Because of Holt sponsors and donors, 7-year-old Anis gets to learn and grow each day at his school in southern Thailand. But when he leaves school for the day, his education is just beginning…
At the fishing dock near his home in southern Thailand, 7-year-old Anis concentrates to untangle a squirmy, translucent crawfish from the net. It’s late in the day, and he’s dressed in his afterschool clothes — a red soccer jersey, yellow shorts and Crocs. The ocean air is thick and humid, and it has slightly curled his hair in front.
Next, Anis detangles a tiny crab with a bright purple claw.
“I am very proud to help my father,” he says shyly, then tosses the catch into a shallow rubber tub. His father, Burhan, looks on with approval as his son squats alongside him at the fishing net, then smiles as Anis jumps up and runs to join the other kids climbing on the fishing boats.
A little work, and a lot of play, is how Anis and his two siblings spend their days. And all day long, they are learning — both in and out of school.
This past year, our organization celebrated 60 years of serving orphaned and vulnerable children and families in countries across the globe. Over these six decades, our work has touched the lives of thousands of people — people whose lives collectively tell the story of who we are as an organization. Their stories are the story of Holt International. And in 2016, many of these people once again graciously shared their life experiences with our readers.
For the first time, we held an adoptee essay contest, asking adoptees to share how adoption shapes or has shaped their identity. We received a number of thoughtful submissions, and featured the winning essay by Noel Hincha in our annual adoption magazine. I am happy to share that the essay penned by one of our runner-ups in the contest is among this year’s top most-viewed blogs of 2016!
Following last year’s trend, stories written by and about adoptees once again topped the list — receiving thousands of views on Facebook and the Holt blog. Among them is a letter one adoptee wrote to her late birth mother, grieving the fact that it was too late for them to meet; a story about a first-generation adoptee reuniting with the man who cared for him in Korea; and a piece by an adoptee from China who describes what the adoption experience was like for her.
Among our Top 16 Blogs of 2016, we also included five stories about our overseas programs — from a story written by a trailblazing woman in our unwed mothers program in Korea to a story about a boy who learned how to express himself for the first time at the Yesus Mena Deaf School that we support in Ethiopia.
And of course, stories by and about adoptive families are always popular among our readers — particularly among families new to the process who appreciate the insight and wisdom that veteran families have to offer. This year, six adoption stories had the most impact on our readers, including, at the top of the list, a heartfelt piece written under a pseudonym by an adoptive mom who wanted to share the truth about raising children with HIV. As more and more families adopt children with more involved and complex special needs, the experiences of these families become increasingly influential — inspiring other families to adopt children with HIV, congenital heart disease or, as one of our top stories explores in detail, Thalassemia.
As we reflect on the year 2016, and on the last 60 years, we thank the many, many adoptees, families, sponsors, donors, staff members, partners and children and families in our programs for your willingness to share what can be very personal and sometimes heart-wrenching experiences. You moved us. You inspired us. And perhaps most importantly, you instructed us. Every year, we continue to learn and grow from what you share with Holt staff and supporters. And we are so, so grateful for your being a part of our story, the Holt story. — Robin Munro, Managing Editor
Over the summer, Holt adoptee Krista Gause traveled on the Holt Heritage Tour to Korea. Before her departure, she wrote an honest and heartfelt letter to her birth mother, sharing about her life and grieving the fact that it was too late for them to meet. Continue reading “Top 16 Blogs of 2016”
For most of her life, Holt adoptee Molly Martin viewed her adoption as something that just “happened.”But after traveling to Thailand to meet her birth mom, she developed a completely different outlook — and a deeper understanding of how loved she truly is. Molly’s story was a finalist in Holt’s 2016 adoptee essay contest.
For someone who was adopted at a young age, being adopted seems, for lack of a better word, normal. For as long as I can remember, except for a few blurry memories, being adopted is all that I have known. I don’t really remember what it was like not to be adopted, so being adopted has always seemed somewhat natural and definitely not really anything worth talking about. However, at the same time, being adopted isn’t normal. While I can’t speak for all kids that have been adopted, I think a lot of us, at some point or another, have entertained the thought that our situations aren’t normal. Surely, not looking like my family wasn’t normal and the thought that my biological family did not want me was always in the back of my mind. But those aren’t exactly things that most kids want to talk about. Continue reading “A Story I Won’t Stop Sharing”
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!
Our journey to the family you see today was one that was filled with many ups and downs, but one that was well worth the wait. My husband was adopted from Vietnam when he was eight months old and so for him, international adoption was always something close to his heart. Then after trying for many years to have children, it was my husband who encouraged me to switch our focus to adoption. Our experience with the Thailand program was amazing and we felt that the local Holt staff and social workers were there for us every step of the way and knew so much about our son and really made us appreciate all their hard work and the work they do with the foster families! Continue reading “The Story Behind the Photo: Six Months Home”
Holt Sahathai Foundation — Holt’s trusted partner in Thailand — celebrates 40 years of commendable service to children.
Andy Voelz was adopted from Thailand in 1986 at the age of 5 to a loving family in Paris, Illinois. In 2005, he returned to Thailand with his dad to reconnect to the culture and visit Holt Sahathai Foundation (HSF), Holt’s much-respected and sole partner in Thailand since 1975, and the agency that placed Andy with his family. On his trip — a college graduation present from his parents — Andy was able to reconnect with his foster family and HSF staff.
“I remember my parents used to send donations to HSF and letters of how I was doing as I grew,” Andy says. “Meeting them was a profound experience. It was a surprise even to my dad to discover that all the same workers that had diligently worked on my case were still active in new roles at HSF.” Continue reading “A City of Angels”
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.
Facing an unplanned pregnancy, Napha, a college student in Thailand, made the difficult decision to place her baby for adoption. But when she learned that Holt Sahathai Foundation could help with support and resources she needed to raise her daughter, everything changed.
Napha* looked down at her swollen belly, six months along with her first child, anguished over the decision before her. No longer able to hide her pregnancy, she had recently dropped out of school — one of the top universities in Bangkok — where she was in her final year of studying to be a teacher. Her boyfriend, the father of her baby, left her shortly after learning of the pregnancy. Her parents knew nothing, and because of the strong stigma against unwed pregnancy in Thailand, she intended to keep it that way. At just 22 years old, Napha was afraid, without a home and alone. So she picked up the phone.
The number she called was an unplanned pregnancy hotline where she got in touch with Jintana Nontapouraya, executive director of Holt Sahathai Foundation (HSF), Holt’s longtime partner organization in Thailand. HSF works with women like Napha who are experiencing unplanned pregnancies. They offer counseling to help women make a decision for themselves and their babies. And regardless of whether they choose to parent or relinquish their child for adoption, HSF provides these women with a safe place to live, prenatal nutrition and, if they do parent, opportunities for training and education needed to provide for themselves and their baby.
While a difficult decision was still before her, Napha was no longer alone.
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.
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.
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.
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