialect used here in the city of Pune, India. A BSSK staff member hands the guys a guitar, brought from home. The children beg them to sing Jingle Bells and Old MacDonald, and the guys proceed to belt them out with great gusto. But their biggest hit requires audience participation: “If you’re happy and you know it.” The children catch on quickly, and begin to sing along, mimicking the guys’ clapping, stomping gestures. When the song ends, the children cry, “Encore!” Not to disappoint their fans, the guys repeat “If you’re happy,” this time picking up the pace and challenging the children to sing faster.

The next stop on NewSong’s tour of BSSK is a room full of toddlers. This audience isn’t quite so immediately sold on the four rockers who enter their room. Staring at the strangers, they warily move toward their caregivers. But it’s not long before the guys are on the floor, playing with the children, now friendlier and more at ease. The guys each hold several of the little ones. “This is amazing,” Matt Butler says to his bandmate, in a near whisper, as a child grabs the end of his nose. “Look at all these little faces.”

Before too long, the guys lead a siege of youngsters to the playground. They push swings. They catch children at the bottom of slides. They spin the merry-go-round. Laughing, Matt, Eddie, Billy and Russ play as naturally as the rest of the kids.

As they pile back into their van at the end of the day, Russ Lee smiles. “What a blessing to be with those kids,” he says.

These are the fruits…

By Brian Campbell, Director of Creative Services

Pune, IndiaBefore the first call of birds, the morning is greeted by the beeping of horns. Little auto rickshaws and scooters buzz through the streets of Pune, and vendors – selling all sorts of goods –  prepare their services for the day.

Outside his tidy, modest home, *Sanjay arranges green pears on his cart.  A smile breaches his face as he talks about his family and his small, successful fruit stand – the stand he utilizes to keep his family together and his children in school.  His daughter, *Ahsha, stands beside him in her crisp, clean uniform ready to start her school day.  She stands tall and proud, practicing a few common English greetings and beaming with satisfaction at our group’s approval. A smile and a glow of pride overtakes Sanjay’s face.

Today, Sanjay’s family, thanks to Bharatiya Samaj Seva Kendra (BSSK),  is thriving.

Just a few months ago, however, this scenario didn’t seem likely.

The family struggled under economic pressures.  Sanjay’s future as a truck driver was uncertain, and his children, in order to put food on the table, almost had to quit school and join the workforce.  Identified by community input and social workers from BSSK, Sanjay was provided with a micro loan to start a fruit stand business.

Today, long-term stability is a reality for this family. Sanjay looks forward to growing his small business and even plans on purchasing a motorized truck for selling and buying fruit. His son plans to graduate and become a police officer, and his daughter is looking forward to completing the 5th grade.

The fruits of family preservation and child sponsorship.

*names have been changed

We Are Fully Blessed

A mother’s hearing loss, five years prior, leads to the adoption of a hearing impaired son from India

By Ellen Singh

Praise God from whom all blessings flow! And what a blessing Deelip is to us!

My husband, Dave, and I already had two biological daughters, Katelyn and Anna, and one son, Michael, who we adopted from India. Our life was full with our young brood. Yet, for the past several years, we’d continued to casually look at Holt’s “Waiting Child” page. About two years ago, we read a brief description about Deelip, a 3-year-old boy from India, and knew God wanted us to pursue this child.

All we knew about Deelip was his age and his disability of being profoundly deaf. We were specifically interested in a child with hearing issues due to a major event that changed our lives five years prior. In 2004, I contracted bacterial meningitis. By God’s matchless mercy my life was spared. I woke up from a drug-induced coma with complete hearing loss in my left ear. As a result, we have learned so much about hearing issues and have a great sensitivity to others in similar situations. At age 36, I had to instantly learn how to live with single-sided hearing loss, which has been a great challenge.

Through this devastating event, I got to know various hearing professionals and volunteer in hearing loss research. I learned that St. Louis, near where we live, is a Mecca of hearing loss treatment and research in this country. Plus, there were several schools for the deaf nearby!

After discussing Deelip’s medical records with my ENT specialist and touring a local school for the deaf, we were absolutely confirmed that God was leading us to pursue Deelip. Continue reading “We Are Fully Blessed”

What Faith Can Do

July 31st marked the 10th anniversary of Bertha Holt’s passing.

When asked how she would like to be remembered, Bertha Holt’s request was a simple one:

“[Remember me] as that lady who loved the Lord,” she humbly replied.

On the tenth anniversary of her passing, it’s fitting to reflect on Bertha “Grandma” Holt’s love for the Lord, her faith in Him, and how that faith has inspired many people around the world to carry on Holt’s mission of finding families for children.

Brian Campbell, Holt’s creative services director remembers Bertha Holt, and how she has inspired him:

I remember watching Bertha Holt at a Holt picnic, one year, as she sat and had her picture taken with hundreds of children of all ages.  I stood there, amazed, listening to her recall the names of the children and sharing a brief story about each one of them. Older adoptees also came up to her, giving her hugs and thanking her for the work of Holt International.  The younger children referred to her as “Grandma.”  She had prayed continually for all of these children while they were in Holt’s care and traveled all over the world to serve them; they were always her top priority.


During a quiet moment, between the visiting and photos, I caught Grandma by herself.  A look of peace and blessing was on her face.  Not a look of pride or pleasure in knowing that she was important to all these people, but rather a look of peace that comes from knowing that she was doing what God had called her to do.

Now, more than 20 years later, I recall that moment with Grandma Holt. I imagine her with me in places like Ethiopia, surrounded by children, listening to their giggling and crying, laughing with them, and cradling and comforting them without hesitation. I ask for the children’s names, take their pictures, touch their little hands and pray for them. Today, inspired by Bertha Holt, these children are also my priority.

After the death of Harry Holt, many thought Holt International would close its doors. But Bertha always had faith that the agency would carry on. “This has always been God’s work,” she said. “If He wants it to continue, it will.”

And it has. What followed, and what remains today, is a 55-year legacy of caring for and providing loving homes to the world’s orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children.

Evidence of Bertha Holt’s faith can be seen today through Holt employees, working diligently and joyfully for children all over the world, to the hundreds of adult adoptees who were touched by “Grandma’s” life and, most importantly, through the smiling faces of children now home with their loving families.

The mission of Holt International has carried on, and will continue, all because one woman had faith that it could.

Just Being Their Mother

Mother’s Day Gifts of Hope

by Melissa Schmidt

“What do you want for Mother’s Day?” my husband, Dan asked last year. What could I possibly need? I was the mother of five children, waiting for our sixth child to come home from India. The only thing I could think about needing was a maid!

I had everything I wanted and just wanted to give something back. I thought for a little bit about honoring our children’s birthmothers and an idea popped into my head. I asked our daughter, Shabnam, who we adopted from Mumbai in 2006, how she would feel about planting a tree in honor of her birthmother. She was delighted.

We bought two trees, knowing that Sanjith would be coming home by the end of the year, and on May 18th, 2009 we gathered our children in our yard, dug holes and planted the trees. Shabnam was very excited to stand by “her tree!” She even named it “Asma”, after her birthmother’s name. I told Shabnam that any time she wanted to feel close to her birthmother she could go out by her tree. She grinned from ear to ear. Shabnam gave it water every day to make sure it would grow.

We brought 2-year old, Sanjith, home from Bangalore in November 2009. He has been running around outdoors this spring and has already worn a path by his birthmother’s tree. Sanjith was considered to be a child with special needs. However, we think that his only special need was “needing” to be home with us. When he came home in November he was speaking only four words in his native language. He is now speaking over 200 English words. His five other siblings have a hard time getting a word in around Sanjith. We are so lucky to have him in our family.

On Mother’s Day, the kids wanted to make sure that I wasn’t sad that I didn’t get a present for myself. I reassured them and told them that I had received a fantastic present. I get the best present every day just being their mother!

Give a Gift of Hope this Mother’s Day in Honor of your Mother or Someone Special

The Adjectives of Adoption

a family adopts their precious daughter, Gauri, from India

by Kali VanBaale

I’m often asked what made us decide to adopt internationally and, moreover, what the adoption process has been like. I grapple to find the right adjectives, to give a straight, easy answer. Every family’s decision and journey to adoption is different. Ours was certainly filled with plenty of twists and turns. The summer of 2005, with two healthy biological boys, my husband and I decided to try for a third. Boy or girl, we didn’t care. We just knew we wanted one more to properly fill out the craziness of our household.

But heartbreak and disappointment resulted with two miscarriages, my third overall. It was an agonizing decision, but I couldn’t go through it again. I was done trying. We’d be a family of four. Only…we didn’t feel like a family of four. It was a nagging sense, like an unfinished sentence about our lives. After a time, my husband and I started to talk about how, in the early days of our marriage, we’d both mentioned how much we’d like to adopt a child. I generally don’t like to discuss our three lost pregnancies, but I did, in that moment, have a strange sense that maybe we’d suffered those losses in order to find the child we were meant to have, wherever he or she was.  We quickly settled on international adoption, Continue reading “The Adjectives of Adoption”