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

A Dad Like Him

Holt International CEO and President Phil Littleton is currently touring Holt’s programs in Southeast Asia and Korea, visiting the children and families we serve.  Today, Holt’s creative services director, Brian Campbell, describes their visit to a childcare center in the Philippines where Holt helps to support orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children through child sponsorship. Holt also works to find loving adoptive families for eligible children in care.

by Brian Campbell, Creative Services Director

Manila, Philippines— Today, Holt International President and CEO Phil Littleton and I are heading out of Metro Manila to visit an outlying childcare center where Holt helps to support many of the children in care through child sponsorship.

Joining us on today’s visit is Eva Cubacub, a social worker from Kaisahang Buhay Foundation (KBF), Holt’s longtime partner in the region. Eva knows the children well at this orphanage, as she has made several trips to visit children in Holt’s sponsorship program. Some of the children are also in process to join families through adoption.

A warm, steady rain falls as we leave the city, and we watch as people on the streets dart from one covered porch to another. “Oh, it looks like an early spring for the Philippines,” says Eva as she looks up at the flannel gray skies.

Away from the traffic of Metro Manila, we come to a quiet building that looks like an old mission school, with Spanish arches, tile roofs and stucco and brick construction. A birthday party is taking place – not for one of the children in care, but for a little boy from the community who has decided to celebrate with the children in this orphanage. It’s lunchtime and the children eat quickly as they spy the big cake being cut into generous pieces.

Eva stands near a pretty little girl sitting apart from the other children. “Are you the one who picked up my friend?” asks the girl in a small, sweet voice. Surprised, Eva gets down to 6-year-old Christina’s* eye level and asks, “What do you mean?”

Continue reading “A Dad Like Him”

They Are Going to Make It

 Holt International CEO and President Phil Littleton is currently touring Holt’s programs in Southeast Asia and Korea, visiting the children and families we serve.  Today, Holt’s creative services director, Brian Campbell, reports on Phil’s visit with a struggling grandmother and her grandson.  Through family strengthening services, Holt is helping to support this family in partnership with Holt Sahathai Foundation (HSF) in Thailand.

by Brian Campbell, Creative Services Director

Holt CEO and President Phil Littleton sits with Tien and her grandson, Satang.

In the parking lot of a high-rise apartment building stands a dilapidated utility building, long forgotten by the apartment residents. Abandoned signs, old promotional banners and tarps to keep out the rain cover this small one-room structure.   A couple of broken office chairs and a few stumps of wood make up the living room.  This small utility building is now home to Tien and her grandson, Satang.

Today, Holt Sahathai Foundation (HSF) director, Jintana, will introduce Phil Littleton, Holt president and CEO, to this struggling family and detail how Holt and HSF have come alongside them.


After  Tien’s daughter gave birth to Satang, she refused to raise him.  Tien then stepped up to raise and care for her grandson.  The family’s difficult situation came to the attention of HSF through a cooperative effort with local social workers and hospital authorities.  Since Satang’s birth, HSF has made repeated efforts to contact Satang’s mother, but she has been unresponsive, only appearing from time to time to ask her mother for money.  It is HSF’s hope that one day, through counseling and support, Satang will be united with his mother.

In the meantime, HSF has stepped in to help this grandmother and her grandchild stay together, providing Tien with powdered formula, food and social services to ensure good health and nutrition for both of them.

In 1976, HSF began providing support services to struggling families, enabling them to care for their children. Over the years, services expanded and today include counseling, financial assistance, vocational training, educational sponsorship and income-generating projects. Training in proper health and nutrition also reinforces a family’s ability to care for their children.

“With support, Tien and Satang are going to make it,” explains Jintana to Phil. “Having Satang in Holt’s child sponsorship program will help a great deal. It’s going to take some hard work on the grandmother’s part, but she is dedicated to keeping her remaining family together. They will make it.”


To learn more about Holt’s child sponsorship program and to sponsor a child, click here.

For more information about Holt’s work in Thailand, click here.

One Sponsor’s Special Moment

Holt CEO and President Phil Littleton is currently in Thailand visiting the children and families Holt serves alongside our long-time partner in the region, Holt Sahathai Foundation (HSF). Here, Holt’s creative services director, Brian Campbell, reports on Phil’s visit with a little girl he helps to support through Holt’s child sponsorship program.

by Brian Campbell, Creative Services Director

Nakhon, Thailand— After a busy couple days visiting HSF programs and services for children and families in the community of Nakhon, a special moment awaits Phil Littleton, CEO of Holt International.

For the past two years, Phil and his family have helped to support a little girl named Mali*, who lives here in Nakhon with her mother Lawan*, her twin sister Kanya* and several extended family members. Mali and Kanya’s mother is 24-years-old and works as a server at a small restaurant, earning about $7 per day. On such low income, she can hardly afford to meet all of her daughters’ needs – especially their educational expenses. With assistance from Phil’s monthly sponsorship donations, HSF is able to give Mali the supplies she needs to attend school – including a school uniform.

Lawan, Mali and Kanya with Holt CEO and Mali’s sponsor, Phil Littleton.

Last November, when another Holt staff member visited Lawan and her daughters at their home in Nakhon, Lawan asked to send a special message to Phil. “Thank you,” she said. “Without your support, it would be very hard for my children and me. Expenses are very high, and I could not afford to provide for two children and their education. My main concern is the education of my children.” Mali and her sister started preschool in August 2011, and are now in Kindergarten.

At home in Eugene, Phil’s family keeps a picture of Mali in a little magnetic frame on their refrigerator. As new child reports arrive from Holt’s child sponsorship program, Phil and his wife share the updates about Mali with their three children and pass pictures of her around the dinner table. From a distance, little Mali has become a part of their family.

Today, for the first time, Phil will have the opportunity to meet Mali and her family.

Continue reading “One Sponsor’s Special Moment”

Live in PA or OH? Holt Needs Volunteers for God of All Glory Tour Dates!

Calling all Holt friends, families and supporters! We need volunteers for the upcoming God of All Glory tour!

For several years, Holt has partnered with Christian artists to share Holt’s mission and vision with concertgoers. During the events, our partnering artists also encourage their fans to support a child in need through Holt’s child sponsorship program.

With a booth at each event, Holt makes it easy for concertgoers to sponsor a child right then and there.

That’s where you come in!

Holt needs volunteers to help sign up new child sponsors at each upcoming show. In gratitude for your service, you will get free admission to the event and a CD. It’s quick to learn, easy to do and no selling is involved! At the end of the evening, you will also go home knowing you played a role in giving orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children the love and care they need.

Check out the dates and locations, and click here to sign up online. If you have any questions, please email Holt’s volunteer coordinator, Sue Paiement, at

Wayne Watson recently traveled to Haiti to meet children in Holt’s care and learn more about Holt’s mission.

God of All Glory, featuring Wayne Watson, Steve Green, Larnell Harris and Twila Paris

Location: Lansdale, PA

Date/Time: Friday, May 3, 2013 at 7:00 p.m.

Location:Williamsport, PA

Date/Time: Saturday, May 4, 2013 at 7:00 p.m.

Location: Green, OH

Date/Time: Sunday, May 5, 2013 at 7:00 p.m.


Interested in volunteering? Click here to sign up online! Or contact Sue Paiement at for more information!





Hope Renewed For Haiti Family

Noely’s story revisited

 Brian Campbell, creative services director, is currently in Haiti with Christian music group 4HIM, touring Holt Fontana Village and learning more about Holt International’s educational *sponsorship program in this impoverished country. Back in August, Brian met a 12-year-old girl named Noely, her younger sister, Rose, and their mother, Goulette; They were a family of three struggling to survive. But today, through the support of Holt’s educational sponsorship program, Noely and her sister are able to attend school, and their mother is making tremendous strides to better her life for the sake of her children.

 Brian and Mark Harris caught up with the family on their trip to Haiti this week…

 By Brian Campbell, Creative Services Director

Arcahaie, Haiti—The hot Haitian air is filled with anticipation and excitement this morning. Christian music artist, Mark Harris, of the music group 4Him, is on his way to school. But not just any school. A young girl named Noely attends this school. You may remember her…

 In August of 2012, I met Noely, her sister, Rose Carmel, and their mother, Goulette. At that time, the family was in desperate need of food. When Holt first met the family, they hadn’t eaten in three days. For Noely and Rose, receiving a proper education seemed unlikely. Goulette wept when thinking about her daughters’ uncertain future.

But today, Noely sits among children in a classroom—children that are a year or two older than her. She sits in the front row with her books open,  her voice strong as she calls out answers to the teacher’s questions. Mark makes note that Noely looks so much younger than the rest the students. The school principal tells Mark that he advanced Noely an additional grade because she tested very high at her placement exam.

Thanks to Holt’s educational sponsorship program in Haiti, Noely and her sister, Rose, can now receive a proper education. Here, Noely sits with her classmates.

Continue reading “Hope Renewed For Haiti Family”

The Cambodian Spirit, A Glimpse

In September, Molly MacGraw arrived in Phnom Penh for a three-month, IE3 Global Internship with Pathways to Development – Holt’s partner organization in Cambodia. A human development and family sciences major at Oregon State University, Molly will over the coming months assist Pathways with child sponsorship reporting, grant writing and other tasks that will benefit from her native English skills. In turn, she will have the opportunity to immerse herself in the work of a small nonprofit serving children and families overseas. Here, Molly describes her first trip to Takeo province, a rural region where Pathways helps struggling families to care for their children. Click here to learn more about Holt’s work in Cambodia.

by Molly MacGraw, Holt and IE3 Global Intern in Cambodia

A sponsored child waits to receive her backpack during Pathways’ annual school supply distribution.

This past weekend, I traveled to Takeo province for my first work trip with Pathways to Development. Takeo is a province 2-3-4 hours southwest of Phnom Penh and is among the poorest provinces in Cambodia.  (I say 2-3-4 hours of travel because depending on how you get there – bus, motorbike, van – transportation in Cambodia can be quite the challenge and you never know what you could get.)

There are several communes within Takeo made up of many villages, but Pathways focuses on and serves two communes. This work trip was important to me because it allowed me to see what my organization does and how they help and who they serve.  Now that I am back in the city, I have a much better understanding of what I can do to help after seeing the faces of those who need our assistance.

Starting off, I Continue reading “The Cambodian Spirit, A Glimpse”

A Brighter Day For Children

 Jennifer Goette, Holt’s director of programs for South and Southeast Asia, shares about her meaningful visits with two once-struggling families in Holt’s family preservation program. Through day care services and donations provided by generous monthly sponsors, children in the Philippines have been given hope for the future. Once only a program to support children going home to families in the United States, Holt’s child sponsorship program has broadened to include support for children remaining with their families.

Manila, Philippines — Nestled down a narrow street, in a tightly packed community of tiny houses, is the Escopa 2 day care center. Escopa 2, one of six Kaisahang Buhay Foundation (KBF) day care centers, is an oasis in the midst of a bustling neighborhood. The outside of the building is awash with color. The inside is clean and cool, providing a safe and comfortable space for 25 children in the morning session who jump with delight at seeing a visitor. I am entertained with songs and dances while the children stomp, cheer and mime the lyrics to their favorite songs. Their bright faces are eager with enthusiasm and hope. These are some of the new faces of Holt’s child sponsorship program.

Years ago, most of the children in Holt’s sponsorship program were orphaned and abandoned children who were in the process of intercountry adoption. As Holt’s work has expanded to impact the lives of more children, greater emphasis has been placed on keeping vulnerable families together. In the Philippines, Holt’s sponsorship program has expanded to support 300 children from impoverished communities with access to stimulating activities, social interaction and a nutritious meal at their local day care center.  Behind each face and each shy smile is the story of a family surviving despite the odds. I recently met two extraordinary families during my visit to the Philippines. They are convinced that access to day care services has been the key to keeping their family together.

Just around the corner from Escopa 2 day care center, the sixmember Jasmen family occupies a small, two-room house. Naty Jasmen and her husband, Rodolfo, are working hard to put food on the table and meet the basic needs of their four children. Rodolfo is currently unemployed, but manages to find some seasonal work planting and gardening at the local cemetery. Naty is the primary caregiver, earning income by selling rice cakes in the neighborhood.  Naty, like many parents, volunteers at the day care center once each week for three hours – doing whatever it takes to keep the center clean and provide the children with a mid-day meal. Her 5-year-old twin boys attend day care regularly and are thriving.  Naty proudly mentions that her eldest daughter used to attend day care and is now a healthy, well-adjusted first grader.

“Because of KBF’s day care program, my three oldest children have been able to learn how to write and color,” says Naty. “They enjoy spending time with other children and have become more socially independent.”  When I ask Naty about how her family has been impacted by day care services, big tears well up in her soft brown eyes. “My family does not have the financial resources we need,” she says. “The support has allowed my family to stay together, even after the death of one of my children. I am not sure what would have happened without this support.” Continue reading “A Brighter Day For Children”

SNAF Stories: It’s A Wonderful Life

Feeling grateful and inspired after adopting their daughter, Zoe, from Korea in 2010, Maryann and Cap Post decided to have a celebration — inviting 150 friends and family members. Instead of gifts, they asked for donations to Holt’s Special Needs Adoption Fund.  What happened next, quite simply, blew them away.

by Robin Munro, Senior Writer

When Maryann and Charles “Cap” Post came home from Korea in October of 2010 – their newly adopted daughter Zoe in their arms – they didn’t expect fanfare. But as they pulled into the driveway of their New Jersey home around 10 p.m. that night, flashbulbs greeted their arrival.

Zoe and Maryann at Zoe’s baptism party!

“My friends were in our driveway with cameras flashing,” says Maryann. “People were so happy for us that we adopted a little girl.”

Over the previous 2-and-a-half years, these same friends had stood by their side as they navigated the demanding and – at times – trying adoption process. “They knew the whole story of what it took, a lot of paperwork,” Maryann explains. So naturally, when Miss Zoe Ann Post finally came home, they couldn’t wait to meet her.

But after the excitement of their first night home, Maryann and Cap decided not to subject Zoe to any more excitement or over-stimulation – not for a while anyway.

After nearly a year had passed – and Zoe had settled into her new life – the Posts decided it was finally time to have a celebration. “It was time to plan her baptism, so I thought, well why don’t we make this a really big party – the party that we held off on having?” says Maryann.

By now, Zoe had become something of a local celebrity. Continue reading “SNAF Stories: It’s A Wonderful Life”

A Heartfelt Encounter in Cambodia

A Holt sponsor meets her sponsored child.  A Holt intern meets the children and families she set out to serve.

In the coming months, Oregon State University student Lauren Fletcher will shine the spotlight on our work in Cambodia, as she completes a three-month IE3 global internship with Holt partner organization Pathways to Development. Lauren, a human services major, just arrived in Phnom Penh.  And already, within her first few days, she accompanied Pathways staff on a journey to visit sponsored children in rural Takeo province.  Here, she also witnessed a truly extraordinary event — the meeting between a young woman named Corrine and the 12-year-old girl she helps support through Holt’s sponsorship program.

Corrine meets Srey Lam, the girl she sponsors through Holt.

Yesterday was a big day for me. Mr. Born, Mr. Chenda, a sponsor named Corrine and her sister and friend gathered at 7am for a journey to visit the child Corrine sponsors through Holt International. Corrine’s sister has been working in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for the last seven months.  When Corrine decided to travel from her home in Kentucky for a 10-day visit with her sister, she made sure to dedicate a full day to visit the child she began sponsoring this past summer.

The drive to the child’s home lasted about two hours, and concluded on a rough, hard-to-access road through rural Treng district.  Along the way, I saw many people planting rice. Born explained that local farmers will help one another to plant and harvest each other’s rice. To sell their produce, farmers keep bamboo stands alongside the road, where sellers sit and wait for customers in hammocks tied between the poles of the stands.

Once we arrived at our destination, Srey Lam* — the sponsored child — and her family walked up to greet us with hands traditionally placed palm-to-palm before their faces.  Because of the language barrier, we walked towards Srey Lam’s home in silence, but this did not inhibit communication between us. Everyone wore smiles on their faces, especially Srey Lam’s mother and father, while the younger siblings looked on with curiosity. Sitting in the shade of their home – an elevated hut – the thick, sweltering air of Takeo province almost felt bearable. A couple dozen people gathered around us, with gentle smiles gracing their faces.  We sat in the shade, happily sipping raw coconut juice directly from the coconut – through bendy straws inserted into their centers! Continue reading “A Heartfelt Encounter in Cambodia”