There’s room for you on Holt’s India Vision Trip!

So you’ve been thinking about joining us on our vision trip to India this November 12-23, but haven’t made an official decision. Well, we have some good news for you … there have been some last-minute cancellations, which means there’s room for you on the trip!

Whether you’re a Holt child sponsor, an adoptive parent, adoptee, Holt donor, or just someone who wishes to see Holt projects up close and personal — to meet the children and families we serve — this trip is for you!

Holt has enjoyed a long history in India.  And today, the child welfare organizations Holt helped to establish continue to diversify their services, and remain a significant part of Holt’s legacy.

This year, one of Holt’s partners in India, Vathsalya Charitable Trust (VCT), celebrates 25 years of serving children and families. Vision Trip members will help honor their service with a special celebration.

Of course, you will also interact with children in Holt’s care at VCT and Bharatiya Samaj Seva Kendra (BSSK) on this exciting trip. On Children’s Day, November 14th, you’ll even get to help throw a special celebration! You’ll also meet families in our family strengthening program and learn more about Holt’s historic work in India.  A Taj Mahal trip is also part of the itinerary.

Click here for more details about Holt’s vision trip to India or feel free to email our vision trip coordinator, Sally Dougherty,   at sallyd@holtinternational.org.

Threads of Hope

Vocational training in Uganda provides more than job security to rural women

Sometimes, hope comes in a box. A cardboard box, taped shut, in the middle of a room with dirt floors, a tin roof and no walls. And not just one box, but 25, each heavy with 20 pounds of industrial-grade hope. Under the same roof, 25 eager, smiling women are ready to tear through the boxes’ packaging. They’ve been waiting for today. While they waited, they built the structure they stand in now — a place to house their hope. Every day, they’ve walked to this place, some of them for painstaking hours through rain and mud with their youngest children in their arms. And now, the boxes are here.

Continue reading “Threads of Hope”

A Mother’s Final Gift

In Vietnam, the financial stability of a cow can be enough to keep a family together

Kim-Ly with her husband and two children.

Motherhood creates a universal connection. Regardless of skin color or culture, economic status or professional achievement, all mothers share a profound desire to protect and provide for their young. It overpowers everything — compelling them to put to their own needs aside for the sake of their child.

Continue reading “A Mother’s Final Gift”

Sprint Triathlon

Proceeds from upcoming sprint triathlon in Oregon will help support Holt’s family preservation program in Ethiopia

Andrea Janssen with her family.

What do you do when an opportunity to support a great charity is paired with an opportunity to do something great for your body? You run with it. Or, in this case, you run, swim and bike! At least, that’s the hope of Andrea Janssen, founder and organizer of the annual Triathlon for Hunger sprint triathlon in John Day, Ore. Half the proceeds raised from this year’s August 24 race will benefit Holt’s family strengthening and preservation program in Ethiopia, while the other proceeds will go to local food banks.

Continue reading “Sprint Triathlon”

A Vision of Beauty and Hope

On Holt’s first vision trip to China, participants visit two rural communities where Holt helps struggling families to care for their children. In one community heavily affected by HIV/AIDS, educational sponsorship has helped many children to graduate high school and go on to college and careers.

by Robin Munro, Managing Editor

At the civil affairs office in Yuncheng, a city in China’s central Shanxi province, a formal meeting between local officials, a group of visiting Americans, and families in Holt’s family strengthening program is underway. The room falls quiet as a young girl stands to speak. She wears her glossy black hair up in a ponytail, revealing the little silver hoops in her ears and the hot pink temples of her glasses.

“Aunties and Uncles, I am 19 years old,” she says. “My parents divorced when I was young. Unfortunately, in 2009, my father died. He was the only person I could count on. At the time, I had no money to go to school. Holt gave support so I could go to school again.”

Through Holt sponsorship, these girls were able to complete their education. Pictured with vision trip participant and Holt sponsor Sally Weiner.

Continue reading “A Vision of Beauty and Hope”

Every Child Deserves A Family… And An Education!

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.

Continue reading “Every Child Deserves A Family… And An Education!”

The Lives They Saved

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.

A newborn baby Dr. Bannister helped to resuscitate. Basic resuscitation is one area in which the local staff could benefit from additional training.

Continue reading “The Lives They Saved”

At Home With Atura’s Family

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?”

Atura stands before the home where she and her two daughters live.

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.

I remind myself that all things take time. Continue reading “At Home With Atura’s Family”

BWOB Ethiopia: The Next Chapter

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.

The Beavers Without Borders team members stand in front of the house they built Zahra.

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 house today.

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’s daughters during the Beavers trip in 2012.

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.

Zahra’s son with school supplies provided by Holt.

“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.

LaDonna poses for a photo with Zahra inside her new home.

To learn more about Holt’s work in Ethiopia, click here.

Keeping a Child in School and a Family Together

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 at home in Thakeo province, Cambodia.

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.

Pathways’ local outreach worker with Thoa Bui, Soriya and Mom, and Pathways director, Mr. Born.

* name changed