How Nutrition Changes Lives

Holt International’s Child Nutrition Program has seen amazing success since it began 3 years ago in India, China and Vietnam. But even more amazing are the stories of individual children whose lives and health have dramatically changed with better nutrition and feeding methods. 

Ajay* is a sweet young boy whose potential and personality were long unrealized. He lives in a care center in Pune, India and has cerebral palsy in addition to other physical and mental disabilities. He is almost 4 years old, but appears small and skinny for his age — a result of malnutrition. Ajay’s days are pretty uneventful: he lies in his crib and when he is fed, also while lying down, he is barely able to choke down his food.

Ayush with his care giver-2
Ajay, being fed by his caregiver.

But one day was different. On this day, he sat up in a chair for one of the first times ever. Although he can’t speak, the expression on his face and the light in his eyes seemed to clearly shout: “Hello world, here I am!”

Continue reading “How Nutrition Changes Lives”

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”

The Gifts of Family and Food

As we prepare for another Thanksgiving feast with family and friends, Holt’s nutrition initiatives coordinator shares what she has learned over the past year about the unique nutritional challenges children face when they grow up in institutional care — and how Holt’s orphan nutrition program is working to ensure all children receive the proper nutrition they need to grow and thrive. 

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Improperly feeding children with special needs can lead to choking and aspiration. This year, Holt partnered with SPOON Foundation to provide feeding training to caregivers at orphanages in India, Vietnam and China, as pictured here.

It’s that time of year. Pumpkin-spiced everything, leaves falling everywhere, turkey, stuffing and graaaavy creeping into my daydreams. Thanksgiving is upon us.

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday because I truly do have so much to be grateful for. And as I reflect on the last year — a year in which I traveled around the world meeting and serving children through Holt’s Orphan Nutrition Program (ONP) — I feel an even greater sense of gratitude.

Two years ago, Holt received a four-year grant to pilot a program that gives orphanages a system to monitor their children’s growth and anemia prevalence as well as training on how to properly nourish and feed children. Continue reading “The Gifts of Family and Food”

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”

She Could Be Any Girl

In Cambodia, as more and more families migrate from rural villages in search of work, their children are placed at greater risk of exploitation and trafficking. Here, in one rural province, Holt is working to keep children safe in the care of their families and communities.

A young girl — 13 years old — just had her last day of school. Not because the school year ended and let out for the summer. And not because she graduated one grade to move on to the next. For this girl, her last day of school came abruptly — disrupting her education when it all but started. Next week she will move to the city, all alone, where she’ll start work. She was promised a good job, but she knows better than that. She’ll probably work in a garment factory or maybe as a maid in someone else’s house, with long hours and meager pay. Her mother worries and tells her to be careful of strange men who may seem nice at first, but may want to hurt her. She is scared and doesn’t want to leave her friends and village, but she knows she must go to make money and help her family.

This girl could be any girl in the Prey Veng province of Cambodia. Continue reading “She Could Be Any Girl”

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”

Growth and Transformation

The children of migrant families are some of the most vulnerable in India, and they are often excluded from schools and at risk of exploitation, trafficking and abuse. Recognizing the needs of this growing population, Holt’s partner in the region completely refocuses their efforts, using education as a transformative tool.

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26-year-old mother of three, Avni stands outside her temporary home in Bangalore, India. Six years ago, Avni and her husband migrated 350 miles from their rural village to this major metropolis of more than 8 million people in search of work.They were hired to build a six story apartment building, and while they build, they also live on their job site with their two sons.

Avni pulls her husband and son’s stiff, sun-dried pants and shirts off the frame of wooden scaffolding built outside her home. She climbs the seven unfinished concrete stairs, and drifts through the wide, cement hole where a double door and massive picture windows will someday lead into the lobby of a six-story apartment building. But, at that point, her family won’t live here anymore. It will be time for them to move on in search of another job, and another home.

Avni is 26 years old, and the mother of three children — an 11-year-old daughter and two sons, Basha, 9, and Mapasha, 6. She is strikingly beautiful, and has a kind, shy smile that peeks through the whole time she speaks, the little ring in her nose glistening. Her feet are bare under her purple sari, except for a thin, gold toe ring, which married women commonly wear in India as a token of luck in marriage.

Avni and her family migrated from their rural village to Bangalore, India six years ago for work, hopeful that they could find better jobs and make a better life for themselves and their children.

They weren’t the only ones. Continue reading “Growth and Transformation”

Orphan Nutrition Update

Holt’s Child Nutrition Program team travels to India, where the program’s impact on the health and wellbeing of children — as well as the reach and ripple effects of the trainings — continue to grow.

BSSK NutritionChahel* would not have survived. Born premature with a serious heart condition, he came into care shortly after birth at a rural branch site of our legacy partner, Bharatiya Samaj Seva Kendra (BSSK), outside the central India city of Pune. Transferred to Pune for better care, Chahel needed constant hemoglobin testing and regular blood transfusions. Fortunately, Holt had recently equipped the staff at BSSK with a Hemocue machine and training to measure hemoglobin for iron-deficiency anemia. Chahel received the medical interventions he needed and today, he is able to stand with support and recently took his first few steps. BSSK is now seeking a loving family for him.

Sabal* and Ibha* were frail and seriously underweight when they came into care. At 15 months, Sabal weighed just 18 pounds, while Ibha at nearly 2 months weighed under 5 pounds. This brother and sister were always tired and struggled to adjust to life in care at BSSK. Well fed at BSSK and fully treated for their health conditions — Ibha was living with HIV, and Sabal wore an eye patch over his infected left eye — their continued failure to thrive puzzled the caregivers and staff. When staff from Holt and our partner SPOON Foundation visited BSSK in February 2015, they helped to correct nutritional deficiencies in Ibha and Sabal. With adjustments to their diet, today they are full of joy and life and the staff feel confident they can find a loving adoptive family for them.

Sabal, Ibha and Chahel are just a few of the children who are benefiting from Holt’s child nutrition initiative since we began implementing it in partnership with SPOON Foundation a little over two years ago. In this short time, the  child nutrition program** has had a tremendous impact on the health and lives of hundreds of children at pilot program sites in India, China and Vietnam. With plans to expand to more countries in the coming years, the child nutrition program will ultimately impact thousands — thousands of children whose low energy and poor health were previously a mystery to their caregivers. Children whose nutritional deficiencies undermined their ability to reach developmental markers, to grow and learn with the same vigor as other children, to thrive in care and one day, a family. Continue reading “Orphan Nutrition Update”

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”

In Booming Bangalore, Children with Special Needs are Left Especially Vulnerable

In the progressive tech capital of India, jobs and work are plentiful — and while this is good news overall, some of the adverse side effects from rapid urbanization and an increasing migrant population make caring for orphaned and abandoned children with special needs particularly challenging. During a visit to partner program Swanthana in April, Holt Creative Lead Billie Loewen met the children and caregivers most affected by these challenges.

16-year-old Alyssa lives in a care center for children with special needs in Bangalore, India. Alyssa says she would like to be a teacher some day.
Sixteen-year-old Alyssa lives in a care center for children with special needs in Bangalore, India. Alyssa says she would like to be a teacher some day.

A pair of deep, brown eyes peer curiously around the corner of a dark hallway. Pushing herself through a doorway, a small girl with short hair and a long purple dress appears in an old, metal wheelchair. She keeps her head low, her eyes shielded behind a red headscarf. Her short hair is held back with a barrette and a bindi decorates her forehead.

Alyssa is 16 years old, and she is paralyzed from the waist down. Abandoned by her family years ago, likely due to her disability, Alyssa has lived in a home for children with profound special needs for three years. She is one of the few residents at her care center who is able to express her thoughts verbally. Her voice is quiet, but in English she will tell you about her dreams.

Alyssa wants to be a teacher, someday, and teach little children how to dream big. She wants to live independently.

Sadly, at the moment, Alyssa’s dream is just that — a dream. She doesn’t receive any life skills training because her caregivers are too busy for that kind of one-on-one attention. She never travels beyond the very limited borders of her care center. She is stuck in a world that has forgotten her, and it isn’t her fault. Continue reading “In Booming Bangalore, Children with Special Needs are Left Especially Vulnerable”