Unprecedented Times: Why Holt Must Still Fundraise Through This Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has affected everyone, and in ways that may make giving more difficult. But we are simply amazed by the incredible commitment and generosity of our donors — even in a time of global crisis. You have not forgotten the children, and neither will we.

A message from Phillip Littleton, Holt’s president & CEO: 

Along with you and the rest of the world, Holt is figuring out how to press on with our lives and our work during this time of global crisis.

Everything has changed. Our headquarters, branches and offices overseas are empty as employees work from home. Social workers here at home and around the world are continuing to serve children and families, and this often means finding new ways to do so from afar.

Unprecedented is the word that we keep using to describe this new normal. Few, if any of us, alive today have ever experienced anything like this. And even as global leaders in the field of international adoption and child welfare, we are humbled by the challenges we now face as an organization.

But the question before us is this: what should Holt do in this unprecedented time?

The answer is clear. We continue the work. Because we must. Because children and families rely on us.

As each new and unforeseen challenge arises, we are guided by Holt’s core mission: to help children. And right now, that means meeting their most critical, emergency needs — of which there are many.

Children and families who were safe and stable a month ago are now in desperate need because of this pandemic. Each day for the past month, we’ve received updates from our programs around the world.

Orphanages are in desperate need of masks, disinfectant and thermometers to help protect the children in care from getting sick. As many children in care already have medical needs and suppressed immune systems, this is a matter of truly grave importance.

help a mom during the coronavirus
Even before this pandemic, families around the world struggled to feed their children.

In India, Haiti, Vietnam and Thailand, hundreds of families living in extreme poverty have lost their jobs. They already lived hand-to-mouth. Without an income and with zero safety net, they cannot even feed their children. Some families are under a complete, enforced lockdown, so even if they had money, they have no way of getting out to buy food. There is no grocery delivery. Mothers are calling our partner organization in tears, legitimately afraid that their children will starve.

In Mongolia, all schools have closed — including the Holt-supported Red Stone School and other informal schools for children living in or near garbage dumps. The free meal these children ate at school was often the only meal they ate all day. Now, they are back working in the garbage dump, searching for food or recyclables to sell.

help families in Colombia during the coronavirus
This mom and her sons are supported by Holt’s programs in Colombia.

In Colombia, the number of domestic violence cases has increased by a startling 70 percent since the beginning of the pandemic. Our partner organization there is now desperately trying to open a temporary shelter for children who need to escape dangerous family situations.

I could go on, as the needs become more and more urgent every day.

We need to step up and provide a safety net for these children and families. Now.

But while the need is immediate, it is also long-term. Holt International needs to survive this pandemic and this season of economic depression — for the hundreds of thousands of children who rely on us now, and for those we will serve in the future.

While we have planned for unforeseen global scenarios for years, we never could have fully prepared for the crisis we are now facing. Our leadership team has been meeting daily throughout this crisis, re-projecting budgets and working to figure out what work can and must continue. We anticipate that Holt will be at an over $3 million loss by the end of our fiscal year. We are projecting dramatically fewer donations to children and families in Holt programs because of the global recession this pandemic has created and we are also seeing an inevitable pause in some steps of the adoption process.

But donations — whether a $43-a-month child sponsorship or a thousand-dollar yearly gift — are the means by which we help children.

This is why we continue to fundraise during this pandemic. Fundraising, in addition to our prayers, is the only way we can help the children and families who rely on us.

To be honest, I hesitated at first to ask donors to give right now. This pandemic has affected everyone, and in ways that may make giving more difficult.

But then I remembered the incredible commitment and generosity of our donors. Donors who help children unite with their families, feed them when they’re hungry, provide safe shelter, give lifesaving medical care to children in orphanages, empower families in poverty to stay together, and so much more. Donors and sponsors who give month after month, year after year. People who care deeply about children and families in need around the world — even in a time of global crisis.

fundraise to help during coronavirus
At the very beginning of the coronavirus crisis, your helped provide critical medical supplies and protective equipment to 600 children at the orphanage in Wuhan, as well as to children and caregivers at other nearby orphanages.

We are simply amazed by how many of our donors have reached out to ask how they can help during this time. They have not forgotten the children, and neither will we.

Because of the children and families who are in grave need, Holt has a responsibility to keep going. A responsibility to continue asking for your help to meet the needs of orphaned children and vulnerable families.

We also have a tremendous responsibility to continue stewarding your gifts in the most effective way possible during this time. In the midst of this pandemic, prudent stewardship means cutting internal costs as much as we can so that as much of your gift as possible goes to meet the emergency needs of children.

In response, we have scaled back the hours of all of our employees to 80 percent, pushing towards greater efficiency wherever we can. We have postponed all travel through early fall. We are making critical cuts in order to stay resilient and effective — in order to continue our work for children and families in greatest need.

While the situation is grim in the U.S., it in most cases doesn’t compare to what families already living in extreme poverty are now facing. My tone and heart in saying this is with the most compassion possible. Their situation is truly dire. And it’s our responsibility and great privilege to help.

This time each year, we ask sponsors to send a special birthday message and gift to their sponsored child. This year is no different.

So in the past several weeks, you may have noticed that Holt has continued to ask for your donations to help children and families. In fact, you may have seen even more of it. We’re continuing our work to provide adoption grants to families through the Special Needs Adoption Fund. We’re continuing the International Day of the Child birthday celebrations and gifts for children in sponsorship. We are pressing on to share not only stories of need, but stories of hope among the children and families you support around the world. Stories that show the incredible difference you are making in their lives, even — and especially — now.

In addition to all of this, you have probably received emails, social media asks and phone calls sharing specifically about the great need this pandemic has created. We do this out of a deep and important responsibility to the children and families we serve.

In this difficult time, 1 Corinthians 15:58 encourages my mind and heart: “My dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

The work that we do together for children and families around the world is the Lord’s work. He has blessed Holt International for over 64 years and I am confident that He will give us the guidance and wisdom to make it through this difficult time as we work steadfastly through it.

I wish to extend my deepest and most heartfelt thanks to our sponsors and donors who have given so generously over this time. And I also urge you, please, continue to give.

I recognize the amazing sacrifice and generosity it takes to give, especially now.

But if we come together in faith and in action, I am confident that Holt — and the children and families we serve together with you — will make it through this crisis.

Unprecedented times call for unprecedented perseverance, unprecedented compassion, unprecedented generosity and unprecedented action from all of us — Holt staff in the U.S., our staff and partner organizations around the world, and also from you, our Holt families and most generous child sponsors and donors.

Phillip Littleton | President & CEO

coronavirus orphanage in china
Little girl holding a baby chick

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