Several years ago, while volunteering at an orphanage in Haiti, Craig Juntunen’s heart was captured. Her name was Esperancia. “I can’t explain it at all, other than to say she instantly captured my heart. I called and told my wife that we were about to become parents,” he told a reporter for the Washington Times. Today, Craig and his wife Kathi are parents to three children adopted from Haiti — Quinn, “Espie” and Amelec.
A father for the first time, Craig felt inspired to write a book about his experience. It’s called Both Ends Burning. Moved to advocate for safer, more efficient and more cost-effective adoption practices, he later founded a nonprofit — also called Both Ends Burning.
“We have a moral obligation to fix this immediately and allow them to come home to loving families,” he says of the children who continue to languish in orphanages. “There is no shortage of families wanting to adopt and there is no shortage of orphans. Adults have a responsibility create an efficient and reasonable system to allow these children to flourish.”
On April 15th, Craig Juntunen will speak at the HoltForum in Washington D.C., a historic gathering of adoptees, families, policymakers and adoption professionals working to “move forward from a 55-year perspective.”
Composed of people who share the Holt story and raise awareness in their communities about the urgent needs of homeless children around the world, Holt Ambassadors get involved by: organizing fundraisers, speaking at churches, schools or civic groups; or volunteering at Holt events…..Join the Holt Ambassadors Network today!
“Once our eyes are opened, we can’t pretend we don’t know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows that we know, and holds us responsible to act.”(Proverbs 24:12)
Speaking out for the orphans of this world is one of my passions. We need to be the voices for these vulnerable children; if we aren’t, then who will be? I try to find ways to help, speak out and gather donations for children whenever I have the opportunity. Being a member of the Holt Ambassadors Network helps me do this.
Most recently, I collected 200 dresses for an orphanage in Ethiopia and was recently given some photos of the children wearing the dresses. To see what the children had worn before and then to see them with those sweet dresses on and those big smiles, it made me want to do so much more.
Even the small things, like gathering dresses, makes a huge difference in the life of a child…and there is still so much more to be done.
There are more than a thousand children and families in Holt’s Vietnam program. Our services in Vietnam help keep birth families together, reunite children with their birth families, and support children in foster care. Our work in Vietnam also provides services to single mothers, nutrition programs, medical services and adoption.
“The word “yes” is a powerful word. My husband Jay and I said “yes” when we were asked to volunteer in 1996 for the Holt Portland auction,” says Char Woodworth, event chair for this year’s auction. “Working on the auction, working closely with wonderful, dedicated friends and Holt staff, and then seeing the event come together as a wonderful party to help children, what a gift! Working for Holt gives our lives purpose, meaning and fulfillment. You will have a wonderful time at the Portland event – remember to say “yes’ to making a difference in the life of a child!”
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 week in Thailand:
September 15th, 2010.
Bangkok, Thailand – Well, it’s been just over a week since I arrived here in Bangkok, and I already love every minute of it. I’ve been quite busy these last 10 days, meeting the staff at HSF and orienting to the diverse range of services HSF, as a highly recognized child welfare agency, offers. I have had the amazing opportunity to observe meetings with adoptive families and participate in a home visit, where I helped assess the potential of a family to bring their child back into their home. I also visited Pakkret’s Babies Home – one of the orphanages in Bangkok – where I, along with Pi Malee and Pi Tuk, two HSF social workers, helped identify the children in HSF’s special needs project.
We then went on a trip to explore an agricultural, self-sufficient center. This center is used as a model for maintaining a steady income through ones own resources and property. The goal of this project is to keep rural communities intact and prevent overpopulation in the big cities throughout Thailand, as well as maintaining close relationships with friends, family and community members. It was a fascinating experience in every aspect.
On that same day, Pi Malee, Pi Tuk and I visited the neighboring village occupied by HSF foster families, and we enjoyed observing the love and energy that surrounded each child being cared for. Continue reading “Helping the Children who Wait”
When my nine-year-old declared there was “no way” he would go to Holt Adoptee camp for a whole week, I was disappointed. I was sure it would be a good experience, but he didn’t want to sleep away from home. I considered the usual parental options: persuasion, bribery and coercion! Fortunately, I soon discovered Holt’s day camp. Not only was this one-day camp much more acceptable to my eldest, but because the age range was from 5-16, his younger siblings could participate too. And parents were welcome!
The kids and I arrived at Camp Angelos promptly at 9 am, and Harry immediately spotted a friend from home on the basketball court. Before I could even apply sunscreen, he was off, disappearing into a crowd of black-haired, rough and tumble boys. Five-year-old Betty darted across the lawn to the playground. Theo, who is 8 and quite shy in new situations, walked with me to the registration table. Camp leaders Michael and Steve greeted us with friendly smiles and gathered the parents and kids into a big circle for some icebreakers. It was refreshing to be in a group of families similar to our own: kids of all complexions, with parents who resembled them very little, performing motherly and fatherly duties – encouraging, cuddling, slipping away for potty breaks as needed. Many of the kids were reserved at first, but the staff’s enthusiasm was contagious.
Steve invited the younger day campers to team up with a group of older, week-long campers – veterans now, with three days of Holt camp under their belts! And all the day campers, except one, followed their new teenage mentors onto the lawn for games and icebreakers. Theo stuck to me like Velcro, and I was grateful that the staff and other parents were totally accepting. He participated gamely in the adoptive parent workshop, writing a list of words that described his parents and another that described him (“Mom? How do you spell ‘good climber’?”). But when one of the camp counselors invited him personally to join in a game of freeze tag, this was too tempting, and I didn’t see him again until lunch!
While the kids played and participated in age-appropriate workshops about race and adoption, the parents were invited to consider adoption from our children’s point of view. We heard from teen and adult adoptees and had the chance to listen, ask questions, and share our own experiences with race and racism. I took home an uncomfortable truth: all of our minority kids, regardless of country of origin, experience racism on a regular basis. Both positive and negative stereotypes, as well as nosy and inappropriate questions about where our kids are from or “what” exactly they are, are upsetting to our children. Adoptive parents often want to minimize these encounters, but we need to acknowledge them. Continue reading “Holt Adoptee Camps”
Communities build around shared experiences. Every year, adoptees and their families gather at Holt Annual Picnics to enjoy the company of those who share the unifying experience of adoption. Last year, over 2,100 people attended Holt’s picnics, from Oregon to New Jersey and several states between. We hope you can attend a Holt picnic this year.
On July 17th, Holt’s Portland Area Picnic will take place at the site of Holt’s Adoptee Camp — Camp Angelos in Corbett, Oregon. Pack a lunch and come meet Holt’s adoptee camp counselors amid the rugged beauty of the Columbia River Gorge. All adult adoptees from various countries, the camp counselors are eager to share favorite camp memories, answer questions and get to know you and your children. And don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes! You might decide to hike Multnomah Falls or overlook the Gorge at Crown Point en route to or from the picnic.
The following weekend, Holt’s annual Midwest Picnic will take place in Omaha, Nebraska at Cooper Memorial Farm on July 24th. The Korean Presbyterian Church of Omaha will serve a delicious Korean BBQ lunch for all who RSVP. Join in the fun, including face painting, balloon twisting and an interactive Korean culture display.
Holt’s original Eugene picnic — the one that started the tradition — is scheduled for August 7th at Camp Harlow. Holt adoptive Dad, Daniel Freed, a.k.a. “The Amazing Spaghetti,” will once again host a magic and fun show — a wildly popular event last year. The Eugene Korean Presbyterian Church will serve a delicious Korean BBQ lunch for all who RSVP. Directly following the picnic, join hundreds of Holt adoptive families as they travel to Florence, Oregon for the annual Holt Family Campout at Honeyman Park. Contact Debbie Dunham for more information on the campout. We look forward to seeing you soon at a Holt picnic!
“The Holt Adoptee Camps are about creating an adoptee community. International and transracial adoptees come together and get a chance to be around people who understand them,” said Holt Youth Services Coordinator Michael Tessier, a former camper and camp staff member.
Every summer Holt manages five camps around the country. Run by trained camp counselors, who are also adult adoptees, these camps give adoptees, age 9-16, the chance to learn more about themselves, discuss adoption, race, and identity issues and, most of all, have fun. “We don’t learn about our birth culture at camp,” said Michael. “The camps are about learning and creating the culture of adoption and the adoptee community.”
Michael began his relationship with the Holt Adoptee Camps as a camper when he was nine years old and now serves on the leadership staff, planning activities and providing support and encouragement to the campers.
“The most important thing I learned when I was a camper, was that there were role models for me to look up to,” said Michael. “You can’t see that in the media, you can’t see that in your neighborhood or community back home. But when I went to Adoptee Camp, I saw that there were successful, confident adult adoptees, and that made a big difference to me.”
Throughout the day the kids participate in typical camp activities like: archery, swimming and boating, and experience times of community with the other campers in small and large group discussions. Continue reading “Holt Adoptee Camp”