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?”
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.
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.
Patric and Holly Campbell read to their children Miles and Lauryn Campbell in their home in Eugene. The Campbell family adopted Miles from Ethiopia in 2009. Since then, Patric Campbell has helped organize medical equipment and other help for other families in the area where Miles is from, south of Addis Abbaba, the capital and Ethiopia’s largest city.
This is Luke Williams! His photo and many other adorable faces grace the pages of Holt’s 2013 Calendar. You can purchase your calendar today for just $10! An added bonus and Perfect Christmas gift: Calendar proceeds go to support vulnerable children around the world! Purchase your 2013 Holt Calendar by clicking, here.
In July 2012, 13 Oregon State University students traveled with Holt to Silti, Ethiopia. While they came to build homes for families in Holt’s family-strengthening program, they also brought with them over 200 pairs of shoes to distribute among the families. For some, these would be the first pair of shoes they had ever owned.
Silti is a peaceful farming community at the westernmost edge of the Great Rift Valley. With breathtaking mountain views and a patchwork landscape in eye-popping shades of green, life in this fertile valley of southern Ethiopia is easy to romanticize.
In many ways, Silti is an idyllic setting. Here, children run barefoot through open fields – safe from the dangers of the city. Everyone knows everyone’s child, and the whole community is looking out for them. There are no factories in Silti. No cars or parking lots. No power lines, no landfills. No one has paved this paradise.
In other ways, life in Silti, Ethiopia is not so ideal. Silti is rich in culture and natural beauty. But in the strictest definition of the term, the residents of Silti are achingly poor. They do not choose to live without electricity or running water. Most would prefer to live in homes made of brick, not of mud and dung. And it’s not just children playing in summer who go barefoot. For many of Silti’s residents, even shoes are a luxury. Continue reading “Oregon State Students Give Over 200 Pairs of Shoes to Families in Ethiopia”
“So you’re the guy I need to talk to about a donation for Holt.”
As one of Holt’s directors of donor relations, Larry Carter loves hearing these words. And yes, he is the guy to talk to. About a year and a half ago, Larry received a phone call from a Holt adoptive father named Patric Campbell. Patric needed to talk to Larry about a donation.
This one was unusual.
In 2009, Patric and Holly Campbell traveled to Ethiopia to bring home their son, Miles. While there, they visited the maternal-child hospital that Holt is building in the rural, southern region of Shinshicho – an impoverished community very close to their son’s birthplace. Across the road from the hospital stood a health clinic providing limited outpatient services for Shinshicho and neighboring communities — the only health facility in a region of about 250,000 people. Anyone requiring more involved health care would have to travel 12 miles to the nearest hospital. But few people have the resources to go that far. This often creates a life-or-death situation for seriously ill patients, especially children and pregnant women.
By building a hospital, Holt is working to meet the urgent healthcare needs in this community.
In communities throughout rural Ethiopia, Holt works with individual families to improve their health and wellbeing. In one community, Holt is going one major step further. Once complete, the Shinshicho Mother and Child Hospital will provide acute, quality care and emergency treatment for thousands of families and children — a vital service, especially when hours can mean the difference between life and death.
She came wrapped in sheets, lying on the bed of an uncovered, two-wheeled cart pulled by a donkey. At her side sat a family member, holding an umbrella to shield her from the scorching sun. We came in air-conditioned vans – a group of 13 Oregon State University student-athletes, a few Holt staff members and two Holt adoptive fathers. As we arrived, we parked alongside the sick woman’s cart where, collapsed in exhaustion, lay her donkey – its fur and hooves matted with red clay. Very likely, this woman and her donkey traveled miles over rough dirt roads to reach the health clinic here – the only one in a region of 250,000 people.
Three years ago, Holt renovated and expanded this government-run, maternal-child health clinic in Shinshicho – a district capitol and very poor community in southern Ethiopia. Run-down and understaffed, the clinic saw few patients. Instead, most people traveled the 12 miles to the nearest hospital – many on foot. If they didn’t have the resources or were too sick to travel that far, they would often just stay home and wait. Wait to get better. Or wait to die.
Over a week ago, our group landed in Addis Ababa, piled into vans and headed south for Silti – a rural agricultural region where Holt has worked to support struggling families for the past two years. Over six days in Silti, the students built house of mud, straw and eucalyptus for two of the most vulnerable families.
On the seventh day, en route to a big game park in the far south, we stopped to visit Shinshicho. We toured the clinic that Holt helped renovate in 2009. But what we really came to see is the construction project across the road. Here, towering over the clinic and surrounding community, stands the soon-to-be Shinshicho Mother and Child Health Center – the hospital Holt is building for the people of this community.
Two months after I started work at Holt International, I helped advocate for the adoption of “Melissa”, an almost 14-year-old girl from China who, in just four months, would lose her international adoption eligibility. It would be the first time that I really understood my purpose at Holt: to find this little girl a family, before it was too late. This was my calling.
Not just me, but the entire Holt staff rallied around Melissa. One staff member even wrote a touching story about her for Holt’s e-newsletter, summing up Holt’s mission in a single poignant line: “Melissa is excited to have a family of her own,” she wrote. “At Holt, we believe this dream is worth fighting for.”
A dream worth fighting for. I think about this line often, especially when describing Holt’s“Waiting Children.” Older children, like Melissa, and children with special needs will often wait longer to have families of their own. It takes a unique and tremendous amount of commitment and care to bring a Waiting Child into ones home. And it simply isn’t for everyone. But at Holt, we believe it’s something worth fighting for.
Bertha Holt once said, “all children are beautiful when they are loved.” Her quote has since become a hallmark of this organization. It’s what keeps Holt going even when finding a family for a particular child becomes difficult, or seems impossible. We fight for the child — and all the children — and never give up.
With that, I give you Trent.
I met Trent in Ethiopia last April. Bombarded with adorable children when I walked through the door of the Addis Ababa transitional center, I took time to
make sure each child felt special and acknowledged. It was different with Trent though. When I saw Trent, he made me feel special. His smile made me feel like he had waited all day for me to walk into the room. His high fives and soft hugs made me determined to find this little guy a permanent home.
I simply cannot wait for Trent’s future family, whoever they may be, to walk in the door, and have Trent greet them with the same charming smile, and the same gentle and enthusiastic embrace that he greeted me with.
Only this time, it will be different. It will be forever.
Abandoned as an infant and found wrapped in a cloth, it is suspected that Trent sustained a brain injury in his first months of life, which may have lead to a subdural hematoma and his subsequent developmental delays. He will need medical treatment in the United States and a special family open to dealing with some unknowns.
“[Trent] is doing so much better since the last time I saw him,” said Holt board member Dr. Becca Brandt, on a medical campaign to Ethiopia in November. “He now has many words. He knows all the nannies by name, uses phrases such as ‘give me please’ and is saying much more. Trent can walk with support, loves giving kisses and is very affectionate. He even blew me a kiss to say goodbye,” continued Brandt.
I have faith that one day Trent will have a family of his own. It may take a lot of advocating on his behalf. It will most certainly require prayer. It may not be easy, but remembering Trent’s smiling face, I know someday it will all be worth it. It’s something worth fighting for.
Trent is worth fighting for.
For more information about Trent, contact Kristen Henry at email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.