Top 16 Blogs of 2016

This past year, our organization celebrated 60 years of serving orphaned and vulnerable children and families in countries across the globe. Over these six decades, our work has touched the lives of thousands of people — people whose lives collectively tell the story of who we are as an organization. Their stories are the story of Holt International. And in 2016, many of these people once again graciously shared their life experiences with our readers.

For the first time, we held an adoptee essay contest, asking adoptees to share how adoption shapes or has shaped their identity. We received a number of thoughtful submissions, and featured the winning essay by Noel Hincha in our annual adoption magazine. I am happy to share that the essay penned by one of our runner-ups in the contest is among this year’s top most-viewed blogs of 2016!

Following last year’s trend, stories written by and about adoptees once again topped the list — receiving thousands of views on Facebook and the Holt blog. Among them is a letter one adoptee wrote to her late birth mother, grieving the fact that it was too late for them to meet; a story about a first-generation adoptee reuniting with the man who cared for him in Korea; and a piece by an adoptee from China who describes what the adoption experience was like for her.

Among our Top 16 Blogs of 2016, we also included five stories about our overseas programs — from a story written by a trailblazing woman in our unwed mothers program in Korea to a story about a boy who learned how to express himself for the first time at the Yesus Mena Deaf School that we support in Ethiopia.

And of course, stories by and about adoptive families are always popular among our readers — particularly among families new to the process who appreciate the insight and wisdom that veteran families have to offer. This year, six adoption stories had the most impact on our readers, including, at the top of the list, a heartfelt piece written under a pseudonym by an adoptive mom who wanted to share the truth about raising children with HIV. As more and more families adopt children with more involved and complex special needs, the experiences of these families become increasingly influential — inspiring other families to adopt children with HIV, congenital heart disease or, as one of our top stories explores in detail, Thalassemia.

As we reflect on the year 2016, and on the last 60 years, we thank the many, many adoptees, families, sponsors, donors, staff members, partners and children and families in our programs for your willingness to share what can be very personal and sometimes heart-wrenching experiences. You moved us. You inspired us. And perhaps most importantly, you instructed us. Every year, we continue to learn and grow from what you share with Holt staff and supporters. And we are so, so grateful for your being a part of our story, the Holt story. — Robin Munro, Managing Editor

Top Five Adoptee Stories

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Krista in Korea: A Letter to My Birth Mother

Over the summer, Holt adoptee Krista Gause traveled on the Holt Heritage Tour to Korea. Before her departure, she wrote an honest and heartfelt letter to her birth mother, sharing about her life and grieving the fact that it was too late for them to meet.  Continue reading “Top 16 Blogs of 2016”

A City of Angels

Holt Sahathai Foundation — Holt’s trusted partner in Thailand — celebrates 40 years of commendable service to children.

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Andy Voelz was adopted from Thailand in 1986 at the age of 5 to a loving family in Paris, Illinois. In 2005, he returned to Thailand with his dad to reconnect to the culture and visit Holt Sahathai Foundation (HSF), Holt’s much-respected and sole partner in Thailand since 1975, and the agency that placed Andy with his family. On his trip — a college graduation present from his parents — Andy was able to reconnect with his foster family and HSF staff.

“I remember my parents used to send donations to HSF and letters of how I was doing as I grew,” Andy says. “Meeting them was a profound experience. It was a surprise even to my dad to discover that all the same workers that had diligently worked on my case were still active in new roles at HSF.” Continue reading “A City of Angels”

Raising Kanya

Facing an unplanned pregnancy, Napha, a college student in Thailand, made the difficult decision to place her baby for adoption. But when she learned that Holt Sahathai Foundation could help with support and resources she needed to raise her daughter, everything changed.

Napha* looked down at her swollen belly, six months along with her first child, anguished over the decision before her. No longer able to hide her pregnancy, she had recently dropped out of school — one of the top universities in Bangkok — where she was in her final year of studying to be a teacher. Her boyfriend, the father of her baby, left her shortly after learning of the pregnancy. Her parents knew nothing, and because of the strong stigma against unwed pregnancy in Thailand, she intended to keep it that way. At just 22 years old, Napha was afraid, without a home and alone. So she picked up the phone.

The number she called was an unplanned pregnancy hotline where she got in touch with Jintana Nontapouraya, executive director of Holt Sahathai Foundation (HSF), Holt’s longtime partner organization in Thailand. HSF works with women like Napha who are experiencing unplanned pregnancies. They offer counseling to help women make a decision for themselves and their babies. And regardless of whether they choose to parent or relinquish their child for adoption, HSF provides these women with a safe place to live, prenatal nutrition and, if they do parent, opportunities for training and education needed to provide for themselves and their baby.

While a difficult decision was still before her, Napha was no longer alone.

Continue reading “Raising Kanya”

Loved Like One of Their Own

While waiting to join a permanent family through adoption, a little girl with severe special needs receives the attentive, nurturing care she needs in her foster family in Thailand.

20160226 (13)When our partner staff in Thailand met Worawan, they were shocked by her condition. Born prematurely at seven months, she spent the first three months of her life in an incubator — and two months on a ventilator. At birth, she had multiple special needs and health problems — including respiratory distress syndrome, rickets, anemia and congenital heart failure, among other severe and complex conditions. At the age of seven months, she weighed just over 8 pounds and was just 19.5 inches long. Most of the time, she laid still in her crib.

“Worawan had global developmental delays and failure to thrive,” says Jintana Nontapouraya, the director of the Holt Sahathai Foundation in Thailand. “We were so worried about her condition and also very afraid about whether the foster parents who agreed to receive her would still want to welcome her when we brought her to their home.”

Nine months have now passed since they welcomed Worawan into their home and lives.

“Although they appeared worried as she looked very tiny and fragile,” Jintana remembers, “they said they believed their family was the best choice for the girl under this situation as they were not afraid to love and nurture her.” Continue reading “Loved Like One of Their Own”

She Carries Your Love Always

Holt adoptive mom Libby Wendland writes a heartfelt letter to her daughter’s foster mom in Thailand, who cared for her in the six years she waited to join a family through adoption. This letter originally appeared on Libby’s blog, milestoeden.com

My husband and I just adopted our beautiful 6-year-old daughter internationally. She was placed in foster care at 3 weeks old until the approval of her adoption. Nothing I could ever give or say could repay her foster parents for the love they gave my daughter while she waited for six years for her forever home. My words will always fall short, but I pray all foster moms\dads know the importance of their job and role in a child’s life. This post is dedicated to two of the world’s best people (Por Kian & Mae Eiat) and to all the foster moms and dads in our world. Your work does not go unnoticed and your love will live through these children for all eternity. All my love and gratitude!

To My Daughter’s Foster Mom,

Eden riding a bike.I know you will probably never read these words nor will they ever touch your ears to know my heart, but I want to tell you that the day we met I will never forget or be the same. You showed me the broken hallelujah of loving someone with all your heart even if that love was meant only for a moment. You loving my daughter may have just been a season, but she will carry that love for eternity.

When she trusts me, I know it was because of your trusting hand that held her during those years of waiting and hard transitions.

When she loves me, I know it was because she was first loved by you.

Continue reading “She Carries Your Love Always”

A Beautiful Dream for India

Meet Jim De, Holt’s new India country director! From caring for foster children in his childhood home, to finding families for children orphaned by the 2004 tsunami, to greeting Holt adoptive families at the Delhi airport, he has always followed his life’s passion — advocating for his country’s orphaned and abandoned children. 

It was 2:00 a.m. and 7-year-old Jim De sat awake in his home with his mother. She changed a baby’s diaper while he held another one in his arms, feeding her a bottle of formula. Tonight was their turn for “night duty,” a task in which they stayed up all night to care for the 30-40 children living in the care center that the De family ran out of their home. Jim and his mother were on night duty about once a week — and he loved it!

“I was very excited about doing that kind of stuff,” Jim says now, during his visit from India to Holt’s headquarters in Eugene, Oregon. “It was so much fun to stay up all night — but by 4:00 in the morning, you were out!”

Throughout his years growing up in India, serving children — growing up with them as friends and welcoming them into his home as family — was a normal part of his life. Jim’s father worked as treasurer for the Church of North India and his mother was involved with child welfare organizations. What started as his family fostering just one child — Tom, who needed somewhere to stay while his international adoption was finalized — soon turned into the De family fostering many children out of their home and eventually opening up an official care center for these children.

“They were my friends,” Jim says. “For us, it was exciting! There was always a new child in the house, a new friend — we always welcomed them.”

Continue reading “A Beautiful Dream for India”

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”

How do you recognize the true meaning of Christmas?

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How do you bring the true spirit of Christmas into your holiday celebrations?

Do you teach your children or grandchildren about sharing with those less fortunate? Do you volunteer at a soup kitchen? Or participate in local food drives?

Giving a gift to someone in need — someone you’ve never met — is always a beautiful expression of God’s love and compassion, and an excellent way to teach children about gratitude, generosity and kindness.

This Christmas, have you considered giving a gift to a child in one of Holt’s programs as a way to recognize the true meaning of the holiday? We know, as a friend of Holt, that you have a strong heart for orphaned and vulnerable children. And this year, we are making it easy to share the abundance of the holidays with a child in need.

With each gift of $25 given online today — or no later than November 30 — you can help provide a holiday meal, a special gift and a merry celebration to a child who may not know the joy of Christmas without you.

Invite your children or grandchildren to get involved as well — teaching them about love and compassion for others, and that as members of a global community, we should reach out and lift up our neighbors when they need our support.

Thank you for your kindness and compassion. Together, we can teach our children the true meaning of Christmas, while sending love and joy to children in greatest need.

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An Exciting Opportunity to Advocate for Children with HIV in China

We are now recruiting families for Holt’s first ever ambassador trip to China!

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The Children’s Home in Nanning cares for 30 boys and girls, ages 2-17. As the children may face discrimination if identified, we cannot share their photos.

The Children’s Home in Nanning provides care for children who were born with HIV, whose parents have passed away, and who face discrimination in their cities, towns and villages because of their status. Extended family are afraid to care for them, landlords won’t rent to them, and public schools don’t want them in their classrooms. The Children’s Home, with financial and advisory support from Holt and various other charities like www.stdaware.com, provides these children with a home where they can receive an education, medical care and affection from caregivers who do not fear them because of their HIV status. For a firsthand account of a Holt staff member’s visit to this special facility, please see Samantha Gammon’s blog post. Continue reading “An Exciting Opportunity to Advocate for Children with HIV in China”

House of Hope

On a recent trip to China, Holt’s China regional coordinator visited a group home Holt supports for children living with HIV. Here, she shares some of their stories — which, though heartbreaking, are edged with hope.

We first became aware of HIV group homes in southwestern China because of a video broadcast through a Chinese news outlet. The report told the story of a 6-year-old boy whose parents had passed away, and who lived alone with his dog because his extended family and community were afraid to contract HIV. The news segment showed an overwhelming outpouring of material support after a wider population found out about the little boy’s situation, but the support he received was measured in bags of food and hand-me-down clothing left outside his door, not care and affection. His life changed dramatically when he finally moved to an HIV group home.

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Holt first learned about the HIV group home in southwestern China because of a news report featuring this 6-year-old boy.

Continue reading “House of Hope”