Although sponsorship is not typically a pathway to adoption, Holt sponsors Daniela and Scott Stewart defied the norm — applying to adopt, and turning out to be the right family for a 13-year-old girl in Thailand who they had sponsored from the time she was 2 months old.
by Robin Munro, Managing Editor
Every year for the past twelve years, Daniela Stewart has sent a little gift to her sponsored child in Thailand. Usually on her birthday. Usually something small. One year — several years ago, when Holt staff traveled frequently to escort children and could deliver larger packages to sponsored children — Daniela decided to pick out a doll. As she stood in the aisle of the store, looking at rows of dolls in every shape and style, she asked herself, “If she were my daughter, which one would I pick?” In a moment of clarity, she reached for a very soft and cuddly doll with brown hair, beautiful eyes and a big smile.
For Daniela, envisioning her sponsored child as her daughter was not too difficult a task. Over the years, she and her family had watched her grow from the 2-month-old baby pictured in their first sponsorship report, to a darling girl with a beaming smile. “We always felt a special connection to her,” Daniela says. “Every update on her made for a joyous day.” She became, in a sense, a part of their family.
But little did Daniela know as she stood in the aisle of the store that, one day, the little girl she sponsored in Thailand would become her daughter for real.
Fourteen years ago, Daniela and Scott Stewart traveled to Thailand to adopt their first son, a 10-month-old boy they named Timothy. Not long after, they returned to adopt their son Benjamin. While waiting to join an adoptive family, both boys stayed in a loving foster family in Thailand. In fact, they stayed in the same family! While in Thailand, Daniela and Scott met their sons’ foster family, as well as their social workers. They visited Holt Sahathai Foundation (HSF), Holt’s partner organization in Thailand, and learned about our programs to strengthen families at risk of separation.
Holt International CEO and President Phil Littleton is currently touring Holt’s programs in Southeast Asia and Korea, visiting the children and families we serve. Today, Holt’s creative services director, Brian Campbell, reports on Phil’s visit with a struggling grandmother and her grandson. Through family strengthening services, Holt is helping to support this family in partnership with Holt Sahathai Foundation (HSF) in Thailand.
by Brian Campbell, Creative Services Director
In the parking lot of a high-rise apartment building stands a dilapidated utility building, long forgotten by the apartment residents. Abandoned signs, old promotional banners and tarps to keep out the rain cover this small one-room structure. A couple of broken office chairs and a few stumps of wood make up the living room. This small utility building is now home to Tien and her grandson, Satang.
Today, Holt Sahathai Foundation (HSF) director, Jintana, will introduce Phil Littleton, Holt president and CEO, to this struggling family and detail how Holt and HSF have come alongside them.
After Tien’s daughter gave birth to Satang, she refused to raise him. Tien then stepped up to raise and care for her grandson. The family’s difficult situation came to the attention of HSF through a cooperative effort with local social workers and hospital authorities. Since Satang’s birth, HSF has made repeated efforts to contact Satang’s mother, but she has been unresponsive, only appearing from time to time to ask her mother for money. It is HSF’s hope that one day, through counseling and support, Satang will be united with his mother.
In the meantime, HSF has stepped in to help this grandmother and her grandchild stay together, providing Tien with powdered formula, food and social services to ensure good health and nutrition for both of them.
In 1976, HSF began providing support services to struggling families, enabling them to care for their children. Over the years, services expanded and today include counseling, financial assistance, vocational training, educational sponsorship and income-generating projects. Training in proper health and nutrition also reinforces a family’s ability to care for their children.
“With support, Tien and Satang are going to make it,” explains Jintana to Phil. “Having Satang in Holt’s child sponsorship program will help a great deal. It’s going to take some hard work on the grandmother’s part, but she is dedicated to keeping her remaining family together. They will make it.”
Holt CEO and President Phil Littleton is currently in Thailand visiting the children and families Holt serves alongside our long-time partner in the region, Holt Sahathai Foundation (HSF). Here, Holt’s creative services director, Brian Campbell, reports on Phil’s visit with a little girl he helps to support through Holt’s child sponsorship program.
by Brian Campbell, Creative Services Director
Nakhon, Thailand— After a busy couple days visiting HSF programs and services for children and families in the community of Nakhon, a special moment awaits Phil Littleton, CEO of Holt International.
For the past two years, Phil and his family have helped to support a little girl named Mali*, who lives here in Nakhon with her mother Lawan*, her twin sister Kanya* and several extended family members. Mali and Kanya’s mother is 24-years-old and works as a server at a small restaurant, earning about $7 per day. On such low income, she can hardly afford to meet all of her daughters’ needs – especially their educational expenses. With assistance from Phil’s monthly sponsorship donations, HSF is able to give Mali the supplies she needs to attend school – including a school uniform.
Last November, when another Holt staff member visited Lawan and her daughters at their home in Nakhon, Lawan asked to send a special message to Phil. “Thank you,” she said. “Without your support, it would be very hard for my children and me. Expenses are very high, and I could not afford to provide for two children and their education. My main concern is the education of my children.” Mali and her sister started preschool in August 2011, and are now in Kindergarten.
At home in Eugene, Phil’s family keeps a picture of Mali in a little magnetic frame on their refrigerator. As new child reports arrive from Holt’s child sponsorship program, Phil and his wife share the updates about Mali with their three children and pass pictures of her around the dinner table. From a distance, little Mali has become a part of their family.
Today, for the first time, Phil will have the opportunity to meet Mali and her family.
Phil Littleton, Holt International’s president and CEO, is currently in Thailand visiting Holt’s longtime partner Holt Sahathai Foundation (HSF), and spending some time with HSF foster families and the children in their care. For over 35 years, Holt has worked in cooperation with HSF to serve the needs of homeless and at risk children and families in Thailand.
How Holt is helping Thailand through family strengthening services
By Jennifer Goette, Director of Strategic Initiatives
Bangkok, Thailand—One year ago, the area where I am standing was underwater. During my annual visit to Holt Sahathai Foundation (HSF) last year, massive flooding in and around Bangkok during the monsoon season altered the lives of 8 million people. Many families served by HSF, both birth families and foster families, lost their homes and their possessions. Schooling and employment were disrupted, creating financial hardships for many families. Dreams were destroyed and families were torn apart.
Responding to the crisis, HSF staff provided emergency food and supplies, in-cash relief and psychosocial support for nearly 600 children and their families throughout the crisis. Though the homes of more than half of HSF’s foster families were significantly damaged in the flood, nearly every foster mother was willing and able to continue to provide care in the face of the tragedy.
Now, one year after the flood, life is nearly back to normal for many families but the landscape been significantly altered. As I travel with the HSF staff to visit foster families affected by the flood, I am struck by how signs of the damage linger – a mark on the second story of a home signifying the water line during the flood; a quagmire of mud and debris that used to be the site of a family’s garden; trees toppled over and still under water.
To ensure the ability of these families to continue to provide a safe environment for the children in their care, HSF provided a combination of grants and no interest loans to 60 foster families for home repairs. With the help of volunteer laborers from the Bangkok business community, HSF’s accomplished the first phase of reconstruction by repairing the homes of six foster families in July 2012. Due to the saturation of the ground, many families have been forced to wait for the land to become suitable for construction before rebuilding. Additional homes will be repaired as the water recedes.
One foster mother, Maylee, was forced to evacuate the family home for three months during the flood when water from the nearby pond swelled to great depths. The standing water caused significant damage to the home and weakened the support structures. Repairs are underway to replace damaged wood and to construct safety railings around the house to make it more suitable for young children. Maylee explains that the family tried to access assistance from the government but they were not able to get any help. HSF has been the key to helping the family to recover from the disaster. She tells me, “HSF has provided my family with food and other support, including money for construction and repairs. My brother, a carpenter, as well as several neighbors and family members, have provided labor.” By contributing some of their own resources, the family has been able to actively participate in the reconstruction process. This has enhanced the success of recovery efforts.
Another foster mother, Ning, is waiting for the land under her family’s home to dry out so that construction work can begin. I ask her about the situation of her family during the flood. “Even though our house is on stilts, the water flooded our living room!” She exclaims. She points to the water line mid-way up the wall. “It came to here,” she says, “and we were forced to evacuate for twenty days. At that point we were able to move most of our belongings up to the roof and make a temporary living structure there.” She shares with me that HSF will assist with the repair of her kitchen and toilet as soon as the water underneath her home recedes. Her family will contribute what they can to the repair effort.
As homes are repaired and the memory of the flood starts to fade, children in Holt’s care will have little remembrance of this disruptive time in their lives. But the unwavering dedication of HSF’s staff and foster parents will live on. During a situation that could have been much more tragic for many, HSF staff and their dedicated foster parents put the children first.
The Anderson family shares their story about adopting a little girl with special needs.
by David Anderson
In talking with friends and co-workers, I sometimes have to catch myself, as I have a tendency to ramble on about our family’s story. So when my wife mentioned that Holt International was asking for family’s of special needs adoptees to submit their stories, I jumped at the chance.
In raising our children and watching them grow, I often find myself living in the now, with little reflection and pondering about pre-adoption times. Having two biological sons and a newly added daughter, our house is constantly bustling with energy. There’s hardly a time when we aren’t engaged in what the kids are doing to some degree. Each day brings something new, and with a daily addition of tomorrow’s memories, it’s rare to just sit back and consider all that went into getting us here. But when my wife and I were asked to meet with a group of prospective adoptive parents through Holt, their questions brought back a flood of memories and feelings.
After my wife and I established that we were going to fully pursue adoption, we next weighed whether or not special needs adoption was something that our family was willing to consider. It wasn’t long before we felt that a special needs adoption indeed was something that we were willing to put on the table. Upon this conclusion, I vividly remember my mood changing a bit. The idea of taking on a child with special needs is fairly easy when it’s simply a notion. It was still abstract to me. But as the idea became more concrete, I couldn’t help but visualize what our lives would look like. Would we be taking on a host of medical bills that we can’t afford? Would the time and energy needed to care for this child result in a negative effect on the children that we currently have? And while there was no way of knowing the answers to these questions with complete certainty, I found peace in believing that as long as we kept love as the central thread in our family, everything would work out. Continue reading “The Prerequisite For a Special Needs Adoption: Love”
Adopted through Holt from Thailand when she was nearly 6 years old, Kanya grew up in Oregon with her parents Jane and David Sesser. Although born without legs, Kanya has overcome her disability to become a champion in track and field – and wheelchair track in particular. Now 19, she ranks among the fastest U.S. woman in her class in the 100-meter.
Her next goal is to compete in the U.S. Paralympics Track and Field Trials in Indiana – the qualifying event for the U.S. Paralympic Team to compete in the 2012 Paralympic Games in London!
But she needs help getting there…
If you would like to help Kanya make the qualifying event for the 2012 Paralympic Games, please make checks out to “WASUSA” and send them to:
P.O. BOX 5266
KENDALL PARK, NJ 08824-5266
Be sure to note on the memo line that funds should go to Kanya Sesser’s account. All donations are tax-deductible.
One afternoon, in a care center in Southeast Asia, a caregiver was going from room to room, tidying up while the children played nearby. As she finished up in the last room, she walked to the door, put her hand on the knob and turned it. The door wouldn’t budge. She tried again. It still wouldn’t open. She pulled on it. Pushed on it, but, still, no luck. She was trapped. She took a deep breath and tried not to panic. She knew what to do. Loudly, she called for Jordan, an 8-year-old boy who lived at the care center. “I knew he would know what to do,” says the caregiver.
As soon as the caregiver yelled for him, Jordan was by the door.
“Are you OK?” Jordan, concerned, asked his caregiver.
“Yes, I am fine Jordan, but I need your help.”
“What’s wrong? asked Jordan sweetly. “Can you breathe?”
“Yes, I can breathe, Jordan,” said the caregiver, “I just need you to get someone to help me open the door.”
“Ok!” said Jordan. “I’ll be right back!”
And just like that, Jordan was off to get help for his trapped caregiver. Soon, she was out of the room and grateful for Jordan ’s genuine concern and quick thinking.
This sweet story is one of many in Jordan ’s file that illustrates his caring and empathetic personality. “He’s just so thoughtful,” says his caregiver. “I knew he would help get me out.”
His caregivers aren’t the only ones, though, that confirm Jordan ’s gentle and kind demeanor. Everyone I asked about Jordan had the same wonderful things to say about him. The word that came up most of all was “caring.”
“I remember him quite well,” says Jennifer Goette, Holt’s director of programs for Southeast Asia who travels to the area frequently. “He is very sweet and shy – very eager to please. His caregivers all shared with me that he is a very good boy, very obedient, very caring and very interested in helping others. I could tell he was a favorite with his caregivers. He never gave them any trouble!”
Abandoned at a temple when he was an infant, Jordan was found by an elderly woman who took him in and cared for him for 5 years until her health began to fail. Jordan was then transferred to a care center.
Last November, as the worst monsoon flooding in over 50 years submerged Thailand’s homes, businesses and farms, Zach and Henry Zimmerman came up with a great idea to help with the recovery effort! In particular, Zach — a Holt adoptee from Thailand — wanted to help his former foster mom rebuild her house. So Zach, 5, and Henry, 9, put together a poster about the Thailand floods to bring to their school’s International Night — an annual event to celebrate diversity. Together, they raised $83.50 for Holt’s Thailand Rehabilitation Fund, which will help us repair and rebuild homes for the many Holt foster families displaced by the floods. Thank you Zach and Henry for your extraordinary efforts!
A Q&A with Mariia Zimmerman, mom of Zach and Henry
How old are your boys and what grade are they in?
Zachary is 5 and started Kindergarten this fall. Henry is 9 and in the 4th grade.
How long did Zach live with his foster mother in Thailand?
Zachary lived with his foster mom for 16 months. We adopted him when he was 18 months old.
What does he remember about his foster mom (and foster family)?
Zachary doesn’t remember very much, but we talk about his culture and history with him. He’s very curious to know about it all and asks lots of questions. We have pictures of Zachary with his foster mom that Holt sent to us while we were waiting the nine long months between referral and being able to go over to Thailand and bring him home. These are part of Zach’s adoption book, which he likes to read and discuss all the photos.
One of the stories we like to tell is that his foster mother lived very close to a Buddhist temple, which had an area for children to play soccer in the courtyard. Zachary spent a lot of time there when he was a baby, watching the children. His foster mom told us he always had a laugh when they played soccer and he learned to kick a ball shortly after he could walk. When we met Zachary, he already had really good soccer skills and to this day he loves to play. It was one of the things that we did a lot of when he first joined our family, since his older brother also enjoyed playing and it didn’t require either knowing how to speak the other’s language.
Last October, lives changed forever when the worst monsoon season in more than 50 years hit Thailand. Nearly 300 people perished and 8 million were affected. Homes were destroyed, hearts were broken, but the spirit of Holt’s foster families could not be crushed. In the face of such devastation, Holt took comfort in the inspiring stories brought to us from the field. Although many of our foster mothers lost their homes, they never wavered in their devotion to their foster children. Our overseas staff sheltered the families, and kept the children safe. We commend Holt’s foster mothers in Thailand for their love and dedication, as well as our staff who rose to meet the need.
You may remember this story brought to us by Jennifer Goette, Holt’s director of programs for South and Southeast Asia, and published in November. Jennifer tells the story of one Holt foster mother whose home was damaged during the monsoon.
In March, engineers began the second phase of flood response by conducting an evaluation of destroyed and damaged homes. The engineers will now volunteer their time and begin the repair of 20 homes for birth and foster families affected by the flooding.
Jennifer Goette, Holt’s director of services for South and Southeast Asia, recently returned from Thailand. While there, she witnessed first-hand the devastation caused by the worst monsoon season to hit Thailand in 50 years and sat down with a Holt Sahathai Foundation foster mother.
By Jennifer Goette
Bangkok, Thailand — Watching the floodwater rise in and around Bangkok in news reports these last couple weeks, it has been difficult to get a true account of the tragedy caused by the worst monsoon in Thailand in 50 years. Until my visit to Bangkok this week, I didn’t understand the true impact of the tragedy or how critical the work of Holt Sahathai Foundation (HSF) has been for families dealing with dislocation and personal loss.
Since early October, HSF staff has worked tirelessly to ensure the safety of children and families served by their program. They have coordinated deliveries of food and supplies to hundreds of families using military vehicles, small boats and sheer willpower. They have relocated approximately 25 children and their foster parents to the HSF office, where the families have found safety, comfort and nutritious food. In many cases, HSF staff have continued working long hours, seven days a week, despite the desperate situation of their own families and homes.
One foster mother — relocated to the HSF office with her two foster daughters — sat down with me and shared her story….
I am sitting with Patchara and the Executive Director of HSF, Jintana Nontapouraya, as the light fades in the early evening and Patchara’s youngest foster daughter sleeps in her arms.
Patchara has been a foster mother with HSF since 1996. I can tell that Patchara, with her warm personality and sweet disposition, holds a special place in the hearts of the entire staff. Nearly 15 years ago, Patchara adopted the first child she fostered and has remained a foster mother with HSF ever since.
Patchara shares with me about the uncertainty families faced in the early days of the flood, when it was unclear just how grave the situation would be in areas around Bangkok. As the floodwater rose higher throughout Pathum Thani Province, the local residents evacuated to higher ground, staying with friends or relatives, or relocating to temporary evacuation shelters. As she worked with her husband to construct a barrier around their home, Patchara’s primary concern was not for the safety of her house or her personal belongings — which are now two meters under water — but for the safety of her two foster children. “They are my family,” says Patchara with a smile. “There was no question that I would continue to provide for their care during the disaster.”