Top 15 Stories of 2015

The year 2015 was an excellent year in stories on the Holt blog — so much so that we expanded our Top 10 list to a Top 15 of the year!

In 2015, Holt’s creative lead, Billie Loewen, and I traveled to India, where we witnessed the incredible impact of Holt’s child nutrition program, gained new understanding on how Holt’s local partners are helping some of their country’s most vulnerable children and families, and met profoundly inspiring young women who refuse to accept the gender inequities that are far too common in their native India. In 2015, China announced major changes to their one-child policy — inspiring an essay by Chinese adoptee Lillian Schmaltz — and significantly expanded options for single applicants such as Vicky Baker, whose story of opening her heart and home to a son was among the most viewed of the year. Perhaps what’s most exciting this year is that a number of submissions from adoptees topped the list. In fact, the top four most viewed blog posts of 2015 came from Holt adoptees! 

Without further ado, we are so excited to share Holt’s Top 15 Most Viewed Blogs of 2015, including five adoptee stories, five adoptive family stories and five stories about efforts to strengthen families and uplift orphaned and vulnerable children in our programs around the world. — Robin Munro, Managing Editor Continue reading “Top 15 Stories of 2015”

The Top 10 Photos of 2015

We all love feel-good stories. At Holt, we are surrounded by miracles, triumphant underdog tales and inspiring success stories every day. But sometimes, the best stories aren’t told through words. Today, we look back at a few of our favorite stories of hope, love, family and incredible, life-changing impact — not told through words, but pictures. We’ve rounded up our top 10 favorite, most iconic photos of the year. It’s likely that if you’ve followed us on social media, checked out our website, started sponsoring a child, given a gift to help a child in need or started your adoption journey, you’ve seen at least one of these photos this year. Today, we share the stories behind the photos, and explain why these images exemplify Holt’s work and the incredible impact of Holt’s friends, families and supporters around the world. Enjoy!

Photo 10: Summer Camps

Every summer, Holt Adoptee Camp is both fun and inspirational for the kids and teens who attend. At four sleep-away camps across the country, adoptees spend a week hiking, swimming, playing games and enjoying evenings around a campfire with fellow transracial adoptees and adoptee counselors. This is a time and place for adoptees to just be themselves, surrounded by other people who share similar stories and family histories. Together, they explore identity, race and other adoptee-specific topics in an open, safe setting. Mostly, they have fun! In the photo below, 2015 camp director Chris McGinn — who will return to direct camps in 2016! — serves as jungle gym and friend to 9-year-old Adam Wachner during camp in Nebraska. In the background, 16-year-old Alec Zoz and 13-year-old Karl McGillvray sport Holt camp shirts specially designed by Holt camp counselors.

Photo 10 Continue reading “The Top 10 Photos of 2015”

On Cyber Monday, create a brighter world for children and give gifts with lasting impact

Kick off Cyber Monday a day early with the best deals you’ll find online all day! We’ve rounded up a few of our favorite Gifts of Hope — items that bring comfort, warmth, safety and nourishment to orphaned and vulnerable children, and also make perfect gifts for everyone on your holiday shopping list.

When you give a Gift of Hope in honor of a friend, coworker or loved one, we will send a festive card to let them know you gave a gift in their name!

The items below are proven to make a tremendous, lasting impact in the lives of children facing incredible hardship or crises.

Blankets-and-Clothes-375x652 Feeding-Kit-375x652 Orphanage-375x652 Vaccines-375x652 Continue reading “On Cyber Monday, create a brighter world for children and give gifts with lasting impact”

College professor or singer? Empower them to choose…

 

Facebook-ArtWhat do you want to be when you grow up?

“Maybe a professor in a college,” Parveen* says with casual confidence and a toothy grin.

Parveen is 15 and she lives at a boarding school for girls in Delhi. Both of her parents are uneducated, and they struggle to earn a living selling vegetables in this city where half a million people live on the streets — at least 300,000 of them children. Wanting their two daughters to have safe surroundings and to receive the education they never did, they enrolled Parveen and her sister at this Holt-supported boarding school in Delhi.

Here, Holt child sponsors support 80 girls, 5-17 years old, each with their own story.

Manesha
Manesha

Manesha* is a bit more reserved than Parveen. She would like to be a social worker, she says, speaking softly with a shy tilt of her head. When a tiger killed Manesha’s father on their farm, her mother got a job working as a maid and they moved to Delhi.

Sejal
Sejal

Sejal* is a tall girl in purple polka dots, also the daughter of a single mom. She wants to be a singer, and her friends convince her to show how well she can sing “Let it Go” from the Disney movie Frozen.

Sejal is exceptional.

Each and every one of these girls is exceptional.

And here, because of their sponsors — and because their families love them so much — these girls have everything they need to grow up safe and supported and to nurture their interests and passions. To have the confidence to think, ‘Oh maybe I’ll be a college professor. Or a singer.’

This year, for Giving Tuesday, we hope to raise $100,000 to support women and girls around the world — to provide educational scholarships for girls like Parveen and Sejal and Manesha, who are growing up in places where girls are often pulled out of school to work at a young age. We hope to provide more vocational training for women, to empower struggling single mothers with the resources they need to care for their children, and to fight injustice and abuse.

Because women are often the change-makers in their communities — and because every girl deserves to reach her full thriving potential — will you join us on December 1?

Thank you for your compassion and generosity. Together with you, we truly believe we can create hope and opportunity in the lives of girls and women.

* names changed

SSG Girls
Manesha, Parveen and Sejal stand with friends and housemates outside their boarding home in Delhi, India.

MYTH: Only Girls Need Families

Only-Girls-Need-Families
This November for National Adoption Month, we are — one at a time — taking on some of the many myths that surround adoption. Today, we’ll tackle one that may especially surprise you. Here it is:

Only girls are in need of families. Myth!

Where does this belief come from? Years ago, there were thousands of baby girls abandoned in China as an unintended consequence of the country’s one-child policy. These girls were found on benches in train stations, and on the front steps of churches and orphanages. Most were brought to orphanages where they waited, in dire need of a family. Continue reading “MYTH: Only Girls Need Families”

On December 1, Raise Your Voice!

Facebook-ArtMark your calendar — Giving Tuesday is only five weeks away!

Intended to celebrate the season of giving by putting charities in the spotlight, Giving Tuesday is the perfect time to tell your friends and family about Holt International.

On December 1, we are raising money to support women and girls around the world — the population hit the hardest by poverty, discrimination and violence, but also the most likely to create sweeping social and economic change in their communities.

On Giving Tuesday, we hope to raise $100,000 to provide educational scholarships for girls and vocational training for women, empower struggling single mothers with the resources they need to care for their children, and fight injustice and abuse by providing services to women and children who’ve endured violence or exploitation. Donations will also support pre- and post-natal healthcare for women, free daycare projects — so working moms can have safe childcare — and other community-based education programs that teach boys and girls how to prevent sexual violence.

Wow. Talk about one day with a lasting impact.

We are counting down to December 1, and we hope you are, too.

Keep an eye on your email inbox and prepare to raise your voice on social media!

Today, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! We will share more about Giving Tuesday in the days ahead.

Growing Their Confidence

Through a community-based gardening program, Holt’s partner agency in Thailand provides vulnerable children and families an outlet for enhancing their self-esteem and providing for their community.

Tha sala

Since 1998, Holt Sahathai Foundation, in an effort to strengthen families and help children thrive, has provided a community-based gardening program in the Tha Sala district of southern Thailand. The program provides learning and socialization opportunities for vulnerable children and their families in order to enhance self-esteem and help promote community camaraderie. “If a community is strong and healthy, then the children of that community have a much higher chance of healthy development both physically and mentally,” Thoa Bui, Holt’s senior executive for SE Asia programs, says. “This is what the community garden helps to address.” Continue reading “Growing Their Confidence”

Break with tradition, break the cycle of poverty

Raj, India Holt sponsored child
Raj outside the door to her home in Pune, India.

They say history repeats itself.

In many countries where Holt has programs, cultural norms and tradition have a strong influence over how parents raise their children.

In more patriarchal societies, many parents choose to educate their sons — but keep their daughters home from classes. Or, largely due to poverty, they may feel forced to pull their children from school at a young age to begin working. If a woman was married young, she may be more likely to encourage her daughter to marry young, effectively ending her education.

Culture and tradition can both be beautiful, positive guiding forces. However, our on-the-ground staff around the world say they often have to challenge local norms when encouraging families to educate their children — both boys and girls.

One of these families is Raj’s.

Slum community in Pune, India where Raj lives.
Raj outside her home, in the community where she lives with about 30 other families.

Soft spoken, kind and funny, 13-year-old Raj attends school in Pune, India with the support of a Holt child sponsor. In this area, our programs target girls’ education specifically and only girls have sponsors, but because Raj has a sponsor, her two younger brothers also receive free tuition.

Raj’s mother is 35. She was married at 14, and had Raj’s older brother at 15. Continuing with tradition, Raj’s mother wants Raj to marry next year, when she turns 14. However, if Raj is married, she will likely leave school — also ending her brother’s sponsorship. So for now, Raj’s mother has delayed her daughter’s marriage — not because she wants to keep Raj in school, but because she wants to educate her sons.

Holt child sponsorship home in India
Raj with her mother outside their home.

This is good news for Raj, who dreams of being a doctor and every year that she can stay in school, she gets one step closer to her goal. Holt’s staff is also counseling Raj’s family about the importance of education, and this may help keep Raj in school, too.

People like you and I can also help keep Raj and children like her in school, just by providing the school supplies and uniforms they need.

Holt sponsors support Raj's education in India
Raj with several of her schoolmates, also supported by Holt sponsors.

For just $17, you can give a child without a sponsor the books, shoes, uniforms or stationary they need this year. For children whose parents might otherwise pull them out early, this simple gift can be just enough to keep them in school — since the cost of these supplies can be too expensive for an already-struggling family.
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Your gift could help break the cycle of poverty for the next generation, and ensure nothing stands in the way of a child reaching his or her dreams!

Holt sponsors send children to education-based summer camp
Raj at an education-based summer camp, which she attended with Holt’s support.

What Makes Children 5x More Likely To Go To School?

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One of Mahananda’s students at the Montessori school where she now teaches.

Mahananda grew up the daughter of a single mother in the slums of Pune, India.

Where she comes from, education was never a guarantee. Public school is not free in India, and for families living in poverty, the choice between food and school fees has always been a no-brainer. Still today, India has one of the largest populations of out-of-school children in the world.

But beyond the poverty of her community, beyond her single-parent household and the barriers to basic education in her country, Mahananda faced another obstacle inherent to the life she was born into…

Mahananda was born a girl.

In India and many places around the world, girls are often kept home from school. If a family can only afford fees for one child, they often opt to send their son to school and their daughter to work.

But when Holt sponsors and supporters create opportunities for girls to go to school, the impact is far-reaching.

Mahananda
Mahananda observes an activity at a summer camp for teens at the Montessori School where she teaches.

When girls are educated, they have the capacity to create unprecedented economic and social change in their communities. Girls who are educated are more likely to delay marriage until adulthood. They have fewer children. And the children they do have are healthier and stronger. An educated mother will have increased job opportunities and higher wages, giving her the resources to buy food and medicine for her children.

Usha:Mahananda
Mahanada stands beside Usha, one of her fellow Montessori teachers. Usha also received educational sponsorship as a girl growing up in Pune.

Educated women are also five times more likely to send their own children to school – increasing literacy rates in their communities, and breaking the cycle of poverty.

Mahananda is one educated woman who is creating change in her community.

With the support of a Holt sponsor, Mahananda completed her education and went on to become a Montessori schoolteacher. Today, she works for our partner in the region — educating another generation of sponsored boys and girls from the same slum community where she grew up.

As back-to-school season approaches, will you consider giving a gift of $17 to help send a girl to school? By equipping a girl with everything she needs — from books and supplies to a uniform and fees — you can help one more girl to conquer the gender barrier and create a better life for herself, her family and her community.

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Thank you for your back-to-school prayers!

As sponsored children prepare to return to school this fall, we sent Holt sponsors some snail mail, asking them to join with us in prayer for their sponsored child’s health, safety and education.

Already, thousands of prayer promise cards are pouring into our headquarters office in Oregon and filling our lobby with uplifting and loving messages for children!

We are so encouraged by sponsor’s prayer promises for the child or children they sponsor! Sponsor’s commitment to help every orphaned and vulnerable child receive the educational opportunities they deserve is inspirational.

Check out this video, recapping just a few of the prayers we’ve received …

Sponsorship-Back to School Prayer cards from Holt International on Vimeo.

Haven’t sent your prayer promise, yet? You can do it now, online — even if you’re not a child sponsor … yet!

And consider giving a gift of $17, which provides school supplies, books, shoes, uniforms and any school-related materials a vulnerable child may need this year.

We’ve said it once, and we will say it again — you are a super hero for children in need!

Thank you for partnering with us to create a brighter world for the most vulnerable children.