Tragically orphaned just a month after they turned 1, Nin and Manee could have gone to an orphanage. And Nin might have never gotten care for her complex medical needs. But instead — thanks to loving extended family, and the support they received from Holt — both girls are healthy and thriving in the love of family.
It often happens like this: A child with disabilities is born to a family living in poverty and the parents can’t afford their medical care. Or, maybe the child’s mother or father, or even both, pass away unexpectedly, and there’s no one else who can afford to help raise them. So the child goes to an orphanage.
It’s tragic and traumatic and life-changing no matter the circumstances. And it’s almost what happened to Nin and Manee.
Twin Sisters Born in Thailand
Twin sisters Nin and Manee were born to two loving parents in Thailand. But they came two months too early. Manee was healthy, Nin was not. Nin was diagnosed with Down syndrome, and they soon realized she had many other health issues as well…
After a month at the hospital, Nin joined her sister and parents at home, but she kept getting sick. She had high fevers and had trouble breathing. She couldn’t drink milk and frequently choked. After being diagnosed with pneumonia, she had a CT scan that showed something even more dangerous — her head wasn’t developing correctly, and it was affecting her brain.
The doctors said Nin needed a craniotomy. This was the only way her brain could grow like it should. And with loving parents devoted to her health, she would be OK. Even though her parents both worked entry-level office jobs and they were already were drowning in medical bills, they were determined to find a way.
Their community came together. They held fundraisers and raised all the money they needed to cover Nin’s medical expenses!
In February 2021, Nin had her first surgery. It was successful — her brain would continue to grow as it should. At the same time, the doctor also inserted a feeding tube so that she could eat without choking.
Finally, life could become more normal for both Nin and Manee. They were reunited at home with their parents, Nin recovering in the love and care of her mother and father.
But then tragedy struck.
Orphaned at 1 Year Old
Just weeks after the surgery, the girls’ mom and dad both died in a tragic car crash. In a single day, their lives turned upside down. They had just turned 1 year old.
Immediately, Nin and Manee needed somewhere to go and someone to take care of them. For many children, the solution is often an orphanage. But fortunately, Nin and Manee’s grandparents took them in.
Whenever possible, this is what Holt strives for — for children to stay in the care of their birth or extended family, instead of in an orphanage.
Orphanages rarely have the resources to care for a child with disabilities or complex medical needs, like Nin’s. And even for healthy children, an orphanage can never provide the level of nurturing and connection that a child needs to thrive. As a result, children are often developmentally delayed one month for every three months that they stay in an institution — missing critical developmental milestones, and making it harder for them to make secure emotional attachments to a future parent.
That’s why — while Holt works to elevate the standards of care for all children living in orphanages — we also maintain that a safe and loving family is the best place for every child.
“Keeping children with their birth families or extended families provides permanency and stability for the children,” says Thoa Bui, Holt’s vice president of international programs. “It helps them maintain family connections and a sense of belonging and acceptance.”
“Keeping children with their birth families or extended families provides permanency and stability for the children. It helps them maintain family connections and a sense of belonging and acceptance.”
But this can be easier said than done. Sometimes, loving family for a child exists, but that family might not have all the resources to care for the child right away. That’s why Holt has the kinship care program. Through it, extended families receive the resources and support they need to care for their niece or nephew, grandchild, or any other child in their extended family who needs a home.
It was kinship care — from their grandmother and aunt — that saved Nin and Manee from life in an orphanage.
Safe With Family
Shortly after their parents passed, the sisters moved to southern Thailand and began living with their grandparents. It was the perfect solution at first — a loving place for these little sisters to grieve the loss of their parents and receive all the love and care they needed.
But Nin’s health issues are ongoing. She ate through tube feeding, needed expensive doctor’s appointments every two months, and even another surgery. Her grandparents couldn’t care for both girls on their own, especially in their current home.
Their grandma works as a cook, using her kitchen to prepare and sell meals all day long. It was too difficult to have two toddlers here — especially one with such involved medical needs. So, their aunt offered to care for Nin. This could work… except there was no way they could afford all of Nin’s doctor’s appointments and medicines.
Again, Nin was at risk of going to an orphanage. The sisters could have been permanently separated — their lives forever changed.
But instead, Nin received help from Holt’s kinship care program, carried out through Holt’s partner, Holt Sahathai Foundation, in southern Thailand.
Help For Medical Expenses
Nin moved into her aunt and uncle’s home — less than four miles away from where Manee stayed at their grandmother’s.
And Nin is thriving in their care! She received her second successful surgery in December 2021, and continues to attend all of her medical appointments. Her brain growth, nutritional needs and overall development are all being closely monitored by doctors and by her family.
“The aunt gives the child excellent care,” says Nin’s social worker in southern Thailand. “She’s constantly observing and monitoring her condition, while the uncle works very hard to support the family.”
Their grandmother receives a monthly stipend to care for Manee as well — and she’s even getting the funds she needs to repair her house.
Despite the short distance of four miles between the aunt and grandma’s homes, Nin and Manee are growing up together as closely as possible. They are both growing, learning and getting all the care they need — whether it be complex surgery, nutritious meals or nurturing love and attention.
The Best Place They Can Be
After losing their parents, Nin and Manee’s lives could have continued to take devastating turns. In an orphanage, they likely would have been separated due to their different levels of need. They would have grown up apart, without each other or the loving family that both of them needed so desperately.
But instead, thanks to loving extended family and the compassion of Holt donors, they have a better, different reality.
Today, they’re in the best place they can be — in the love and care of family.
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