A school for Deaf children opens in Shinshicho, Ethiopia, where Holt is working to strengthen many struggling families. Holt is now raising funds to help support the school.
by LaDonna Greiner, Director of Donor Relations
Imagine opening a school with the anticipation of 50 students and 500 show up! That’s what happened three years ago in the Kambata district of Ethiopia, when a local resident opened a school for the Deaf in the town of Shinshicho – where Holt serves many children and families.
No one knows exactly how many Deaf children there are in the area since they seldom venture far from their home. Nor do they know why the numbers are so high in this region. Could it be linked to the high incidence of malaria? Is it genetic? It’s difficult to say. But we do know that at least 500 hearing-impaired children live in Shinshicho. And the school only has room for 200 of them.
Earlier this year, Holt organized a medical campaign to the Shinshicho/Durame region of Ethiopia. Six American physicians — several of them Holt adoptive parents — volunteered a week of their time and resources to treat patients in this rural, impoverished area of the country. Over the week, they saved several lives. Some in truly extraordinary ways.
by Robin Munro, Senior Writer
Earlier this year, six American doctors traveled to southern Ethiopia as part of a medical team trip organized by Holt. They visited two healthcare facilities – a small health clinic in Shinshicho, and a hospital in neighboring Durame. Here, they were joined by two Ethiopian doctors who traveled from the city to help treat patients in this rural, impoverished region of the country.
Over the week-long campaign, they saw conditions rarely seen in the U.S. Goiters caused by iodine deficiency. A 3-year-old with legs paralyzed by polio. Malaria. Advanced wounds. And patient after patient with prolapsed uteruses and bladders – a consequence of constant physical labor, poor nutrition and long hard childbirths, often at a very young age.
They also met children that tugged at their hearts with soulful eyes and failing hearts or lungs. Some they had to turn away, unable to help them. Their conditions were too serious, the hospital’s resources too few.
But several lives, they did save. In one little one’s case, all it took was a little ingenuity, and an empty plastic water bottle.
Earlier this year, Holt donor relations director LaDonna Greiner traveled to Ethiopia with a team of medical doctors from the U.S. Over a week, the doctors treated patients at medical clinics in the Shinshicho-Durame region of southern Ethiopia. While there, they also visited families Holt supports in the area through our family preservation program. Here, LaDonna shares the story of one family they met, and how Holt is helping to strengthen their circumstances for a brighter, healthier future.
by LaDonna Greiner, Holt Director of Donor Relations
Could you survive in a home that is collapsing around you? Atura* and her two daughters, Aselefech* and Aregash*, live in the home pictured here.
We travel over rough dusty roads and cattle paths to reach this rural region of Kebata. As we walk toward the home, we are met by two beautiful young ladies and their mother. The girls, Aselefech and Aregash, greet us with big smiles and a joyful presence. They are standing in front of a dilapidated hut. Thinking this is the barn, I ask the social worker, “Where is their home?”
I’m shocked to learn they live in this crumbling abode. One side of the hut has fallen in to the point that the roof nearly touches the ground. The mud stucco has broken away in many places — how cold it must be on windy nights. To enter the home, we must crouch down and lean sideways. But once inside, we notice the home is clean and neat. Atura and her daughters are making the best of their difficult living conditions. If you can overlook the broken timbers and collapsing wall, it looks like a typical southern Ethiopian home.
Outside their disintegrating home sits a stack of poles destined to be the beginning of Atura’s new house. It saddens my heart to see the living conditions of this happy family. I feel the urgent need to gather the group and begin building a new home. How can we allow a family to live in these conditions? Then I learn that Atura’s family is new to Holt’s family preservation program.
In January 2012, a special medical team traveled to Ethiopia to provide health care services for families and children in the southern region. Ladonna Greiner, one of Holt International’s directors of donor relations, traveled with the team. En route, Ladonna stopped in Silti to visit the families the Beavers Without Borders built homes for the previous June. Here, she shares an update on one of the families — the same family featured in the Summer 2012 Holt Magazine.
by Ladonna Greiner, Director of Donor Relations
As we travel south toward Shinshicho, we take a detour off the main highway to visit the homes built last year by a group of student-athletes from Oregon State University. In June 2012, the students traveled with Holt as part of the Beavers Without Borders, a service organization developed by the athletics department of the OSU Beavers.
A cloud of dust rolls behind our Land Cruiser as we navigate the narrow roads. The ride is relatively smooth for the first kilometer. As we drive further into the countryside, the driver weaves between deep ruts and washed out roads, often slowing to a crawl to more easily navigate the rough terrain. We bounce past huts with smoldering cook fires, children carrying Jerry cans of water, and cows grazing on patches of grass, clinging to the seats as the driver winds his way to the homes of some of Ethiopia’s poorest families.
Young children shyly wave and smile as we pass their homes made of stucco-like mud – the same material the students used last June to build houses for families in Holt’s family strengthening program. We drive past fields of grass and enset, a staple of the Ethiopian diet. It seems like we’ve driven miles, yet we’ve covered less than 2 kilometers when we arrive at Zahra’s* home.
She heard us coming and is waiting at the door. The Holt social worker introduces us with the Ethiopian handshake and nod. Zahra is eager to show us her new home. When the students left, the house wasn’t fully finished. While they managed to complete the structure and plaster the walls of two homes during their six-day trip, the mud would have to dry before putting in windows and doors. Today, we tour an immaculate home with a new tin roof, wooden shutters on the windows, a solid wood door and three clean but sparsely furnished rooms. Zahra’s family no longer has to endure leaks from the roof or cold breezes blowing through the gaps in the walls. It’s easy to see the pride and appreciation in Zahra’s eyes as we admire her home.
Zahra’s entry into Holt’s family preservation program began with a gift of 2,500 birr, which she used to purchase an oxen. Zahra used the oxen to plow the fields and grow crops to eat and sell.
Today, we learn Zahra has sold the oxen for 3,500 birr. A wise and savvy woman, she used the money to buy 2 young oxen and 2 goats. There are now three goats, which produce nourishing milk and cheese for the family and extra income to sell on market days.
The livestock no longer share the same house as Zahra and her children; during the night, all the animals are penned safely in Zahra’s old house, which now serves as the barn. Sharing a living space with livestock can expose the families to disease, and building them a new home is one way in which Holt is helping families to improve their sanitation, health and hygiene habits – a significant part of Holt’s family preservation program in Ethiopia.
Zahra and her younger children, ages 7 and 15, continue to raise enset, greens and other vegetables in a garden plot near the house. Enset plants look similar to banana plants, however they don’t bear fruit. The trunk of the enset plant is used to make kocho, a common Ethiopian dish, and the remainder of the plant is food for the oxen.
Through an interpreter, Zahra tells me, “For the first time, my children are in school and I am able to buy the medicine needed for my daughter.” Her 7-year-old daughter is in grade one and her 15-year-old son is finishing grade four. Her oldest daughter cannot attend school due to health issues, but with the medicine her mother purchased she may eventually be able to resume her education.
“Holt’s program has taught me how to use my assets,” Zahra tells us. “It has blessed my family. I am very grateful for all I have learned and for my new home. I am trying very hard to be smart with my money and the things I learn from Holt.” The gratitude is evident in her beaming smile and the lively gleam in her eyes. Although her life as a single mother is difficult, her outlook is much brighter now. “My children have a future and better health,” she says. “They are learning in school and work hard to help me when they are home.”
As we leave Zahra and her children, I know this strong African woman and her children will continue to prosper and I eagerly anticipate the next chapter in her successful journey.
Earlier this year, Holt’s senior executive for S.E. Asia traveled to Cambodia to visit families and children in programs Holt supports in the region. Here, she shares the story of one young woman named Soriya. Despite economic hardship, Soriya’s mother held strong that her daughter should stay in school. With Holt’s help, she did.
by Thoa Bui, Senior Executive, S.E. Asia
Soriya* is a shy and very quiet 14-year-old schoolgirl who lives a very simple life with her mother in Takheo, a province in southwest Cambodia that lies along the Vietnam border. Their home is made of leaves and bamboo, and is bare inside save for a few belongings. Soriya also has an older brother and an older sister who live away from home. Her father died a year ago.
Soriya’s family is one of hundreds of families Holt International serves each year through local partner organization, Pathways to Development. Since 2006, Holt has supported family preservation projects in Cambodia with the goal to strengthen family units and prevent displacement of children from their families. Through the years, Holt and Pathways have helped hundreds of children and families grow stronger and more self-reliant.
In the rural farming village where Soriya and her mother reside, a family is considered very lucky to have farmland. However, growing up, Soriya’s family did not have any land. Instead, her parents worked as daily laborers for local landowners, earning barely enough to get by. During the dry season, the father climbed palm trees to collect palm juice to sell. Soriya’s mother earned additional income by sewing together palm tree leaves. Together, the parents made about $2.50 each day.
When Soriya’s father died last year, the family fell into more severe economic hardship. During my visit, Soriya and her mother were still very saddened by his death, and Soriya’s mother often broke into tears when sharing about her family’s life.
After Soriya’s father died, their neighbors pressed Soriya to quit school and help support her family by finding work in Phnom Penh. But Soriya’s mother did not want that for her daughter, and tried hard to keep Soriya in school. Through a community referral service, Soriya and her mother received help from Holt and Pathways to Development. Pathways provided the family with emergency food as well as loans from the rice bank that Pathways operates in Takheo. As the roof on her house is made of palm leaves and is frequently damaged in heavy rain, Pathways also provided home repairs to protect Soriya and her mother from the elements.
Most important to Soriya’s mother, Pathways has equipped Soriya with the resources she needs to attend school – including uniforms, books and school supplies. She also receives counseling on health and education to keep her in school. During our visit, she said, “My daughter can go to school regularly thanks to all the support given by the program to my daughter and family.”
A little bit of support has gone a long way to keep Soriya in school and keep her family together… As I left their house, I kept admiring the strength of this widow and her daughter, despite all the challenges they face in life.
Holt CEO and President Phil Littleton is currently in Thailand visiting the children and families Holt serves alongside our long-time partner in the region, Holt Sahathai Foundation (HSF). Here, Holt’s creative services director, Brian Campbell, reports on Phil’s visit with a little girl he helps to support through Holt’s child sponsorship program.
by Brian Campbell, Creative Services Director
Nakhon, Thailand— After a busy couple days visiting HSF programs and services for children and families in the community of Nakhon, a special moment awaits Phil Littleton, CEO of Holt International.
For the past two years, Phil and his family have helped to support a little girl named Mali*, who lives here in Nakhon with her mother Lawan*, her twin sister Kanya* and several extended family members. Mali and Kanya’s mother is 24-years-old and works as a server at a small restaurant, earning about $7 per day. On such low income, she can hardly afford to meet all of her daughters’ needs – especially their educational expenses. With assistance from Phil’s monthly sponsorship donations, HSF is able to give Mali the supplies she needs to attend school – including a school uniform.
Last November, when another Holt staff member visited Lawan and her daughters at their home in Nakhon, Lawan asked to send a special message to Phil. “Thank you,” she said. “Without your support, it would be very hard for my children and me. Expenses are very high, and I could not afford to provide for two children and their education. My main concern is the education of my children.” Mali and her sister started preschool in August 2011, and are now in Kindergarten.
At home in Eugene, Phil’s family keeps a picture of Mali in a little magnetic frame on their refrigerator. As new child reports arrive from Holt’s child sponsorship program, Phil and his wife share the updates about Mali with their three children and pass pictures of her around the dinner table. From a distance, little Mali has become a part of their family.
Today, for the first time, Phil will have the opportunity to meet Mali and her family.
2013 has arrived! But before we say goodbye entirely to the year 2012, let’s take a quick look back at some of the highlights of the year, reflected in wonderful stories from the field, and stories written by Holt International adoptive families, adoptees and Holt child sponsors.
After losing her husband in a construction accident, a struggling mother of two in Vietnam receives assistance from Holt in the form of chickens and four months of feed — the basis for a small, but thriving, business. Greatest of all, both of her daughters are now well-nourished and attending pre-school. Jennifer Goette, Holt’s director of programs for South and Southeast Asia, reports…read more
An adoptee’s story about diving deeper and embracing two cultures...read more
A Brighter Day For Children
Jennifer Goette, Holt’s director of programs for South and Southeast Asia, shares about her meaningful visits with two once-struggling families in Holt’s family preservation program. Through day care services and donations provided by generous monthly sponsors, children in the Philippines have been given hope for the future. Once only a program to support children going home to families in the United States, Holt’s child sponsorship program has broadened to include support for children remaining with their families…read more
A Girl Named Noely
Brian Campbell joins Secret Keeper Girl speaker Suzy Weibel on a journey to Haiti this week. While there, the group will visit children at Holt Fontana Village as well as families in Holt’s family preservation program…read more
Don’t Be Afraid
An older child’s touching letter to the children waiting for their families…read more
Creating Healthier Communities, One Brick and One Family at a Time
In communities throughout rural Ethiopia, Holt works with individual families to improve their health and wellbeing. In one community, Holt is going one major step further. Once complete, the Shinshicho Mother and Child Hospital will provide acute, quality care and emergency treatment for thousands of families and children — a vital service, especially when hours can mean the difference between life and death...read more
Adopting an Older Child — Is Fear Holding You Back?
Shila Ann Henderson is the mother of 10 children, five adopted through Holt, three of whom came home after the age of five. “Some people think it’s too late for older children to be adopted, especially kids who have always been waiting,” says Shila. “Some think children who have experienced a harsh life will never overcome the effects. Those people have never met our Lan Lan, adopted at the age of 11, our Ningjie, adopted at the age of 10, and our son, Vu, adopted from Vietnam at the age of five — the sweetest, most loving children in the whole world!”…read more
In July 2012, 13 Oregon State University students traveled with Holt to Silti, Ethiopia. While they came to build homes for families in Holt’s family-strengthening program, they also brought with them over 200 pairs of shoes to distribute among the families. For some, these would be the first pair of shoes they had ever owned.
Silti is a peaceful farming community at the westernmost edge of the Great Rift Valley. With breathtaking mountain views and a patchwork landscape in eye-popping shades of green, life in this fertile valley of southern Ethiopia is easy to romanticize.
In many ways, Silti is an idyllic setting. Here, children run barefoot through open fields – safe from the dangers of the city. Everyone knows everyone’s child, and the whole community is looking out for them. There are no factories in Silti. No cars or parking lots. No power lines, no landfills. No one has paved this paradise.
In other ways, life in Silti, Ethiopia is not so ideal. Silti is rich in culture and natural beauty. But in the strictest definition of the term, the residents of Silti are achingly poor. They do not choose to live without electricity or running water. Most would prefer to live in homes made of brick, not of mud and dung. And it’s not just children playing in summer who go barefoot. For many of Silti’s residents, even shoes are a luxury. Continue reading “Oregon State Students Give Over 200 Pairs of Shoes to Families in Ethiopia”