When adoptee and physical therapist Kayla Covert travels to Ethiopia as part of a medical mission trip, she discovers the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself.
We are constantly surrounded by privilege — the comfortable couch where we watch movies, the luxury cars that take us to work, and the gorgeous kitchens where we cook too much for Thanksgiving dinner. This realization came clear to me as I reflected upon my upbringing and current lifestyle. A Korean adoptee adopted through Holt International in 1988, I was raised by a kind and generous family in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, PA. My childhood was filled with dance classes, soccer tournaments and homework that eventually produced a doctorate in physical therapy. I spent 28 years of my life enjoying every benefit that the middle class provided, including the ability to travel and explore other cities and countries.
Traveling nowadays has become a status symbol and, for the most part, a common way tobecome “cultured.” It’s easy to visit tourist attractions, lay on white sand beaches, or take big bus tours that offer you a front-seat glimpse of the country. While these trips can be rejuvenating and enlightening, they are not the kind of trips that shatter your reality and open your eyes to a completely different world. Continue reading “In Service of Others”
While domestic violence has become a growing issue in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, only one shelter remains open for the dozens of women and children who seek refuge here every year. Earlier this year, with a loss in government funding, the shelter nearly closed it doors.
Och* leans into her mom – making herself as physically close to her as possible.
Och is 4 years old, with shiny black, braided hair, a red striped dress and knee-high boots. She is shy of strangers, and whispers into her mom’s ear as she eats the sugar cube that came with her mom’s tea. Her mom, Bayarmaa*, is 29 and has the same dark shiny hair as her youngest daughter. It’s late morning on a Tuesday in May, and Och’s older sister — a third grader — is currently away at school.
But neither of Bayarmaa’s daughters like being away from their mom for long. And they never, ever want to be left alone.
Bayarmaa sits with her hands tucked between her knees, and her shoulders curved protectively inward.
“How are you feeling now?” we ask her.
Tears start forming in the corners of her eyes.
“The most important mission in my life,” she says, “is to raise my children safe, and to give them all the education they can get. I will support them in every way.” Continue reading “It’s Safe Here”
A misconception we often hear is that Holt International is only an adoption agency. This probably stems from our long history in international adoption, but in truth, Holt serves far more children through programs that help them stay with their families.
At Holt, we in fact consider international adoption to be the last, best option for children. Holt’s model of adoption is child-centric, meaning that we uphold the needs of the child as our number one priority. Through this model, international adoption is the final effort we make to ensure that every child has a loving and secure home.
We believe, first and foremost, that every child deserves to grow and thrive in the loving care of their family, whenever possible.
To that end, we strengthen families who are on the edge and need just a little assistance to stay together. We do this through nutritional, financial, health, education and counseling services, which provide the tools and resources families need to independently care for their children. These programs would not be possible without our generous child sponsors!
Unfortunately, and far too often, children are unable to stay with their birth family for a variety of reasons. While we strive to reunite children with their families when this happens, many children remain growing up in orphanages. When that is the case, our goal is to find a family through domestic adoption — which gives a child the opportunity to grow up in the country and culture of his or her birth.
Finally, if the child is still waiting, then we begin to look at international adoption as a way to find a permanent and loving family. We understand the challenges that come with a child being adopted into a new country and culture, and so when international adoption becomes our only choice, we work very hard to make sure that the parents are as prepared as possible to care for the child. We have systems in place to prepare and support both the family and the adoptee — from the moment they apply to the moment they come home, and again when they need support, at any time throughout their lives.
Each child’s journey to a loving and secure home is different. But when you are matched, rest assured that every option was explored, and that international adoption was the best option for your child.
As a baby, sick from the effects of polio, Derek Parker was found at the gates of Holt’s Ilsan Center in Korea. The whole trajectory of his life changed when Molly Holt knelt down, picked him up and brought him inside…
“There’s a child at the gate — come look.”
This is the beginning to all that Derek Parker knows about his life.
Most of the children here don’t know they are HIV+. It’s too risky.
Their teachers don’t know. Their neighbors definitely don’t know because if they did, they would have to move again. They’ve moved eight times in ten years, all 28 children. If their teachers knew, they would be isolated and discriminated against or even kicked out of their pricey private school — a school they attend because they don’t have to inform the principal of their disease.
Most of these children don’t even know about the disease in their blood, the disease that killed many of their parents, robbed them of their life in their villages and that was likely passed to them at birth.
They just know that they have strict rules to follow.
Absolutely no fighting. No rough housing. If they get a cut or a scratch, they have their own first aid kit. And they have Mr. Huang.
“The kids are happy now,” Mr. Huang says, his face worn and tired, his spiky, graying hair hinting at his age.
When children pass through the living room of the apartment, they stop to grab his hands or talk to him and his eyes soften as he greets them lovingly.
“They are too young,” Mr. Huang says. “They don’t understand their fate. But as they get older, they will learn. The discrimination will start. They will always have to keep their secret.”
At one special medical foster home in China, orphaned and abandoned children from all over China with severe medical needs, health conditions and special needs receive such amazing care, they blossom right before their caregiver’s eyes.
Peace House is not an actual house, but rather a small apartment on the 26th floor of an otherwise unremarkable 31-story brick building in sprawling Beijing. But inside, the space is anything but unremarkable — it’s a miraculous, life-changing place every day. A place where the contributions of kind and generous donors make a world of difference to the children — often babies younger than 2 — who spend weeks or months here.
“The thing that most stands out to me about Peace House,” says Jessica Zeeb, Holt’s China waiting child coordinator, “is that the name really describes the environment. When you walk in, you get a sense of peace. It’s calm. The nannies aren’t standing, working on lots of tasks. They are on the floor with the children.” Continue reading “Care That Brings Kids Back To Life”
Around the world, most children come into care not because their families don’t love them, but because they can’t care for them. And far too often, the reason they can’t care for them is because their children have special medical or developmental needs. But through the innovative programs of one longstanding partner in Mongolia, Holt supporters are working to help children thrive — and keep them in the loving care of their families.
This one was left in a taxi, May says, motioning to a months-old baby girl gumming her fingers from inside her crib. Her father told the driver he would be right back. He just needed to get some cash to pay his fare. He never returned.
May Gombo is the adoption/social service program coordinator for Holt Mongolia. She comes here often, and knows each child’s story.
This girl was found in an open market area, she says of a crusty-nosed little cutie with wispy black hair pulled into a pointy topknot. Her parents are homeless and both are alcoholics — “and they live,” May says, “in a hole.” Like so many of the city’s homeless, this girl and her family are part of the subterranean civilization that seeks heat underground during Ulaanbaatar’s frigid winter months, when temperatures can drop below 40. Continue reading “Because Every Child Deserves Somebody”
Is there any worst nightmare for any mom — or any parent — anywhere?
As an adoptive mom of four children with complex heart disease, Andrea knows exactly what this feels like.
“We loved her, played with her, listened as she called me ‘mama’ for the first time, and soaked up every moment,” Andrea wrote of her daughter, Rini, as she and her husband prepared to say goodbye to the little girl they had just brought home from China — a girl who was not yet 2 years old, but whose heart was growing weaker with every passing moment.