Giving Tuesday 2020: Rising Food Costs, Hungry Children

The cost of basic food has risen all around the world because of the pandemic, and families living in poverty can’t keep up. But this Giving Tuesday, Holt donors have the chance to do something about it and feed a hungry child. 

Can you imagine not having enough food to feed your child?

This is the heartbreaking reality for so many families living in poverty around the world. Unfortunately, food scarcity is nothing new to families working each day, hoping to make enough daily wage to buy food. But in 2020, there are new reasons why children are going hungry. (The same reason why Holt’s 2020 Giving Tuesday campaign is all about giving food to hungry children!)

Here’s why children are going hungry:

Continue reading “Giving Tuesday 2020: Rising Food Costs, Hungry Children”

5 Ways You Feed Hungry Children

Hunger is one of the most devastating needs among children living in poverty. Every day, our staff around the world meet new children who don’t have enough to eat. So many children are sick, dangerously thin, have low energy, listless eyes and more because of lack of food. It’s heartbreaking.

But hunger is also one of the biggest needs Holt donors help meet. This year alone, Holt donors will have helped to feed more than 50,000 children by Thanksgiving.

And for Thanksgiving this year, so many people are choosing to share their blessings with a child in need by giving them nourishing food.

Your gift to help feed a hungry child can look several different ways in the field. But by whatever means and in whichever circumstance, you help to meet children exactly where they are — rushing food to them in the moment they need it most.

Here are 5 ways you help feed children around the world!

Continue reading “5 Ways You Feed Hungry Children”

Children Overcome Anemia in Rural Vietnam

Children’s health dramatically improves just one year after implementing Holt’s Child Nutrition Program in Vietnam.

Distant mountains lead to rolling green hillsides and stepped rice terraces in this rural agricultural province in Vietnam. The environment is beautiful, lush, fertile. So much so, that you would never know that children here suffer from malnutrition. Continue reading “Children Overcome Anemia in Rural Vietnam”

How Nutrition Changes Lives

Holt International’s Child Nutrition Program has seen amazing success since it began 3 years ago in India, China and Vietnam. But even more amazing are the stories of individual children whose lives and health have dramatically changed with better nutrition and feeding methods. 

Ajay* is a sweet young boy whose potential and personality were long unrealized. He lives in a care center in Pune, India and has cerebral palsy in addition to other physical and mental disabilities. He is almost 4 years old, but appears small and skinny for his age — a result of malnutrition. Ajay’s days are pretty uneventful: he lies in his crib and when he is fed, also while lying down, he is barely able to choke down his food.

Ayush with his care giver-2
Ajay, being fed by his caregiver.

But one day was different. On this day, he sat up in a chair for one of the first times ever. Although he can’t speak, the expression on his face and the light in his eyes seemed to clearly shout: “Hello world, here I am!”

Continue reading “How Nutrition Changes Lives”

The Gifts of Family and Food

As we prepare for another Thanksgiving feast with family and friends, Holt’s nutrition initiatives coordinator shares what she has learned over the past year about the unique nutritional challenges children face when they grow up in institutional care — and how Holt’s orphan nutrition program is working to ensure all children receive the proper nutrition they need to grow and thrive. 

ONP CHANGCHUN SAFE Practicum Training (256)
Improperly feeding children with special needs can lead to choking and aspiration. This year, Holt partnered with SPOON Foundation to provide feeding training to caregivers at orphanages in India, Vietnam and China, as pictured here.

It’s that time of year. Pumpkin-spiced everything, leaves falling everywhere, turkey, stuffing and graaaavy creeping into my daydreams. Thanksgiving is upon us.

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday because I truly do have so much to be grateful for. And as I reflect on the last year — a year in which I traveled around the world meeting and serving children through Holt’s Orphan Nutrition Program (ONP) — I feel an even greater sense of gratitude.

Two years ago, Holt received a four-year grant to pilot a program that gives orphanages a system to monitor their children’s growth and anemia prevalence as well as training on how to properly nourish and feed children. Continue reading “The Gifts of Family and Food”

Orphan Nutrition Update

Holt’s Child Nutrition Program team travels to India, where the program’s impact on the health and wellbeing of children — as well as the reach and ripple effects of the trainings — continue to grow.

BSSK NutritionChahel* would not have survived. Born premature with a serious heart condition, he came into care shortly after birth at a rural branch site of our legacy partner, Bharatiya Samaj Seva Kendra (BSSK), outside the central India city of Pune. Transferred to Pune for better care, Chahel needed constant hemoglobin testing and regular blood transfusions. Fortunately, Holt had recently equipped the staff at BSSK with a Hemocue machine and training to measure hemoglobin for iron-deficiency anemia. Chahel received the medical interventions he needed and today, he is able to stand with support and recently took his first few steps. BSSK is now seeking a loving family for him.

Sabal* and Ibha* were frail and seriously underweight when they came into care. At 15 months, Sabal weighed just 18 pounds, while Ibha at nearly 2 months weighed under 5 pounds. This brother and sister were always tired and struggled to adjust to life in care at BSSK. Well fed at BSSK and fully treated for their health conditions — Ibha was living with HIV, and Sabal wore an eye patch over his infected left eye — their continued failure to thrive puzzled the caregivers and staff. When staff from Holt and our partner SPOON Foundation visited BSSK in February 2015, they helped to correct nutritional deficiencies in Ibha and Sabal. With adjustments to their diet, today they are full of joy and life and the staff feel confident they can find a loving adoptive family for them.

Sabal, Ibha and Chahel are just a few of the children who are benefiting from Holt’s child nutrition initiative since we began implementing it in partnership with SPOON Foundation a little over two years ago. In this short time, the  child nutrition program** has had a tremendous impact on the health and lives of hundreds of children at pilot program sites in India, China and Vietnam. With plans to expand to more countries in the coming years, the child nutrition program will ultimately impact thousands — thousands of children whose low energy and poor health were previously a mystery to their caregivers. Children whose nutritional deficiencies undermined their ability to reach developmental markers, to grow and learn with the same vigor as other children, to thrive in care and one day, a family. Continue reading “Orphan Nutrition Update”

These Children are Thriving

With the support of Holt child sponsors, nearly 1,500 children at seven daycare centers in Vietnam now have a safe place to learn and play during the day.  At one preschool and daycare center in southern Dong Nai province, free milk and nourishing school lunches have helped to drop malnutrition rates from 7.5 percent to less than 1 percent. When Holt staff members visited the school in early June of this year, many of the children were busy coloring pictures for their sponsors — a new feature of Holt’s sponsorship program designed to strengthen communication between sponsors and the children they help support.

Twenty miles outside of Ho Chi Minh City in southern Vietnam, tucked between marshy fields of growing rice, stands a small preschool and daycare center. When we visit in early June, only about a third of the number of students who attend during the school year are present. Still, the sound of children playing is deafening as we drive up — with giggles and high voices joyfully resounding off the cement walls and through the open air doors of this four-room school. The air is hot and steamy from overnight rains, and children run barefoot on the cool cream-and-yellow tiles of the school — their shoes in a pile in the hallway. They are between the ages of 2 and 5, and the little ones are watching a Tom and Jerry cartoon in one classroom when we arrive. They are engrossed in the show and barely acknowledge us when we peek inside. The older ones are busy coloring pictures in the room next door, and they look up with bright eyes and toothy grins when we join their class.

Two years ago, the atmosphere at this school was quite different. When the Long Hung School opened in 2005 to serve the children of this rural farming community, many families failed to see the purpose or benefit of sending their children to preschool or their littler ones to daycare. In their community, the elders of the family traditionally care for children at home while their parents farm the land during the day. The school itself was run down and had no water supply for cooking or drinking, and the cost of tuition — $3/month, $23/month with lunch — seemed an unnecessary burden to many of the families in this low-income area. Only 41 children enrolled that first year.

Then, in 2012, the local authority referred Holt Vietnam to upgrade equipment as well as the quality of care and programs for the children — and, ultimately, to attract more children to the school.

“When Holt came, only 41 families had signed up their children to enroll,” the principle shared during our visit. “Two months later, it came up to 78. By the end of the semester, the number increased to 102. The next year, we were able to enroll 141.” Continue reading “These Children are Thriving”

This Little Girl Needs Your Help

You wouldn’t know it from looking at her, but this little girl is severely malnourished.

She lives in an orphanage in southern Vietnam, where she recently came into care after recovering at a rehabilitation center in nearby Ho Chi Minh City. She is as light and soft as a feather — and eager to rest her downy head against the shoulder of anyone who will hold her.

In this picture, you can see her clinging to Holt’s vice president of marketing, who met her two weeks ago while visiting our programs in the region. She was so cuddly, he said. But although her eyes were bright and alert and responsive to nurturing touch, her health and her future remain uncertain.

She is still under intensive care at the orphanage, where caregivers are doing all they can to help her thrive. Despite their efforts, however, she is still severely malnourished and will very likely experience cognitive delays.

She is the reason why I am writing to you today — and why I have been writing to you over the past couple of weeks, asking for you to partner with us to strengthen nutrition and feeding for children we serve overseas.

Malnutrition remains a chronic problem among orphaned and abandoned children. Very often, they are born premature or underweight to young mothers who lacked the prenatal care so vital to their baby’s early development. When abandoned at birth, these babies also miss out on the essential nutrients in their mother’s milk — weakening their immune systems and setting them up for lifelong struggles.

This is why a child’s first 1,000 days are so critical.

This is also why our partnership with SPOON Foundation is so groundbreaking. SPOON’s nutrition scientist has already visited this orphanage in Vietnam for an initial assessment. Very soon, she will return to begin assessing the children one by one, and develop a plan to help combat malnutrition and ensure every child reaches his or her full potential.

I have every confidence that SPOON’s plan will work, as it already has at our partner orphanages in India — where the small changes they made to diet and feeding have already dramatically reduced both anemia, a major threat to children’s health, and malnutrition among children in care.

Right now, we are in a tremendous position to make a huge difference for thousands of children. Just at this one orphanage in Vietnam, ten children in care are severely malnourished — including the cuddly girl pictured here. And these ten are among thousands of children we serve in countries around the world — many of them at risk of or already suffering from malnutrition, which is hands-down the biggest killer of children under 5.

Together with you, we can face malnutrition as a united front — working with our partner SPOON to train orphanage staff in the most innovative feeding techniques, and providing the vital nutrition children need to grow, learn and rise out of poverty.

 

Nutrition appeal

Every year, nearly 10.9 million children under the age of 5 die from preventable causes — nearly 60 percent are from malnutrition. Malnutrition and hunger-related disease takes more lives than tuberculosis, AIDs and malaria combined. In orphanage care, nearly 85 percent of children have significant nutrition and health-related problems.

Even for children who survive malnutrition, illnesses like anemia — which some experts estimate affects more than half of children in orphan care — can have very serious consequences for a growing child.

Anemia is usually caused by a lack of iron — a mineral critical to brain development. Brain development in children under 5 is extremely accelerated, so an iron deficiency can tremendously impact long-term cognitive and emotional growth. Studies of anemic children have shown that they have lower IQs and perform more poorly in school. Iron is also very important in disease prevention and immunity. Those who are iron-deficient tend to get sick more easily and for longer periods of time.

Today, thanks to a four-year grant from a private foundation, Holt and our partner agency SPOON Foundation are combating malnutrition head on by training caregivers on improved feeding techniques, treating and monitoring children who show signs of hunger-related illness, and fighting against the leading causes of malnutrition.

At a care center in India, one of Holt’s pilot sites, the prevalence of anemia in children dropped from 45 percent to nine percent in just six months of working with SPOON.

Watch the video below to learn more about how Holt is eliminating nutrition-related issues in children through our partnership with SPOON. Or, read more about our work with SPOON here.

Then, please offer your support! We are in a tremendous position to impact the lives of thousands of children in our care, but we need your help. Give a gift to help vulnerable children have the chance to flourish.

Holt International and SPOON Foundation in India from Holt International on Vimeo.

A Nourishing Start

After a successful pilot project, Holt and SPOON Foundation secure a four-year grant to implement a nutrition and feeding program for orphaned and abandoned children in five more countries — starting this year in China and Vietnam.

It’s lunchtime at an orphanage in southern Vietnam. Children eat their meals in separate rooms— grouped together by age and degree of special need — and caregivers help feed the youngest and most disabled children. In one room, a caregiver is feeding a boy on a stretcher. He is about 8 years old and has severe spastic cerebral palsy. Many of the other children in this room have cognitive or behavioral delays, and you can hear them screaming or clapping in the background. Some are waiting their turn to be fed. One sits on the floor, feeding herself.

The caregiver is a young woman who wears her hair in a neat bun and little pearls in her ears. She smiles as she spoons congee into the mouth of the boy with CP, who is laying flat on his back with a towel spread across his chest and his arms up around his head. Congee is a watery rice soup common in Vietnam and other parts of East and SE Asia, but it’s especially difficult for a child with CP to swallow. The boy keeps shaking and coughing — sometimes gagging — after each spoonful. Unsure what to do, the caregiver continues feeding him — rubbing his chest as he coughs. Thinking he might have an easier time if flatter on his back, she lowers the stretcher. This only makes it harder for him to swallow, and he shakes as he tries not to choke on his food.

Two years ago, Holt teamed up with SPOON Foundation, a Portland, Oregon nonprofit and truly the first organization worldwide to take a special focus on improving nutrition and feeding for orphaned, fostered and adopted children. After identifying two pilot sites among Holt’s partner organizations overseas, SPOON implemented a nutrition screening system and trained caregivers and staff to properly track the growth and nutrition of children in care. Looking at the diet and feeding practices at each care center, SPOON also suggested small changes that could dramatically reduce malnutrition and improve the overall health and wellbeing of the children.

After implementing the nutrition program in India, anemia prevalence dropped dramatically among children in care.

In India, these changes included introducing cow milk to infants at 6 months instead of 3-4 months; delaying the introduction of cereal to infants to when they are 4-6 months instead of 2-3 months; providing iron supplements with Vitamin C to increase absorption and adjusting the dosage depending on whether the child is anemic; and giving iron at mealtimes but not with milk, which lowers absorption. Although some nutritional measurements such as stunting and head size will take longer to show impact, one outcome was immediate. Just six months after SPOON implemented these changes, anemia prevalence among the children dropped from 45 percent… to nine. At one site, anemia was completely eliminated.

“Anemia is the big issue children face in orphanage care,” says Dan Lauer, Holt’s VP of Africa programs. Dan helped forge Holt’s partnership with SPOON. “If 75 percent of children are anemic, we have a real issue.”

Most commonly caused by a deficiency of iron, anemia can have very severe consequences for a growing child. As Zeina Makhoul, SPOON’s nutrition scientist, explains, “Iron is a very important mineral for brain development. For a child between 0 and 5-years-old — especially between 0 and 2 — this is when their brain is developing at an accelerated rate.  So having a deficiency in iron at that time is really going to impact their brain development.” Long-term studies of anemic children have shown that they have lower IQs and perform more poorly in school. Iron is also very important in disease prevention and immunity. As Zeina explains, “Those who are iron-deficient tend to get sick more easily and for longer periods of time and then those who are sick have poor appetite, and poor appetite means not enough nutrients. Not enough nutrients mean iron- and other deficiencies. It’s an ongoing cycle.” Continue reading “A Nourishing Start”