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”

The biggest barrier between children and education is …

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Around the world, more than 57 million children don’t attend school.

Why? Gender-based violence and discrimination are a couple reasons, but not the biggest.

The main reason? Cost.

In many developing countries, public schools are not free. The cost of tuition can be more than a few hundred U.S. dollars per term — an overwhelming expense to an already struggling family.

Helping to keep children in school is a simple — and effective — way to keep a family stable, prevent child abandonment and break the cycle of poverty forever.

Holt’s dedicated child sponsors provide the tools and support to help children reach for their dreams, focus on their studies and succeed in school by covering the cost of their sponsored child’s tuition.

But we are asking you to rise up and help children in need, too — this time to provide for the additional costs associated with the exciting back-to-school time.

For $17, you can help cover the costs of books, shoes, uniforms and supplies for an orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable child — and help a child without a sponsor to stay in school.

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Thank you for giving children and families the tools to build a successful, hopeful future. You are transforming the world for an orphaned, abandoned or vulnerable child.

For Deaf Students in Ethiopia, the First Day of School is a Major Milestone

Around the world, the extra cost to send children back to school is often an overwhelming amount for parents. Books, school supplies, shoes and uniforms all add up — and on top of already expensive school fees. However, for one special school in Ethiopia, you can help provide children with the supplies they need and ensure the first day of school is marked with joy and celebration.

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In 2009, Holt came to Shinshicho — first renovating a local clinic, and then partnering with the community to build a full maternal-child hospital to serve the region’s nearly 250,000 people. In recent years, Holt also developed programs to strengthen families at risk of separation from their children. Through our work in the community, Holt heard about the need for a school for deaf children and decided to help. A Shinshicho resident donated the land and space, and we worked with the community to build a school for deaf children. Anticipating only 50 students on the first day, we were shocked when more than 200 children showed up to learn. This year, more than 500 students will attend Yesus Mena School for deaf children.

There’s a universal kind of magic in the first day of school.

The potion is simple: mix one new outfit with two cups of optimism for what a new school year may hold — one from the child, one from the parent. Add a fresh-faced teacher and 50 sets of new notebooks and school bags. Blend it all together with a dose of excitement and a pinch of nerves. Add a new best friend and a handful of lunch-time giggles. Drink it up, knowing this school year will be the best one yet. Continue reading “For Deaf Students in Ethiopia, the First Day of School is a Major Milestone”

When You Educate a Girl…

For most girls in the slums of Pune, India, the idea that they could become a teacher or a public officer or a computer engineer — or that they could choose when, if and who to marry — is a huge shift in thought. And it’s happening right now in the one-room community center of Holt’s legacy partner BSSK.

At a summer camp in the central India town of Pune, teens and pre-teens from a nearby slum sit cross-legged on the floor in groups of 4 or 5. Each group receives a question written in Marathi on a little slip of paper. The question is to be read aloud and discussed.

“When do you want to marry?” is the question put to one group of girls.

One 12-year-old girl in a collared shirt and jeans says she will marry when her parents want her to and when they find a good boy for her. “When I become a teacher and financially independent,” says a reed-thin 13-year-old with tiny hoop earrings and a long braid down her back. Another girl — 14 and serious — says she doesn’t want to marry at all. Her father is very dominating, she says, and her mother has no say. This girl wants to be an administrative officer in the public service once she finishes school.

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This 12-year-old girl says she will marry when her parents decide it’s the right time and they find a suitable match for her.

Continue reading “When You Educate a Girl…”

Because No Child Should Ever Feel Alone…

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Abhijeet, in orange, stands outside his home in Pune, India with his mother Vimal, his grandmother and his youngest brother.

Every afternoon, 30-year-old Vimal picks up her three boys from school. Her 12-year-old son Abhijeet climbs on her back, and she carries him up, up, up …

Up three flights of steep, rickety stairs — so narrow, you have to turn sideways at places to fit. She ducks under electric wires, and is careful to avoid the sharp, cutting edges of serrated tin.

Three flights up, and the family arrives — exhausted — to their single-room house in a slum community in India.

Abhijeet, the oldest son, has always struggled to walk because of a leg deformity. He also has a learning disability, and rarely speaks. The children in his neighborhood exclude him from games and festivals. Already struggling financially, Vimal and her husband couldn’t afford his school fees — much less resources to care for the specialized therapies he would need to help his legs and communication.

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Vimal and her mother climb down the stairs from their home. Vimal has to carry her 12-year-old son up and down these dangerous stairs each day.

Vimal said she doesn’t mind carrying her child up the stairs, but it breaks her heart to see him teased and harassed. Vimal’s youngest son dreams of being a doctor, but she feared that Abhijeet would never dare to dream because of his learning disability. Continue reading “Because No Child Should Ever Feel Alone…”

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”

A letter to sponsors from China!

Dear Sponsors,

Today is the Chinese Lunar New Year and all of my family members are gathering together for a family reunion. On this most important holiday in China, I can’t help but think about you and the children who benefit from your sponsorship.

Because of you, in 2014, a total of 304 children from Longchuan, Yunnan province were able to stay in school — their daily nutrition guaranteed. Because of you, none of these children had to worry about the cost of school supplies, health insurance, immunizations or school uniforms. Because of your sponsorship, they didn’t have to face the risk of leaving school due to the extra cost. As part of Holt’s family strengthening program, the elementary students who attend boarding school in Yunnan were also able to go home for a family reunion on Chinese holidays and school breaks. Without your sponsorship, they could not afford the round-trip fare home. I still remember a time when I visited the school and saw one girl crying very hard because all her classmates were able to go home for the holiday to visit their parents, but she wasn’t sure if her grandmother would show up to take her home.

This Chinese New Year, she could visit her family with the help of her sponsors!China-2 Continue reading “A letter to sponsors from China!”

The Same Opportunities for Every Child

What is the difference between a child with special needs and a child without them?

Hint: it’s not the special need.

It’s the access “normal” children have to certain opportunities.

For example, the difference between a child who is deaf and one who is not, isn’t the ability to hear. The difference is how easily both of those children can learn a lesson in school. Or make friends. Or communicate with their family.

If, for instance, a teacher can give a lesson both audibly and in sign language, then both children can easily and equally learn the same lesson. In that instance, there are no differences between them.

Check out this video to learn how people like you helped our dear friend Jordan Love have access to all the opportunities he needed to live a full, independent life — and dedicate his time to advocating for children with special needs.

With the love and support of the staff at the Ilsan Center for children with special needs — as well as his sponsors and later his family — Jordan had every opportunity to achieve his dreams. But for many children with special needs, the playing field is anything but level.

Where Holt works in Shinshicho, Ethiopia, the rate of deafness is abnormally high, and no one is sure why. Disabilities are heavily stigmatized, and children with special needs are often hidden away. Very few people speak sign language, and when Holt began working in the region in 2010, there were no schools for deaf children.

Here, the difference between a child born deaf and a child who can hear is access to medical care, the opportunity to communicate, and the hope of a bright future and quality education.

Those are major differences.

But, they are all things that can be fixed … with resources.

So, with the help of people like you and your donations to the Molly Holt Fund for Children With Special Needs, we built the first school for the deaf in Shinshicho and over 400 deaf children attend classes each year.

Now, deaf children can access the same quality education as children who can hear. The school also helped educate the community about deafness, and the children in attendance are able to make friends and feel embraced by their community more easily. Nearby, a hospital project (also started by people like you) will soon research why deafness may be higher in this particular region. Perhaps someday, we can find a cause and a cure.

This is a simplified example of how people like you and I can serve children with special needs in a meaningful way. Children with special needs don’t need special treatment. They just need the same opportunities as every other child.

With a gift to the Molly Holt Fund, you provide those opportunities.

Today, help a child with special needs receive the resources he or she needs by giving a gift to the Molly Holt Fund! And learn more about who this special fund helps, and what your gift will accomplish.

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If the Rain Must Fall

Through the generous donations of Holt supporters in the U.S., 18 families in Cambodia receive critical roof and home repairs — protecting them from annual monsoon floods.

Hout Rung is a 34-year-old widow with six children. She lives in Cambodia, in a rural mountainous province marked by stunning landscapes and deep poverty. Every year, during monsoon season, the roof of her home leaked constantly. During floods, water would sometimes wash over their entire space — soaking all of their possessions, and leaving not a single dry spot for her children to sleep at night.

From June to October, Cambodia receives nearly 75 percent of its annual rainfall — often in sheets of heavy downpour nearly two out of every three days, with as much as 15-21 inches of rain per month. Monsoons dominate the climate during the rainy months, making even rainy places in the U.S. look relatively dry. To compare, notoriously rainy Seattle, Washington receives an average of 37 inches of rain each year, while southern regions of Cambodia — where Holt serves families — averages 51 inches.

For families like Hout Rung’s who live in the impoverished region where Holt works, the rain is a big worry. During monsoon season, flooding, erosion and heavy wind often cause tremendous damage to homes and streets. And although many homes in Cambodia are built on stilts to avoid the water, sometimes flood levels reach higher than the home’s floors. In time, the wooden stilts that support the home will grow rotten and decayed, and may eventually wash away.

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Hout Rung is a 34-year-old widow with six children. The roof of her home leaked constantly, and during flooding, water would sometimes wash over their entire space. Now, their home is built on higher stilts and the zinc roof keeps the space dry.
Continue reading “If the Rain Must Fall”