One Year After the Flood – Recovery 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 Prerequisite For a Special Needs Adoption: Love

 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”

Help Kanya Sesser Compete in the 2012 Paralympics in London!

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.

Check out recent news coverage of Kanya:


A Caring Family for a Caring Child

*Jordan needs a family

Birthday:  January 1st, 2004


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.


Jordan visits with Jennifer Goette, Holt's director of programs for Southeast Asia
Here, Jordan made friends easily and began to break out of his shell.  Continue reading “A Caring Family for a Caring Child”

Children Who Give: After Thailand Floods, A Holt Adoptee Helps His Former Foster Family

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

Henry (left) and Zach (right) with the poster they made to help raise funds for Thailand flood relief.

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.

Continue reading “Children Who Give: After Thailand Floods, A Holt Adoptee Helps His Former Foster Family”

Help Families in Thailand Rebuild Their Homes!

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.


Click here to help foster mothers and birth families rebuild their homes for the children they love!


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

Holding one of her foster daughters, Patchara talks to Jennifer Goette, Holt's director of services for Southeast Asia, about how her family has been affected by the flooding.

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.”

Continue reading “Help Families in Thailand Rebuild Their Homes!”

MoneyGram Gives $35,000 for Holt’s Education Programs in Thailand and the Philippines

MoneyGram presents a check to KBF, Holt's partner in the Philippines.
Kasem* loves school.  He loves seeing his classmates every day, and goes in early to play with them.  He loves to draw and practice writing his name.  At home, at night, he eagerly shares with his family what he did that day in class. He never needs to be reminded to finish his homework.

Kasem lives in the Philippines with his mother, father and younger sister.  His mother does not work. To care for his family, his father collects and sorts garbage at night, selling the recyclable items the following morning.

Without support from Holt International and Kaisahang Buhay Foundation (KBF), Kasem’s family would not be able to send him to school.  Kasem attends one of KBF’s six daycare centers, which provide nutrition, medical assistance and learning activities for children in several low-income communities of Metro Manila.

Recently, Holt and KBF made another valuable partner in their mission to keep Kasem – and hundreds more at-risk children – in school.  MoneyGram International, Inc., a leading global money transfer company, yesterday announced a $35,000 donation to support Holt’s education programs in the Philippines and Thailand.

Through its annual Global Giving Program, MoneyGram provides grants to support education programs around the world.  “As a money transfer provider, we know first-hand how important small sums of money are to individuals working far from home to build a better life for themselves and their families,” says Juan Agualimpia, MoneyGram’s chief marketing officer.

Continue reading “MoneyGram Gives $35,000 for Holt’s Education Programs in Thailand and the Philippines”

To Give of Yourself

University of Oregon graduate Ally Tritten recently completed a six-month, IE3 Global Internship at the Holt Sahathai Foundation (HSF) in Thailand.  Here, in her third and final blog, she reflects on her experience working alongside HSF’s dedicated staff in their efforts to find homes for children with special needs.  Many of these children are now in Holt’s Waiting Child Program.

Read Ally’s first two blog entries here and here.

Ally with children at Nakhon Si Thammarat, a Muslim preschool in Thailand.
My name is Ally Tritten.  From September 2010 to last February, I interned at Holt’s partner organization in Thailand – top social welfare agency Holt Sahathai Foundation (HSF).  For six months, I worked alongside HSF staff to complete a project for the growing number of children with special needs living in Thailand’s government institutions. The ultimate purpose of the project was to find loving adoptive families for about 250 Thai children with special needs.


While working closely with HSF staff members, I also became a part of the “HSF family.”

This, I didn’t expect.  Not at first.

My initial impression of the HSF staff was that of a tight-knit group of individuals who defined strength and commitment to helping children and families attain success in life. I was immediately consumed with their high energy level and strong work ethic. As I entered each office room, the HSF staff scurried about their business – taking phone calls, working on computers, and looking at files stacked about a foot high on each desk.

I was excited to begin my work for this organization.

And within a few days, I was one of them – files piled high on my desk as I completed one task, just to begin another.

During my first week in Thailand, I also had my first business trip. About 16 of us traveled five hours north of Bangkok toward Cambodia to visit some of the foster families in HSF’s foster care program. Through this experience, I was able to get a first-hand look at the diverse social welfare services HSF provides for families and children. Throughout the coming months, I would be called on several more journeys deep into jungles, walking through water and over small wooden planks covered in fire ants in order to make a foster care home visit – a trip HSF staff often struggle to make for follow-up info on children eligible for adoption.

Once back in Bangkok, I began the primary work of my internship. Continue reading “To Give of Yourself”

Thailand Update from Ally: Helping the Children Who Wait

Children with special needs in Thailand find strength in the face of challenges

University of Oregon graduate Ally Tritten is currently in Thailand working with Holt Sahathai Foundation (HSF) as an intern with IE3 Global Internships. Ally, a family and human services major, will work for HSF for six months, helping to find homes for 200 children with special needs. The children are currently in government-run child institutions in Thailand; some of them will eventually be placed into Holt’s Waiting Child program.

“I am really excited for this trip,” says Ally. “I look forward to learning more about Holt International, their work in Thailand, and to be able to provide services to children.”

Holt established a partnership with HSF in 1975. HSF serves a large number of vulnerable children through a variety of programs including adoption, pregnancy counseling, foster care, educational sponsorships and outreach services for children in hospitals and orphanages. Many of these programs help birth families stay together through counseling and assistance.

The following is an update from Ally about her first full month in Thailand (Click here to read Ally’s first blog update):

Bangkok, Thailand — I am still adjusting to my new life in Bangkok. For the last month and a half Pi Tuk, Pi Malee and I have coordinated with Child Adoption Center (another adoption agency in Thailand) and assessed approximately 30 children with special needs, all of whom live in governmental orphanages and have been diagnosed with various disabilities. Some of the common disabilities we see in the children are: cerebral palsy (CP), fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), microcephaly and macrocephaly, seizure disorders, visual and hearing impairment, delayed development, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and a variety of physical disabilities. Of the four orphanages we visited in the past month, two — Nong Khai Home for Boys and Udornthani Home for Girls — are located in the northeastern part of Thailand and the other two — Ban Fueng Fah Home for Children with Special Needs and Pakkret Babies Home — are located in a nearby province outside of Bangkok. The HSF social workers and I flew by airplane to the two northeastern orphanages and spent four days assessing the overall development of 14 children.

The majority of the other children in the project live in Ban Fueng Fah Home for Children with Special Needs, where we spent most of October interviewing each child’s caretaker, physical therapists and teachers, as well as completing our own individual assessments. Continue reading “Thailand Update from Ally: Helping the Children Who Wait”