The Gift of Time

Holt adoptive parents volunteer at Winter Jam

by Lisa Sharpless

We are the extremely busy parents of five children. Our days are filled to the brim with activities, practices, home-educating our three younger children, and basically just keeping the house from imploding. It’s difficult to fit much else in, and we tend to give an emphatic “No!” to any requests for our time. But last year, when we heard that Holt needed volunteers to help out with Winter Jam, we knew we just had to jump in.

We were assigned to the floor of the arena and during the concert we were invited backstage to meet and chat with Eddie Carswell, a member of NewSong. But the highlight of the night was manning the tables covered with countless pictures of children waiting to be sponsored. We’d answer people’s questions and take their information as they’d try to choose the right child. And with thankful hearts, we told them that our daughter used to be one of those pictures.

Four years ago, we got the call from Holt telling us about a precious, little 5-year-old in China who needed a family. Much to our delight, she also happened to be in the Holt sponsorship program. Though we don’t know who her sponsors were, we can guess that they hung her picture on their refrigerators, pored over the updates sent by Holt and prayed for her to find a forever family. Because of them, Suzanna had everything she needed, including a loving foster family to keep her happy and healthy until we could bring her home.

In 2010, over 10,000 Winter Jam concertgoers said “YES” to sponsoring a child! This year, we’ve set our sights higher…Help us reach 15,000 sponsors – 300 at each concert! It’s easy and fun! Check to see if Winter Jam is coming to your town and sign up online. Email for more information. Rock the House with Holt and NewSong at Winter Jam 2011 – Raise Your Voice for Children!

Surrounded by Love

Two foster mothers in Korea reunite with their foster children in Eugene, Oregon

By Ashli Keyser, managing editor

Hyun Soo entered the arms of Mrs. Cho, Suk-hee as an infant in 2001. The foster mother, her husband and their two children welcomed the young boy into their home, their hearts and unconditionally accepted him as part of their family. Mrs. Cho cared for him like any doting mother caring for a precious son. She fed him, kissed his tears, bathed him, hugged him and loved him. And then after 11 months of devoted care, Mrs. Cho completed one final act of love for her beloved foster son. Tears filling her eyes, Mrs. Cho embraced him one last time, kissed his soft cheek and said goodbye.

Emmett (Hyun Soo) and his foster mother, Mrs. Cho.

To raise and love a child as your own and then to give that child up is the ultimate in sacrificial love, says Paul Kim, Holt director of services for Korea. “Foster mothers in Korea have their hearts broken time and time again,” he says. “But time and time again they continue to offer their love to children. It takes a special person to be able to do that.”

To honor the tremendous commitment of Holt’s foster mothers in Korea, each year Holt hosts a reception, inviting two foster mothers to visit the headquarters in Eugene, Oregon and reunite with their dearly loved foster children. This year, Mrs. Cho and Mrs. Kim, Kyung-ae were the honored guests.

Three families – the Mankowskis from Colorado, the Latimers from the Portland area and the Tablers from Oregon City– traveled to see Mrs. Kim, and the Redferns from Corbett, Oregon traveled with their son, Hyun Soo — now called Emmett — to see Mrs. Cho.

Entering the greeting area, Mrs. Cho walks right up to Hyun Soo without hesitation. “I knew it was you,” she says. “I could tell by your face.”

The fact that Mrs. Cho remembers Emmett after nine years means so much to Emmett’s mother, Jenne. It means even more to Emmett. “I’m so happy to know that I was loved,” says Emmett.

During the emotional reception, Mrs. Cho and Mrs. Kim receive awards in honor of their decades of service to Holt Korea, having welcomed 49 and 63 children into their homes, respectively, and also saying goodbye to them. Continue reading “Surrounded by Love”

It’s Not Too Late……

Alana and her grandmother need a fresh start this holiday season…through Holt’s Gifts of Hope catalog, you can help!

Six-year-old Alana should be well into her first year of school right now, but instead, she remains in a small, one-room house in a tiny village of southern Ethiopia. Having lost both of her parents to disease, Alana now lives with her grandmother, who struggles to provide Alana with her next meal, let alone an education.

Through Holt’s family preservation program in Ethiopia, there is hope for this family. For the past three years, families have entered into the program only to transition out a year later, stronger, healthier and happier.

In July, Holt reported on one such success story. Brought back to life through Holt support and generous donations, Ejamo’s family used start-up supplies and a micro finance loan to help them go from poor and helpless, to strong and stable. Sponsorship support brought warm clothes, medical treatment and education materials to Ejamo’s five children.   A start-up supply of seeds allowed Ejamo to grow and sell vegetables and, after awhile, the family saved enough money to purchase a cow, and wood for building a new and stronger house.

The transformation Ejamo made in a year’s time is simply extraordinary — a perfect representation of how a family’s life can be transformed with a little help and a lot of courage….Read Ejamo’s story here.

Holt does what we can to help, but our support would mean nothing without the family’s willingness to take the next step. It takes the drive and determination of families like Ejamo’s to make this program a success. Keeping their family together is what motivates them, and Holt — with your help — is happy to meet them half way.

“The initiative these families are taking is amazing,” says Larry Cahill, Holt board member, who visited Holt’s Ethiopia programs in April. “Their willpower is even more amazing.”

A few months ago, Ejamo’s family transitioned out of the program, making room for another family needing assistance. “So many families in Ethiopia need help,” says Tesfaye Betachew, Holt’s head social worker in Ethiopia.

Accepted into the program in August, Alana and her grandmother still struggle to survive. Stability, however, doesn’t happen overnight. Alana’s grandmother needs time and ongoing support to be successful.

“For this family, and all of the families entering our program, we work on making the appropriate means of intervention to render a holistic support,” says Tesfaye.

This time next year, Holt would love to write a story about Alana and her grandmother, sharing photos of Alana on her way to school, with nutritious food in her stomach and a smile on her face.

With your help, we did it for Ejamo and his family.  Now let’s do it for Alana and her grandmother.

Providing livestock to a struggling family is just one way you can help children and families in Holt’s care this holiday season…click here to see our list of life-changing gifts in our Gifts of Hope catalog…

Holt’s Waiting Child of the Week: Let’s Find Genet a Family this Christmas

Genet was born on Christmas day.  This Christmas, let’s make her birthday special.  Let’s find her a family!

Born in Africa, DOB: December 25th, 2007


by Ashli Keyser, managing editor

From the moment our group enters the room full of children at the Durame intake center, *Genet has our attention. She has a delightful way about her, a light and a spark that brightens up the whole room. Her ever-present smile, sweet demeanor and spirited personality captivates us all. We can see that her caretakers adore her just as much as we do.

Our group arrives seconds before playtime. Shoes and children are flying about the room, the eager boys and girls more interested in the merry-go-round waiting outside than the six strangers standing by the door. While just as enthusiastic as the rest of her friends, Genet takes a little more time putting on her shoes.   Her poor eyesight makes tasks like this difficult.

Genet came into care, malnourished, after her father passed away from tuberculosis. Her mother, unable to care for her due to her eyesight problems and developmental delays, often kept Genet from other people, making it even more difficult for Genet to learn and thrive.

Described by her caretakers as determined and willful, Genet doesn’t give up easily and finally manages to fit her little foot into the last shoe.  Then, with a little help from Sister Abebech, she makes her way out the door.

After the children make it a few times around on the merry-go-round, a beach ball is introduced into playtime.  Genet wastes no time  joining the rough-and-tumble boys in their quest to catch the flying object.  Once the ball lands, Genet stands on the grass for a bit, giggling at the silly boys — who, of course, have all piled on top of it at once — and then attempting to shimmy her way into the pile. Alas, after a valiant effort, Genet comes up empty handed.  She has fun trying though, all the while managing to charm her observers even more.

“This is one special girl,” says Sister Abebech, head nurse at the intake center, watching Genet play.

Since entering Holt’s care, Genet has learned to walk, use her utensils and has even learned a few words. The caretakers work consistently with her on speech and coordination, and give her the attention she lacked in her first two years of life.“She’s come so far,” says Sister Abebech. “She just brightens everyone’s day.”

On that day, she certainly brightened ours.

Genet is waiting for a permanent, loving family. If you are interested in learning more about this beautiful, spirited little girl, please contact Erin Mower at

Help Genet, the Waiting Child of the Week, go viral! Forward this to friends and family. Share every week at church or a community group. And repost to your own blog, Facebook page and company site. With the simple press of a button, you can change Genet’s life forever!

This little girl is in need of a special family who is open to some unknowns and who are able to provide her with any medical care or therapies she may need.

To adopt Genet, couples must be between the ages of 25-44, married for at least two years, and can have up to five children in the home.

*Name has been changed

Surviving, Learning, Laughing: An Adoptee’s View

As children grow into late adolescence and early adulthood, I think all parents are probably curious about how their children have felt about their own childhood.  Often children don’t think about it or don’t have a way to express their experiences.

To my complete surprise, our daughter Stacee wrote about herself and our family in her college essay (she is now a junior at UC, Santa Cruz).

Please enjoy her essay and also enjoy getting to know Stacee a little bit better.  When she’s done with her finals this quarter, I’m going to ask her to start blogging with me. –Jane Ballback, guest blogger


Introducing Jane’s daughter, Stacee

by Stacee Ballback

Looking at my family portrait, you might notice a lack of consistency. My brothers, Jaik and Brandon, are Korean like myself.  My Aunt Bea Bea is Mexican.  My other aunt Pranita is Indian.  And the rest of my family is Caucasian. This generates a lot of questions and a lot of stares from people. Sure, we’re all very different, but one thing we all share is a strong bond of love, mutual respect and support for each other.

I was born named Mec Sun Kim. Five months later, I was adopted and my name changed to Stacee Ballback. I can’t tell you much about the experience because I can’t remember it, but I know 1 started out a sad baby. I think being taken from my mother at birth instead of being held by her and feeling her love created an emptiness in my heart that remained until I became a Ballback. At five months old, I was given a new home and a new life. My mom and dad, along with my brothers, quickly filled the emptiness in my heart with the family I had been missing and needing.

After I settled into my new life, I became much happier because I knew I had a loving family behind me no matter what. The most influential people in my life are my mom and dad. My mom is the strongest, most independent woman I know. She presides over our family and we refer to her as “Alpha Dog” because she makes every final decision. My dad is much more passive than my mom and has a childlike tendency about him that makes him spacey and forgetful. My mom is organized. When we have dinner, she often ends up pulling out a typed paper with topics and lists of things she wants to discuss concerning vacations, holidays, household chores, etc. Needless to say, you can often walk out of one of her dinners feeling like you just got out of an extremely productive business meeting. However, all neurotic tendencies aside, my mom has taught me valuable lessons as I’ve grown older. She taught me to be independent and never to be a follower, but a leader. Continue reading “Surviving, Learning, Laughing: An Adoptee’s View”

On This Special Day

Through the sharing of photos and memories, Randa Hazzard remembers the day she met her sister, Kait. The Hazzards began their own adoption journey to Ethiopia earlier this year….

by Randa Hazzard

Randa at the Des Moines Airport, holding Kait for the first time.

Today is an important day for my family. On this day, 23 years ago, we picked up my sister, Kait, at the airport in Des Moines.  I remember being so filled with excitement waiting for someone to step off the plane with Kait in their arms. We had given Kait a special blanket to be wrapped in, so we would know which baby she was. Up until that point, all we had was a photo taken shortly after her birth. I had kept a photo of her in my room and looked at it often, wondering what she would be like. Little did I know, we would grow up to be so close, so alike, and such good friends.

On December 8th, we always celebrate her coming into our family, and she always tells me how much it means to her.

Once our little guy joins the family, we will most definitely celebrate his special day every year, as well. Thinking about this brings tears to my eyes. I am so thankful for Kait. I can’t even begin to imagine us not having each other.

As I have said before, adoption is amazing!  I Love you Kaitlin Kim! I Love everything about you.

Randa, Kait and Kyle with Grandma Holt.

You are the best sister I could ever have!

Follow the Hazzard family on the journey to their son, here.

Want to learn more about the wonderful journey of adoption?  Click here to learn more.

Surviving, Learning, Laughing: Too Good to be True

Through candid (and often funny!) observations and heartwarming personal stories, a Holt adoptive mother shares the challenges and joys of parenting adopted children

by Jane Ballback

I mentioned in my last blog that all three of my children had very different reactions to their relinquishment and adoption. In this blog I want to talk specifically about my son Jaik who has never shown or expressed an interest in — or any curiosity about — his adoption, nor does he seem particularly interested in anything related to it.

When I started teaching the classes for Holt he was in his late adolescence. Now that I’m doing this blog, I sat down one more time to talk to him about my participation in the blog and how I was telling his stories. He listened very politely to the whole thing and when I got finished he said (in Jaik’s very clear way), “I know you are very interested in all this, Mom, I simply am not.”

I actually do think that he does care about his relinquishment and his adoption but for his own reasons he just is not, in any way, ready to deal with it.

I recently read a very interesting book on this subject. The book is called, Being Adopted, the Lifelong Search for Self, by David Brodzinsky, Marshall D. Schechter, and Robin M. Harris. This book along with several other good books, are listed under the links “Post Adoption Services/Recommended Books on Holt’s website”.

This is the first book I’ve found that mentions in the introduction of the book that there really are vast differences in the way that children react to their relinquishment and adoption. There are some children that are so happy, so relieved, so pleased to be within a family that they don’t have a great deal of reaction to their early life.

What’s also interesting about this book is that it follows adoptees all through their life cycle. I’m busy reading the book because my boys are now 23 and my daughter Stacee is 20; and I’m very interested in now knowing how their adoption issues could play out in their young adult and middle adult years. It’s a fascinating book.

Despite Jaik’s reluctance to talk about his adoption, Jaik had some “adopted behaviors.” Let me describe an incident that taught me a great deal. Jaik is pretty much the perfect kid. Continue reading “Surviving, Learning, Laughing: Too Good to be True”

Waiting Child of the Week: Julie

Julie, a child in China’s Journey of Hope program, needs a family of her own

Date of Birth: 11/15/98

by Robin Munro, Senior Writer

This summer, several of us at Holt traveled to China to meet children in the Journey of Hope – a program to propel adoption of older children, or children with special needs in southern China. Upon arrival, I joined Holt China staff and local caregivers for a traditional dinner in the province of Jiangsu. Across the table from us sat three children who, along with their caregivers, had journeyed a considerable distance to meet us. Two little boys in matching red shirts sat side by side, charming the visitors.

And then there was *Julie.

Though shyly looking away, her eyes held a glow as bright and genuine as her smile. She giggled and chatted with her favorite caregiver – a young woman who also taught in the orphanage school. Clearly very attached to her caregiver, she also recognized Sue Liu, the sweet-faced manager of the Holt office in Beijing. Once more at ease in the company of strangers, Julie got up from the table to give Sue a big hug, and squeeze into her chair – this tall, slender, 11-year-old girl with a Mickey Mouse button on her yellow Crocs shoes. Awkwardly smooshed together, they sat like sisters – playful and laughing.

Julie’s assessment states that she often shows great kindness and easily builds attachments. That night in Jiangsu, Julie brought that description to vibrant, glowing life. She bounded down the hallways to greet orphanage directors and Holt staff, her long skinny legs sticking out of shorts – an outfit in which she seemed more comfortable than the frilly frock she wore for the official Journey of Hope camp the following day. And her hugs – warm and engrossing – landed spontaneous and often on their recipients.

Julie entered care as an infant and has lived in the orphanage ever since. Because of a medical condition that made it difficult to control her bodily functions, she entered school later than other children. But after receiving a surgery in 2005 that corrected her condition, Julie became more confident and outgoing in school. When we met her this summer, she was in the third grade. In November, she turned 12. Continue reading “Waiting Child of the Week: Julie”

Holt adoptive mom gives thanks for her daughter

On Thanksgiving day, seven years ago, Holt adoptive parents Chris Nigrin and Mark Lund met their daughter, Mia, in China.  Chris, a staff writer for the Omaha World-Herald, shares about their adoption journey, their emotional time in China and the moment she fell in love with her daughter.   Click here to read the family’s story in the Omaha World-Herald.

Interested in adopting a child from China?  Click here to learn more about Holt’s China program and the three wonderful ways to build your family.

Waiting Child of the Week: Let’s Find Min-kee a Family this Thanksgiving

Since Holt’s beginning, 55 years ago, many children with special needs at the Ilsan Center in Korea have gone home to wonderful permanent families.  Today, we ask for your help on behalf of one resident, Min-kee,  a spirited and sweet 6-year-old waiting for a family of his own.

Min-kee came into the care of Ilsan at 16 months of age.  Upon arrival, he had a large ASD of the heart, but has since had this surgically closed.  His current, suspected diagnosis is Noonan syndrome.  Min-kee can feed and dress himself, uses the bathroom with little help and receives speech, art and music therapy.  “Min-kee is so charming and has come so far,” says Molly Holt, Holt Korea director. “The housemothers and the residents here just love him.”

Access to medical treatment and the loving encouragement of a permanent family will make a huge difference in Min-kee’s life.  This Thanksgiving,  post his story on your Facebook, blog and other social networking sites.  Min-kee needs a special family.  He has waited for six years and we know there is one out there, waiting just for him.  Help us bring them together!


The Following is a letter from Melinda Dionne.  Melinda volunteered at Ilsan for 4 months alongside Molly Holt.  She describes Min-kee as “the cutest little guy ever!”….

by Melinda Dionne

During my time at Ilsan Town, I had the privilege of living among the residents for four months. And one of those residents was 6-year-old Min-Kee.

Min-Kee is a bright little boy that is both charming and independent. There are several little boys around the age of six who live at Ilsan, and they all play and live together. Min-Kee is a very social little boy, and often will take the lead among his peers.

Min-Kee can be shy at first with adults, but once he opens up to you he is engaging. He didn’t care that I didn’t speak Korean, regardless he would ask me questions; and I would do my best to answer them. He’s an inquisitive and spirited little boy. Continue reading “Waiting Child of the Week: Let’s Find Min-kee a Family this Thanksgiving”