These Children are Thriving

With the support of Holt child sponsors, nearly 1,500 children at seven daycare centers in Vietnam now have a safe place to learn and play during the day.  At one preschool and daycare center in southern Dong Nai province, free milk and nourishing school lunches have helped to drop malnutrition rates from 7.5 percent to less than 1 percent. When Holt staff members visited the school in early June of this year, many of the children were busy coloring pictures for their sponsors — a new feature of Holt’s sponsorship program designed to strengthen communication between sponsors and the children they help support.

Twenty miles outside of Ho Chi Minh City in southern Vietnam, tucked between marshy fields of growing rice, stands a small preschool and daycare center. When we visit in early June, only about a third of the number of students who attend during the school year are present. Still, the sound of children playing is deafening as we drive up — with giggles and high voices joyfully resounding off the cement walls and through the open air doors of this four-room school. The air is hot and steamy from overnight rains, and children run barefoot on the cool cream-and-yellow tiles of the school — their shoes in a pile in the hallway. They are between the ages of 2 and 5, and the little ones are watching a Tom and Jerry cartoon in one classroom when we arrive. They are engrossed in the show and barely acknowledge us when we peek inside. The older ones are busy coloring pictures in the room next door, and they look up with bright eyes and toothy grins when we join their class.

Two years ago, the atmosphere at this school was quite different. When the Long Hung School opened in 2005 to serve the children of this rural farming community, many families failed to see the purpose or benefit of sending their children to preschool or their littler ones to daycare. In their community, the elders of the family traditionally care for children at home while their parents farm the land during the day. The school itself was run down and had no water supply for cooking or drinking, and the cost of tuition — $3/month, $23/month with lunch — seemed an unnecessary burden to many of the families in this low-income area. Only 41 children enrolled that first year.

Then, in 2012, the local authority referred Holt Vietnam to upgrade equipment as well as the quality of care and programs for the children — and, ultimately, to attract more children to the school.

“When Holt came, only 41 families had signed up their children to enroll,” the principle shared during our visit. “Two months later, it came up to 78. By the end of the semester, the number increased to 102. The next year, we were able to enroll 141.” Continue reading “These Children are Thriving”

Rights of Children

On November 20, the world will celebrate an important landmark anniversary for human rights and children.

The day marks the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the 1989 United Nations treaty that — for the first time in history — defined the civil, economic, political, social and cultural rights of children. It also set goals to improve the livelihoods of children around the world.

Today, as we reflect on Holt’s nearly 60 years of serving vulnerable children and families around the world, we also celebrate the ways in which the lives of children around the world have improved thanks to the Convention and the work of dedicated children’s rights advocates.

In the same breath, we also recognize areas where more work needs to be done to reach the goals of the Convention, and how Holt can push forward — working toward a more just and equal world, where every child is valued and loved and no child is alone. Continue reading “Rights of Children”

New Sponsorship Documents

We have exciting news for our awesome child sponsors this week!

Soon, sponsors of children living in Cambodia, China, India, Mongolia, Thailand, Philippines and Vietnam will receive additional and personalized updates from their sponsored child. Sponsors of children in Ethiopia will begin receiving these updated in early 2015!

Over the next few months, watch your mailbox for this envelope — or, if you receive paperless updates, keep an eye on your email.

Inside, you will find a drawing, photo or letter from your sponsored child! We are excited for sponsors to learn more about the child they help support, and the children in our programs are excited to share more about themselves with you.

Most sponsors will receive at least one additional update from their child every year — building on the quarterly updates they already receive from Holt. Some sponsors may even receive more than one.

As our overseas program staff receive more training and improved technology, we hope to continue to expand and improve communications between sponsors and their sponsored child.

If you have questions about when you will receive a photo, drawing or letter from your sponsored child, you can call us at 1-541-451-0731, email us at sponsorship@holtinternational.org or visit the MyHolt Sponsorship Service Center by clicking here.

Check out a few of the beautiful photos, letters and pictures we’ve received from children in our programs so far: Continue reading “New Sponsorship Documents”

With Support from Holt, Tra Never Had to Leave Her Family

Recently, several Holt staff traveled to Vietnam to meet the children and families we serve. While there, they met a young intern at our office in Hanoi who shared a story so moving that we just had to pass it on to you.

Growing up the daughter of a single mother in Vietnam, Tra had very little. Tra’s mother was not well and struggled to support Tra and her two siblings all by herself. As she grew sicker and sicker, it became increasingly difficult for Tra’s mom to make ends meet.

When Tra was in grade school, Holt provided the support her family needed to become stable and self-reliant. Today, Tra is a college graduate and Holt intern in Hanoi, Vietnam!

Then one day, everything changed.

“It was a long time ago. I was in the second or third grade,” Tra said. “I saw a group of people come to the house, asking about our family’s circumstances. When they left, my mom explained that Holt came to provide assistance.”

To help Tra’s mom earn an income to support her children — and also pay her medical bills — Holt provided the funding for her to purchase a sewing machine. With the money she earned selling garments, she was able to continue her treatment and provide food, clothing, school fees and other basic necessities for Tra and her siblings.

“In life, if we see similar people having difficulties,” Tra’s mom told her at the time, “we have to give back.”

Recently, Tra graduated from college with a social affairs degree. She plans to use her newly acquired skills to help other children and families in need.

“My mom said that if one day we have a chance, we have to go back to Holt and thank them and find a way to help other people,” Tra said. “This may be the reason why it’s my destiny to work with Holt serving children and families.”

At Holt, stories like Tra’s are what inspire us in our work every day. This story also captures what we do and why we do it. With your help, we strive to help children stay in the loving care of their families, and we do so by giving struggling parents like Tra’s mom the tools and resources they need to become strong and self-reliant.

While meeting with our staff, Tra shared through tears that her mom passed away three years ago. Although her illness could not be cured, Tra’s mom never had to take her children to an orphanage or place them for adoption — in large part because of Holt and Holt supporters like you.

Please consider giving a gift today to help us continue this important work — to help mothers care for their babies, to help families stay together, and to help children like Tra grow strong, healthy and educated. The help you give today may even impact the heart of a child so much that one day, they will also give back… to help another child and another family when they needed it most.

Click here to give to our family strengthening campaign for children and families!

Click here to read more about how Holt is working in Vietnam to help children grow and thrive in the loving care of their birth families.

Vietnam’s Department of Adoptions Names Holt as One Agency to Provide Adoption Services

Dillon International and Holt International Children’s Services were named today—in an announcement by the U.S. Department of State— as the two U.S. agencies selected by the Ministry of Justice’s Department of Adoptions in Vietnam to place waiting children from Vietnam with adoptive families in the United States.

The decision allows the two agencies to find families for orphaned children with medical special needs, children over the age of 5 and children who are part of a sibling group through Vietnam’s Special Adoption Program, which will open effective Tuesday, September 16.

“We are honored by the trust Vietnam’s Ministry of Justice has placed in our agencies to serve some of the nation’s most vulnerable children,” said Kyle Tresch, Dillon International’s executive director.

“Both Holt and Dillon consider it a privilege to continue in our long-standing commitments to meet the needs of children in Vietnam,” added Phillip Littleton, Holt International president and CEO. “We are grateful for all of the efforts of the Ministry of Justice to develop strategies to ensure ethical adoption practices in Vietnam and for the U.S. Department of State’s support for these efforts.”

Director Nguyen Van Binh of the Central Adoption Authority in Vietnam presents our license to Hang Dam, Holt Vietnam’s country director who works out of our office in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Both Dillon and Holt have a long tradition of serving the children of Vietnam through adoption and humanitarian aid programs. Adoption services were provided until 2008, when a Memorandum of Understanding between the U.S. and Vietnam expired, placing adoptions by Americans on hold. This new agreement initiated by the U.S. Department of State and Vietnam’s Department of Adoptions allows intercountry adoptions to resume through the Special Adoption Program offered by the two agencies.

Founded in 1972, Dillon International is a licensed non-profit adoption and humanitarian aid agency headquartered in Tulsa, Okla., with branch locations in five U.S. states. Dillon International is Hague Accredited through the Council on Accreditation to process international adoptions pursuant to the Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000.

Founded in 1956, Holt International is dedicated to finding and supporting permanent, loving families for orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children. Holt is recognized as a leader in child welfare and permanency planning, providing services and advocating for the best interest of children while always upholding the highest ethical practices.

For more information about adopting from Vietnam, please contact Jessica Palmer at jessicap@holtinternational.org.

To learn more about the many different ways Holt serves children and families in Vietnam, click here.

How Does Your Money Get To Your Sponsored Child?

Every month, you faithfully send your $34 to your sponsored child … Sort of.

Technically, you send your gift to Holt International, trusting that we will properly steward your money and direct it to your sponsored child. We don’t, in fact, actually give your sponsored child and his or her family $34 in cash or check each month.

Why, you ask? Wouldn’t our sponsorship program be just as effective if we simply wrote a check each month?

Well, that’s a great question, and it is one that our sponsorship team hears often.

There are many reasons why Holt doesn’t give cash to the children and families in our programs, but the biggest reason is that we care deeply about those who we serve and we want every mother, father and child in our programs to be successful. Remember, Holt’s ultimate goal is to ensure that every child has a permanent, loving family. But while our goal for every child is the same, the way we work toward that goal is different for every child. Continue reading “How Does Your Money Get To Your Sponsored Child?”

So Every Child Can Grow and Thrive

In one southern province of Vietnam, an alarming number of children are born with special needs — especially cerebral palsy. To help address the growing need for services, Holt is working alongside one local orphanage to provide daycare and vocational training for children with medical and developmental needs who are living with their families.

With the vocational skills she’s learning in orphanage care, Lan may one day be able to live an independent life.

Lan* rests her foot on the peddle and pauses a moment before pulling the next piece of thread through the loom. This task requires concentration and dexterity. But she has repeated these same steps enough times now to feel confident in her skills. It’s unusual that the orphanage has a few visitors on this overcast Saturday morning, and they observe her now as she carefully demonstrates how to make the colorful woven bags that they admired earlier in the glass case at the front office.

Lan learned to loom as part of a vocational training program for older children with special needs at the Binh Duong orphanage in southern Vietnam. This orphanage is also her home, and will be until she turns 18. Lan and her classmates keep all the profits from the bags they weave, which they sell to customers in the community. Weaving is a fun activity that provides Lan with a little spending money — especially during Christmas and other holidays, when local companies order in bulk. But more than that, the vocational skills Lan is learning can help her to support herself and possibly go on to live a fully independent life when she leaves the orphanage.

The vocational training program teaches the children how to weave these colorful bags, which local companies order in bulk during holidays.

The Binh Duong Child Welfare Center has provided vocational training for many years — often with support from Holt. In the late 1990s, Holt worked with Microsoft to donate computers and provide skills training to youth living in the orphanage. As a result, over 500 children went on to get jobs that required computer skills. The textile training program began about ten years ago. Programs and services like these are vital to helping young people succeed when they leave institutional care, and they are helping to address a growing need in the community. In recent years, this region has seen an alarming increase in the number of children with special needs, especially cerebral palsy. As a result, the orphanage has also seen a large influx. By 2013, a quarter of all children in care had some kind of special need.

Although the cause of this increase is unknown, the orphanage director points to one explanation during our visit.

This little girl came into care severely malnourished. With more outreach to pregnant mothers in crisis, the director believes that fewer children will be born premature, malnourished or with special needs.

Continue reading “So Every Child Can Grow and Thrive”

Can Holt Sponsors Send Letters

The question our sponsorship staff encounters most frequently is, “Can I write my sponsored child?” followed swiftly by, “What can I send my sponsored child?”

We think both these questions are fantastic! They show that you take your sponsorship seriously — often sending positive thoughts or prayers to your sponsored child, and wondering how he or she is doing. Your desire to connect with your sponsored child and bless him or her with additional gifts is one that warms our hearts … and your sponsored child’s, too!

Generally, the answer is yes, you can write your sponsored child, and yes, you can send extra small gifts. But, there are a few stipulations, mostly designed to ensure your sponsored child and his or her family remain safe and successful in our programs.

Here, we’ve created a “10 do’s and don’ts” list regarding correspondence with your sponsored child.

1. Do send cards, letters and words of encouragement.

What you can send your child varies slightly from country to country, but generally, if your sponsored child lives in China, Korea, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, Haiti, Mongolia or India, you can send hand-written cards or letters to your sponsored child.

Unfortunately, sponsors of children living in Ethiopia and Uganda are not able to send personal letters at this time. In these countries in particular, fairness and equal distribution of resources is critical to maintaining the positive relationships the staff have formed with families. If one child receives a letter while another does not, it could cause feelings of jealousy within the community. In order to avoid favoritism and encourage healthy working and learning environments, program staff request that no letters come to children or families in these programs at this time. However, there are some ways you can still give to your child. See #7 below!

2. Do tell your sponsored child about yourself and your family!

We encourage you to write about your family, activities you enjoy together and what life is like where you live. Sponsored children like to hear about your town, if you attend school, what you do for work, if you have pets, and other details that help them get to know you. Continue reading “Can Holt Sponsors Send Letters”

Holt Sponsorship transformation

Every day, more than 7,000 children we serve around the world receive life-saving nutritious food, medical care and access to education. Their families are growing stronger and more stable with the help of vocational training, free daycare programs, medical care and counseling — even forming community groups for support and networking, and their children are learning about sanitation and nutrition.

These are Holt’s sponsored children — children who, through the generous monthly gift of Holt supporters, are thriving and learning and finding hope for the future.

One of those children is Dawit — a young boy living with his family in rural Ethiopia. He has been in Holt’s sponsorship program for a little over two years, and in that time his life and the lives of his family have changed dramatically. You can see the change in his photos, the ones a Holt social worker snaps of him every six months. You can see his face change from sunken and sad to bright and smiley.

Two years ago, Dawit’s family was very poor and did not have enough land to generate income or grow crops to feed their family. They lacked basic sanitation and enough food too eat. Dawit suffered from malnutrition, but his parents could not afford to take him to a hospital.

Then, Holt helped Dawit’s family receive a cow, which provided nourishing milk every day — with extra to sell for income. When the cow had calves, Dawit’s family could sell them and add the earnings to a savings account. Soon after, Dawit developed pneumonia, and thanks to the support of Holt, he was able to see a doctor and receive the antibiotics he needed to grow healthy. Slowly, he grew stronger and taller, and he added weight.

Now, Dawit has close, loving relationships with his mother and father, and he is especially fond of his eldest brother. He likes playing soccer and marbles and he has many friends. Dawit is in school, and in the winter his parents paid for his school fees with the income from a calf. Each day, the whole family is stronger and more stable. Dawit is on track developmentally, and he is not malnourished. He is cheerful, friendly and respectful.

We celebrate victories like Dawit’s and his family’s, but we also know there are many children who need the same support that Dawit receives.

We encourage you to sponsor a child today. It is truly life changing — and the proof is in the pictures!

This Little Girl Needs Your Help

You wouldn’t know it from looking at her, but this little girl is severely malnourished.

She lives in an orphanage in southern Vietnam, where she recently came into care after recovering at a rehabilitation center in nearby Ho Chi Minh City. She is as light and soft as a feather — and eager to rest her downy head against the shoulder of anyone who will hold her.

In this picture, you can see her clinging to Holt’s vice president of marketing, who met her two weeks ago while visiting our programs in the region. She was so cuddly, he said. But although her eyes were bright and alert and responsive to nurturing touch, her health and her future remain uncertain.

She is still under intensive care at the orphanage, where caregivers are doing all they can to help her thrive. Despite their efforts, however, she is still severely malnourished and will very likely experience cognitive delays.

She is the reason why I am writing to you today — and why I have been writing to you over the past couple of weeks, asking for you to partner with us to strengthen nutrition and feeding for children we serve overseas.

Malnutrition remains a chronic problem among orphaned and abandoned children. Very often, they are born premature or underweight to young mothers who lacked the prenatal care so vital to their baby’s early development. When abandoned at birth, these babies also miss out on the essential nutrients in their mother’s milk — weakening their immune systems and setting them up for lifelong struggles.

This is why a child’s first 1,000 days are so critical.

This is also why our partnership with SPOON Foundation is so groundbreaking. SPOON’s nutrition scientist has already visited this orphanage in Vietnam for an initial assessment. Very soon, she will return to begin assessing the children one by one, and develop a plan to help combat malnutrition and ensure every child reaches his or her full potential.

I have every confidence that SPOON’s plan will work, as it already has at our partner orphanages in India — where the small changes they made to diet and feeding have already dramatically reduced both anemia, a major threat to children’s health, and malnutrition among children in care.

Right now, we are in a tremendous position to make a huge difference for thousands of children. Just at this one orphanage in Vietnam, ten children in care are severely malnourished — including the cuddly girl pictured here. And these ten are among thousands of children we serve in countries around the world — many of them at risk of or already suffering from malnutrition, which is hands-down the biggest killer of children under 5.

Together with you, we can face malnutrition as a united front — working with our partner SPOON to train orphanage staff in the most innovative feeding techniques, and providing the vital nutrition children need to grow, learn and rise out of poverty.