Mother’s Day Gifts of Hope

Three of Amita’s children play and talk with staff at Holt’s childcare center in India.

As kids, our moms would often fret over whether we had eaten enough. Moms took us to the doctor when we were sick. They checked our homework, worried about our education, and also taught us many lessons themselves. Lessons like kindness and how to care for others.

This Mother’s Day, salute the person who taught you compassion by giving a Gift of Hope — a gift to ease the worries of a struggling mother or family in one of Holt’s programs overseas. A gift to ensure her child will have healthy meals, afford to attend school, or be able to see a doctor.

It’s a gift to help mothers like Amita* in India.

A single mother, Amita struggles to care for her four children alone. On good days, during festivals or celebrations, Amita might earn $1.75 selling flowers. But many days, Amita is too sick from a chronic health condition to go to work at all. The whole family shares a one-room shack without a bathroom or kitchen, and when they can’t pay rent, Amita and her children sleep outside. The family has little to eat most days, and Amita’s two eldest children often skip school to look for work.

Last year, Amita heard about Holt and the services we offer families on the verge of separation. She came to us for help with school fees and nutritional support — but also to gain the skills she needs to independently support her children.

Holt was able to provide the emergency food and medical care Amita’s family needed to grow strong and healthy. Each day, all four children receive breakfast, snacks and lunch at school. Now, five months later, the children’s teachers praise the students for their hard work and passion to learn. Amita is also learning new skills through the job training Holt provides to parents in her town. It only took a little assistance for Amita to get back on her feet, and today, she is proud that she can support her family.

This Mother’s Day, help change the world for a mother like Amita. Give a Gift of Hope in honor of your own mother.

*Name changed.

Threads of Hope

Vocational training in Uganda provides more than job security to rural women

Sometimes, hope comes in a box. A cardboard box, taped shut, in the middle of a room with dirt floors, a tin roof and no walls. And not just one box, but 25, each heavy with 20 pounds of industrial-grade hope. Under the same roof, 25 eager, smiling women are ready to tear through the boxes’ packaging. They’ve been waiting for today. While they waited, they built the structure they stand in now — a place to house their hope. Every day, they’ve walked to this place, some of them for painstaking hours through rain and mud with their youngest children in their arms. And now, the boxes are here.

Continue reading “Threads of Hope”

An Irresistible Opportunity

An update on Holt’s child welfare and adoption program in Uganda, including new partners, the opening of a new Holt office, and one opportunity we couldn’t resist!

by Robin Munro, Senior Writer

Over more than five decades of caring for children, Holt has left a legacy in countries around the world. From our founding program in South Korea, to Russia, China and Romania in the 1990s, to brief forays in Central and Latin America and long-standing partnerships in India and Southeast Asia, Holt has through the years cared for hundreds of thousands of children in more than 30 countries.

But not until the year 2001 – 45 years into our 56 year history – did we step foot on the continent of Africa. By the end of 2001, HIV/AIDS had orphaned more than 11 million children (80 percent of the world’s total) in sub-saharan Africa. In this region alone, estimates for the total number of orphaned children – from all causes – stood somewhere around 34 million.

The need for Holt’s services had become overwhelmingly clear.

A boy in a Holt and AFC family strengthening program, 2008.

In no better place did we begin serving children in this troubled region of the world than in Uganda – a country so devastated by the AIDS epidemic that over half the population is under 18 years old.

Part of Uganda’s youthful makeup may be attributed to the country’s birth rate, which is the second highest in the world. But it is also home to an estimated 2.7 million orphans, who have each lost one or both of their parents to disease, armed conflict or other ills chronic to this East African nation. Uganda is, in short, a country of children – many of whom have no one to take care of them.

As Holt discovered when we arrived here over a decade ago, grandparents or relatives often take on the responsibility of caring for orphaned and abandoned children. Other children live in makeshift shelters, with an older child acting as head of household. In recent years, orphanages have sprung up throughout Uganda to meet the needs of homeless children. As a result, more and more infants are also now brought in by dying parents or relatives who are unable to care for them.

Although orphanages serve a vital purpose, Holt has always viewed them as temporary care centers. Not long-term solutions. Rather, our first goal is always to keep children – and help them thrive – in their own extended families. Continue reading “An Irresistible Opportunity”

Why Didn’t You Come Sooner, Mom?

When Holt asked Stacie and Taylor Forsberg to consider adopting an older child, they initially thought it would be too challenging.  After a change of heart, they welcomed 6-year-old Jacob into their family. Today, when asked what age they would prefer if they were to adopt again, Stacie doesn’t hesitate. “Older,” she says. Here, Stacie tells her story of adopting Jacob, from Uganda, and Leah, from Ethiopia.

Some of the earliest memories I have are of wanting to help children. At the time, I don’t think I even knew the word “adoption.”  What I did know was I wanted to be a mom to children who didn’t already have one.

In 2002, I married my husband, Taylor, and within a year, I became pregnant with our first child, Ben*.  We began trying for our second child shortly afterward, but after 2 ½ years of trying to conceive, we began fertility treatments.  As we were leaving our first session, the nurse said to us, “Don’t worry, we will get you pregnant.”  At that moment, we realized: it’s not a fertility clinic’s place to “get us pregnant.”

I had brought up the idea of adoption to Taylor before.  After deciding against fertility treatment, we returned to the idea, long on hold. Our journey began in 2007. Shortly thereafter, I finally achieved my childhood dream. Through adoption, I became a mom to a child who needed one.

Our beautiful daughter came home to us from Ethiopia at age 19 months. The first 6 months home were really hard. But once we reached 6 months, things started getting easier, and we realized: we could do this again. After 9 months home with Leah*, we began our second adoption, this time with Holt.  Thinking we wanted our daughter to have a sibling with the same heritage, we applied for Holt’s Ethiopia program. Holt then asked us to consider their Uganda program. The majority of the children, however, were of an age that we did not feel comfortable with – either older than our eldest or about the same age as our daughter.  We decided to stay with the Ethiopia program.

Even though we decided not to go with the Uganda program, our hearts still went to those older children. They just seem to wait so much longer than the younger ones. Most families want babies.  Older kids seem to have such a slim chance at a family.  So, a few days later, I asked to see the files of Holt’s waiting children from Uganda. I wanted to see their faces.  I wanted to know who to pray for.  It makes everything so much more real when I see a face – not just a number or statistic or a file, but a face.

Both my children stood at my side as I opened file after file. Still, none of the children fit the age range with which we felt comfortable. They were either between our two children or older than our oldest.

But after opening seven children’s files, we opened Jacob’s*.

Continue reading “Why Didn’t You Come Sooner, Mom?”

Jesus Loves Jamie….And Somewhere a Family is Waiting to Love her Too.

Jamie Needs a family

Birthdate: October, 2002, Africa

by Ashli Keyser, Managing Editor

I just read through Jamie’s bio on Holt’s Waiting Child photolisting. She’s 8 years old and lives in Africa. I’m often drawn to the cute, endearing qualities in the children’s bios — the qualities that make each child unique and special.

Jamie loves to sing. Most children do. But Jamie likes to sing gospel music, in particular. I smile at this little detail and think of gospel songs Jamie might know. This thought takes me back to my Sunday school days…..

I’m 4 years old, standing on the edge of a church stage and wearing a pretty blue, flowered dress. My hair is curled and in a ponytail. I’m short. The height of the stage only adds to my nervousness. Fifteen other children stand with me, waiting to sing. Having practiced this song many times, I shouldn’t be nervous. But I am. I hear the piano start. Unsure of myself, I slowly scan the audience and find two familiar faces – my mom and dad. We lock eyes. They smile at me, and I smile back. The nerves quickly dissipate as I start to sing…..

“Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong, they are weak, but He is strong.”

With my parent’s love, their smiles and encouragement, I confidently make it through the song.

I think back to Jamie’s love of gospel music and wonder if she’s ever been taught this popular and universal Sunday school song. Maybe she sings it in Luganda, her native language…. ay yah gah lahn zeh, ay yah gah lahn zeh, ay yah gah lahn zeh, Yayogera bw’atyo.” Maybe she doesn’t know it yet, and needs a family to teach it to her.

Today, Jamie sings to her friends and caretakers. She sings to these special people in her life because, at nine months old, Jamie was abandoned by her parents and brought to a Holt care center. Her parents weren’t around to teach her the songs she has grown to love. They weren’t around to listen to Jamie sing for them. Continue reading “Jesus Loves Jamie….And Somewhere a Family is Waiting to Love her Too.”