Returning from the 2015 Holt Ambassador trip to China, Liz Larson reflects on the activities she and her team led there to educate HIV+ children about adoption before traveling home to advocate for them.
Last week I had the privilege of traveling to Nanning, China with the Holt Ambassador team where we focused on advocating for HIV+ children who wait for families. We spent the week getting to know 10 children affected by HIV, learning more about the stigma that HIV carries in China, and considering how to advocate for the kids to find families once we returned to the U.S.
Each member of our team came up with an idea for an activity to do with the kids in order to help get to know them in spite of our language differences. We played soccer and badminton, did puzzles, drew pictures, made friendship bracelets, looked at cool stuff with magnifying glasses and took walks. It was beautiful to watch the kids come out of their shells and show off their personalities. As the kids opened up, we took time after lunch one day to educate them about what adoption means.
Today, there are an estimated 132 million “orphans” in the world.
But did you know that 90 percent of these children actually have at least one parent who is alive, or an extended web of grandparents or family members?
In the United States, we would never consider the child of a single parent an orphan.
The same should be true for every child around the world. Although many children have endured the trauma of losing one parent, they still have family that love and care for them.
But even though their families love them, in far too many cases children end up abandoned or displaced — especially if they have already lost one parent. Or, too often, children and families survive without proper nutrition, clothing and other necessities that are essential for their wellbeing. Children are at constant risk of losing their families due to poverty, illness or other hardships. They are, in other words, at risk of becoming orphaned or abandoned.
We are now recruiting families for Holt’s first ever ambassador trip to China!
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”
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.
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.
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.
Anh* loves the color pink. She looks for it everywhere. In pictures. On toys. In the basket of colorful bouncy balls the children play with at her care center in northern Vietnam. So when her caregiver asks her to select a pair of shoes from the cupboard, her eyes naturally fall on the hot pink heels peeking out of the pile. Anh slips her feet into the pink sandals and practices walking along the balcony and up and down the stairs — her heels click-clacking on the hard ceramic tile.
For Anh, walking in heels is more than playing dress-up. For Anh, learning to put on shoes, walk down stairs, take off shoes and put them back in the cupboard is part of the occupational therapy she receives every Monday-Friday. With each step, she is learning a new skill.
A 6-year-old girl with short silky black hair and milky skin, Anh is the only child with special needs at her care center. Found abandoned at about 3 years old in the streets of Hanoi, she was diagnosed with autism shortly after coming into care. Anh cannot speak, but she engages the world in other ways. She does not hesitate to jump in your arms or sit in your lap, and easily takes the hand of her therapist or responds in kind to a “high five” — raising her arms and gently mirroring the gesture. Continue reading “Anh’s Story”
For many years, Holt has, with great admiration, witnessed once-struggling mothers in our family strengthening programs achieve amazing accomplishments for the health and well-being of their children. These mothers worked 15-hour days, earning pennies so that their children could eat and attend school. In Thailand, a mother took a job sewing palm tree leaves together for a mere $2 a day to help her 14-year-old daughter stay in school. In Haiti, a mother worked two jobs to support her daughters after her husband died in the 2010 earthquake.
Mothers would do anything for their children. They would give up everything just to see their children thrive and succeed in life. And nothing brings Holt greater joy than to help these mothers succeed for their children. When you purchase a Gift of Hope today, you help mothers help their children, too! Chickens can help a widow feed her children nutritious eggs. When you purchase a “vocational training” Gift of Hope, a single mother could learn the valuable skills she needs to earn a steady income and help her family stay together.
By helping mothers, you help children! By purchasing a Gift of Hope today, you will change lives.