When Tieu endures a horrific accident at work and loses her source of income, she fears her daughters will be forced to drop out of school because she can’t afford their fees. But when she receives an unexpected gift, in an unusual size and shape, she begins to feel hopeful again.
Tieu lightly rests her left hand on her right arm. Her skin is painful to look at. Marbled and pocked, shiny and red and raised about an inch above her healthy skin, a severe burn runs the length of her arm, serving as a daily reminder of the gasoline fire that nearly took her life. Tieu is 40 but looks much younger, with shiny black hair parted down the side. She has five daughters — the youngest of which sits beside her now, giggling and bouncing with excitement to have visitors in her home. Another of Tieu’s daughters sits on the other side of her giggly sister, watching her mom with worry as she talks about her burn.
When Holt staff member Billie Loewen delivers a uniform to a young girl in Vietnam, she also gets a glimpse of how one small act of kindness can forever change the course of someone’s life.
I know how powerful your gifts, as donors, can be because I’ve been blessed to visit families and children who have received them — and on one especially wonderful occasion, I got to deliver a gift to one particularly sweet and inspirational 15-year-old girl.
When I met Nhi, it was a hot, humid afternoon in late June. My husband and I traveled to Vietnam on our honeymoon, but took a couple extra days to visit with children and families in Holt’s programs. This is one of my favorite parts of working for Holt. I am inspired by the families in our programs. They have big dreams and work harder than most anyone I’ve ever met. They take the small investment or hand-up we provide and completely transform their lives and the lives of their families and communities. I meet mothers, fathers and grandparents who sacrifice everything to provide for their children and grandchildren the opportunities they never had. Many of the parents and grandparents in our programs have survived unspeakable atrocities. War, violence, oppression, the worst kind of poverty. And children seem so much older than their chronological age. They take on adult chores and responsibilities from a young age.
Nhi was no different.
At 14, she was tremendously quiet and absolutely beautiful, but understated in her appearance. In contrast to many American girls, Nhi didn’t wear makeup, anything brand-name or jewelry. Her slick black hair met at the nape of her neck in a low ponytail. She wore simple jeans, flip flops and a polka dot T-shirt.
Just weeks before I arrived at her home in Danang, Vietnam, Nhi received some incredible news. After weeks and weeks of studying for her high school exams, Nhi received her test scores.
May is National Foster Care Month! In celebration, we bring you two stories — the first from the Larson family, whose a little girl overcame the challenges of early malnutrition while in the loving care of her foster family in Vietnam. In the second story, Holt adoptive mom Debbie Dunham shares how foster families serve as a “bridge of love” to children awaiting adoption in Korea. Enjoy!
A Home Full of Love For Sophie
by Linda and Steve Larson
When we were in the process of adopting our second daughter, Sophie Lan, we learned that she had been in both the orphanage and a couple different foster families. The last one she was with, in our eyes, made such a difference in shaping Sophie’s future and who she is today.
It was February 4, 2001 – the day we were to go to the Danang Rehabilitation Center for Malnourished Orphans to see and hold our Sophie for the first time. It was an amazing feeling to see this little girl of 21 months old for the first time. We were able to hold her and introduce her to her new big sister, Sadie. We also got to feed her and try to get her to drink some water. She looked at us with those big, deep brown and curious eyes…very seriously…afraid to crack a smile…afraid of what was going to change in her life…again. We had to leave her there that day and come back the next for the adoption ceremony at the Department of Justice. It was so very hard to say goodbye – even if just for a day.
During our time in Vietnam, we were fortunate to have our Holt representative take us to meet our daughter’s foster family. As we approached the front door and took off our shoes, they respectfully invited us into their home with such kindness. The look in the mother, the father and the son’s eyes told us that their home was filled with love. This was the home where our daughter Sophie learned to be a fun-loving girl with the personality of a comedian. Here, she also overcame many of the challenges and delays she developed in early life.
When Sophie came into care, she was seriously malnourished and had iron-deficiency anemia. She was smaller in size than others her age, had moderate motor skill delays, and could not sit unsupported. She could not bear her body weight on her legs. Her language skills were also delayed.
In her foster family’s care, Sophie thrived. They fed her at the same times every day with food abundant in vitamins. They assisted Sophie in learning to bear weight on her legs, and helped to develop her motor and language skills – teaching her to identify and name different objects. They also played with her and took her for walks. They interacted with her like she was their own child – taking every measure to ensure her healthy development.