Project Gifts of Hope

Through Holt’s Gifts of Hope catalog, English professor and adoptee Tara Robbins Fee helps her students think critically about — and find solutions to — the problems affecting our world.  

Tara with her family.
Tara with her husband and children.

I am a professor of English, wife and mom, and Holt adoptee. I spent my childhood in rural South Jersey, reading Nancy Drew mysteries and Little House books and happily running around in the woods behind the house my parents built. Growing up, I rarely thought about the five months I spent in Korea before the day I arrived at JFK airport in New York City, the day depicted in our family photos, where my mother reaches out to hold me for the first time. That was the moment that I understood as my family origin story. Continue reading “Project Gifts of Hope”

Why Give a Sewing Machine to a Family in Need

give a sewing machineFor Jayanthi in India, the gift of a sewing machine means she can feed her children, send them to school, and dream of a better future.

Jayanthi stays as quiet as she can, stealing a glance at the bed just feet away to check on 8-year-old Harshith and 3-year-old Princy. She threads another needle. It’s nearly 1:00 a.m., but she keeps working. The steady whirr whirr whirr of her sewing machine keeps the children lulled to sleep.

Jayanthi is tired. She was up at 5 a.m. to prepare breakfast for Harshith and Princy before taking them to school. She spent the rest of the day working as a maid at a wealthy family’s home. It’s steady work, but it doesn’t pay much. Jayanthi’s husband works as a daily laborer, but his work and income — as well as his involvement in the family and with his children — is inconsistent at best.

Although it’s late, Jayanthi is thankful for her sewing machine — because without it, life was even more difficult.

Continue reading “Why Give a Sewing Machine to a Family in Need”

A New Hope, A New Cow

After Dat’s father caught malaria and died three years ago, his mom was forced to sell their only cow to pay off their debts. In this story, the family’s local caseworker in Vietnam shares what happened when a generous donor replaced the family’s cow — and the family’s hope. 

Dat builds a sand bridge with bricks and sand in front of his home in southern Vietnam.
Dat builds a sand bridge with bricks and sand in front of his home in southern Vietnam.

“What are you building?” I ask Dat, the little boy playing on a small sand dune by the entrance to the house. He answers me as he continues to collect sand and pile it onto broken bricks.

“I’m building a sand bridge,” Dat answers in a soft voice without looking at me — his family’s caseworker.

“Is your mom home?” I ask.

Dat continues working on his sand bridge. ‘She’s in the field now,’ he says. Continue reading “A New Hope, A New Cow”

5 Ways School Supplies Change Kids’ Lives

In developing countries around the world, going to school means much more than learning.

At the Yesus Mena Deaf School in Shinshicho, Ethiopia, Holt donors provide the books and supplies that children need to learn.  Many of these kids had no way to communicate before this sign language-based school opened in their community!

But before children can go to school, they need — and are often required to have — specific school supplies. The cost of supplies and uniforms are often too high for families living in poverty — causing children to drop out early. Below, we list five ways that your gift of school supplies can change kids’ lives.

Continue reading “5 Ways School Supplies Change Kids’ Lives”

Confidence, and a Cow

When her husband became ill, Dinknesh suddenly had to provide for her family on her own. She didn’t know where to begin, and her family quickly fell into poverty. Then sponsors and donors came together to empower Dinknesh, giving her two of the most powerful Gifts of Hope — confidence, and a cow.

Like many women in rural Ethiopia, Dinknesh had a more traditional role in her family before her husband fell sick. She worked incredibly hard to maintain her home and care for her two sons while her husband, a farmer, worked the fields to bring in an income and meet the basic needs of their family.

But when he became ill, he could not work and was bedridden for months.

Suddenly, Dinknesh had to provide for her children on her own.

Continue reading “Confidence, and a Cow”

Six Families Receive New Homes in Cambodia

In Cambodia’s impoverished Prey Veng province, children and families live in conditions that no one should ever live in. 

Every day, these families sleep, study and eat their meals under roofs that leak, inside palm leaf walls – unstable homes that cannot protect them from the rain and wind. But because of Holt’s generous donors, many families in this community now have hope. Working alongside local partner Child and Life Association (CLA), Holt donors recently provided new homes and necessary renovations for six of the most vulnerable families in Pre Veng province. 

Through these new and safe living conditions, these families’ lives have dramatically changed.

VeunSam Oun's Family – Before
Veung Sam Oun's Family – After
Continue reading “Six Families Receive New Homes in Cambodia”

We Will Never Forget You

As the oldest child in a single-parent home, Mol Vey felt the need to help support his family. After losing his father at a young age, his mom struggled on one income. But he could only do so much, and often missed school to help his mom. Then sponsors and donors stepped in — providing the tools and resources his family needed to stay together, and grow stable and strong.

Mol Vey with his mother, Leng Sina, and younger brother.

Mol Vey lives with his mother, Leng Sina, and younger brother in Prey Kuy village — a small village located in Cambodia’s rural Prey Veng province.

His father died from diabetes when Mol Vey was just 4 years old, and his family already struggled to survive on minimal income. But when he passed away, their living conditions grew even worse.

Continue reading “We Will Never Forget You”

How a Cow Helped One Mom Save Her Family

When you give the gift of a cow, you can change a family’s life. In one impoverished community in rural Ethiopia, Holt donors have become like celebrities for all of the generous gifts of hope — especially cows — that they have given to so many families over the years. But as the story of one young mom shows, the greatest gift is often not the gift itself — but what it inspires in the hearts of those who receive it.

Meselech’s home is the smallest in her village.

A traditional, conical-shaped hut made of mud and eucalyptus branches, it’s the same style home as most families’ homes in her community. But the thatching on the roof has worn so thin that when it rains, Meselech and her children have to huddle to stay dry under the broad, droopy leaf of a “false banana” tree.

Meselech, her husband and her four children sleep inside this one-room home — some on elevated beds, others on the floor.

They are six people, living side by side in one room. But they are not alone. Continue reading “How a Cow Helped One Mom Save Her Family”

Realizing Her Potential

Widowed at 38, and supporting six children, Sao Yien struggled to make ends meet. But when she received a Gift of Hope to build a small business, she realized how strong and independent she truly could be.

Thoa Bui (left), Holt’s vice president of programs in South and S.E. Asia, hugs Sao Yien as she cries on her shoulder during their recent visit.

When Sao Yien said goodbye to Thoa, she buried her head in Thoa’s shoulder and cried. She didn’t say anything. She just cried. And so did Thoa.

Thoa Bui is Holt’s vice president of programs in South and Southeast Asia. Sao Yien is a woman in our family strengthening program in Battambang, Cambodia. A widow, Sao is the sole support for seven members of her family, including her own child, her sister’s five children and her 90-year-old grandmother. Until two years ago, when Holt’s social work team in Cambodia began working with Sao, she and her family were living in extreme poverty.

“At that moment before we parted,” Thoa says, “she was crying — and I was crying too to be honest — and I said I have a lot of feelings because I totally understand what you have gone through, and I understand the burden of responsibility that you continue to carry for these children and your family.” Continue reading “Realizing Her Potential”

This Gift of Hope Keeps Kids and Families Safe and Warm!

Preun’s three children outside their home before repairs.

Cold. Wet. Shivering at night. Constant colds and flu. Kids with sleep deprivation. For Preun, a single mother of three school-aged children, this was simply her reality.

With no money to repair her leaking roof and thatched walls, the rainy season in Cambodia was absolutely miserable — and a very serious threat to her children.

Every time it rained, her children’s school supplies, their precious rations of rice and few blankets were soaked or ruined. Her children struggled to keep up in school. The coconut leaves they used for walls dripped with cold, dirty water. When they fell sick, they could not afford to see a doctor.

But in June, Preun received the most surprising, exciting, miraculous news! Continue reading “This Gift of Hope Keeps Kids and Families Safe and Warm!”