The vast majority of children in Holt’s sponsorship program live with their birth families. For these children, Holt sponsors provide vital support while their parents work to get back on their feet — and ultimately, regain their ability to independently care for their children. But for a small number of orphaned and abandoned children, Holt sponsors stand in the gap while the children wait to join loving adoptive families in country or overseas. Their monthly commitment ensures these children have everything they need to thrive — from food and medical care to the nurturing care of devoted caregivers. And often, when the children go home to their families, their parents will reach out to their former sponsors with letters expressing their heartfelt gratitude. Below, we share two recent letters from Holt adoptive families to the sponsors who cared for their children while they waited to come home…
Dear Holt Sponsor,
I cannot describe the gratitude that our family feels for the support that you have provided over the past 2.5 years in our daughter’s life. With that, I wanted to take the opportunity to reach out to you and give you a personal and heartfelt thank you along with some updates on her.
My family and I are from Las Vegas, Nevada. My husband and I have a birth son (Kai) who is 5 years old, 2 huskies, and 2 little parakeets. My mother was adopted from China when she was four years old, and I have wanted the opportunity to give to a child what my grandparents gave to her so many years ago. Before my son was even old enough to walk, we began our process with Holt. Since then, Thailand saw flooding and coups and general political turmoil which delayed our process greatly.
FINALLY, October 21st we were able to meet Nattanich in real life. She was super spunky, and even her social worker warned us that she was definitely in the midst of her terrible-twos! She wasn’t though. She was an angel. Still is. The saddest part of the whole journey was leaving her foster family. They were amazing people, and the support that you provided, assisted them in providing a wonderful and loving home for our daughter. I have heard horror stories of the care that foster families sometimes provide, and this is most certainly not one of those. She is well loved, well nourished, has excellent hygiene, and best off all – beautiful teeth! My girl LOVES brushing her teeth. (My 5-year-old could learn a thing or two from her!) Continue reading “Forever a Part of Our Story”
Holt adoptee Ben Diehl and his dad, Matt, share about their experience volunteering at this year’s Winter Jam concert in Des Moines, Iowa.
As I reflect on my Winter Jam experience from this past January in Des Moines, Iowa, I realize how blessed I was to help Holt International at Winter Jam. In 2003, our family traveled to Pune, India to bring home our adopted 4-and-a-half-year-old son from the BSSK orphanage. Benjamin was a little, smiley boy who enjoyed people. As Benjamin grew older — he is currently 15 years old — his love for Christian music has grown. We have attended many Winter Jams in the past, but this time we wanted to volunteer for Holt. Both Benjamin and I have a passion for encouraging others to take the step to help needy children all over the world. We feel overwhelmed with how God has blessed us and long to be a blessing to others. Winter Jam does an excellent job of letting others know about the needs of the kids that Holt sponsors. As volunteers, we were given ten kids’ folders to hand out to folks who would stand up and plan to make a commitment as a sponsor to that child. It was hard not to have tears in our eyes as we prayed over each child before the concert started. Would the Lord bring them to Iowa? What will become of their lives? I am grateful to the Lord for my son, and I will continue to pray for these kids. Thank you Holt and Winter Jam for allowing me to have a glimpse of what the Lord can do through people who care for the orphans.
As a Holt supporter, your gifts make a tremendous difference in the everyday lives of children.
You help to ensure children have everything they need to grow and thrive — from nourishing food and warm clothing to the nurturing care of a loving caregiver or family member.
But Christmas is not every day. It is a day of celebration… a day to be with loved ones and to share our many blessings with those in need.
This year, you can extend your blessings and share the heart of Christmas with an orphaned, abandoned or vulnerable child. Watch your mailbox for a special package that includes a Children of the World ornament for you to sign and return by November 30. When we receive all the ornaments, we will send them for the children to receive at a special celebration. Or if you would like to give online now, click here!
Although our celebration with the children will vary from region to region, know that every gift you send of $25 or more per child will help us give the children a day to remember — a day of comfort and joy that truly captures the heart of the holiday so many of us observe here at home.
We are grateful for all you do for children, and God bless you for sharing the wonder of Christmas with a child in need this year. We can’t begin to accomplish this without you, and we are so happy we have the chance to do it with you!
When an individual or family makes the commitment to sponsor an orphaned or abandoned child in Holt’s care, they create a bridge of love — a bridge that links them to a child waiting for a family, and to a family waiting to bring their child home. Before these children join their families in the United States, many of them are able to stay in the loving care of foster families through the support of Holt child sponsors. Through their $30/month commitment, sponsors also help provide basic necessities for their sponsored child such as food, clothing, shelter and medical care.
When adoptive families learn about the selfless strangers who helped provide for their child, many of them wish to express their gratitude through heartfelt letters and photos. Below, we share some of these letters.
Dear Sponsor Families,
Last week I found out that my son, JP, had a sponsor while he was in foster care in Korea. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you, and also tell you about him.
JP is now 6 and will enter first grade in the fall. He is a fabulous little boy! From the day we found out about him, we were in love with him, and we feel so lucky he is a part of our family. He is funny, smart, sensitive and kind. He loves to build, and Legos are his thing right now! He also loves to ride his bike and read. JP has always loved the water, and has been taking swimming lessons since he was a year old. I call him my “old soul,” as he is very thoughtful and caring. His smile lights up my world.
We were so fortunate to be in the adoption process again in 2011, when we learned about JP’s little brother, Eli, who is now 3 and a half. It’s such a joy to watch the boys play together, and a huge gift to be a able to raise them together.
I have enclosed a few pictures of the boys goofing off during our family photo session. They make me laugh every day. Thank you for being a part of JP’s life, and supporting him and his foster family. We hope to “pay it forward” with other children at Holt. In fact, JP recently asked me to send some of his “giving bank” savings to Holt and his foster mother. The tradition has continued!
In Holt’s nearly 60-year history, we’ve had the opportunity to impact the lives of hundreds of thousand of children and families. Historically, most of these children were adopted into loving families — and from that history came Holt’s legacy as an adoption agency. While this is totally true, many people are surprised to learn that very few of the children in Holt’s growing sponsorship program are on a track to join an adoptive family overseas. For every child who is adopted in the U.S. in order to join a loving family, Holt helps thousands more children stay or reunite with their birth families, or join an adoptive family in their country of birth — helping to achieve Holt’s mission of finding families for children.
You open your mailbox and pull out a familiar red and yellow envelope, Holt’s logo flashing from the corner. It’s an update about your sponsored child — one that comes each season. You rip open the envelope and pull out a new photo of your child and an update about his or her life overseas. Or, you log into your email and click on a familiar link from Holt. Soon, a new picture of your sponsored child stares at you from your screen.
You examine the new picture of your sponsored child — her smile, how she’s changed from the last photo — and delve into the words, how your $30 per month is changing her life.
Maybe you even wonder about the day a Holt staff member visited your child to take his new photo and get his update, and the journey to get that update to you, the sponsor. How did it get to you, and why, in April, is your child talking about Christmas?
Susie Doig, Holt’s senior director of adoption services, recently wrote a short testimonial to our branch offices, encouraging the adoption staff to embrace and promote Holt’s child sponsorship program — and maybe even sponsor a child themselves. With a continual decline in international adoption across the globe, child sponsorship is one of the strongest and fastest-growing ways Holt can ensure that children in our programs remain with their birth families and receive the vital, life-saving support they need.
Child sponsorship. It’s nice. I’m glad we do it. But it doesn’t really affect me, because I work in adoptions. My focus is to spread the word about the need for adoptive families, and help families get the support and assistance they need to successfully complete their adoption process.
Back when adoption fees made up the majority of Holt’s revenue, focusing on fundraising efforts like child sponsorship felt like an elective to me. It was something that, if I had extra time, I would learn a little about it, or maybe mention it to a friend, but for the most part I kept my blinders on and my head down — focused on serving adoptive families.
A photo essay and update on last year’s sponsor-funded International Day of the Child celebrations for children in Holt’s programs overseas.
Few things in life are as momentous as the birth of a child. When a child comes into our lives, we cheer and hug and pass around cigars — our faces wet with joyful tears. And every year after, we celebrate the anniversary of the day our child entered the world with parties and gifts and candlelit birthday cakes. Birthdays are more than a silly tradition. And however we celebrate them, the fact that we DO expresses to our children just how much we love them — and how grateful we are that they were born.
Every child deserves a birthday. Every child deserves to eat cake and open presents and have a whole day devoted to celebrating them.
But some children don’t have mothers and fathers and grandparents to throw them birthday parties. Others have loving families who wish they could do more on their children’s birthdays, but can barely afford to give them what they need every other day of the year.
That’s why, several years ago, Holt started a tradition of celebrating the birthdays of children in our programs overseas on June 1, the International Day of the Child. To fund these parties, Holt sponsors go above and beyond their normal monthly donation. They provide goodie bags with signed messages wishing their sponsored child a happy birthday, and give a little extra money for the celebrations. This year, donations from sponsors are also helping to provide a new pair of shoes for every child!
Below, we share photos from last year’s International Day of the Child celebrations in countries we serve around the world.
In Thailand, local staff used sponsor funds to fill goodie bags with stationary sets, sippy cups or cartoon-covered water bottles, chocolate bars and cookies. “HSF would like to convey our heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to Holt’s child sponsors for their generous donation,” writes the staff of Holt Sahathai Foundation, our partner in Thailand. “This special donation was very meaningful to needy children in our care!”
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.
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 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 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.
“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.
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’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.