What is Holt sponsorship?

How far-reaching is its impact, and how does it change a child’s life?

It really depends where you look.

DSC_0345In one community in Ethiopia with a high rate of deafness, sponsorship helps children attend a special school for the deaf — which, in turn, helps keep them off the streets and in their families. In Vietnam and the Philippines, sponsorship supports day care for children from low-income families — providing a critical early education, and a safe, nurturing environment while parents work during the day.  In India, many Holt sponsors help cover the cost of school fees and supplies for children at high risk of dropping out — most of them girls who would likely otherwise work as domestic servants. For many children in Korea, sponsorship helps to ensure they can stay in nurturing foster families while they wait to join loving adoptive ones. While in China, many once “at-risk children” are now graduating high school and college — in no small thanks to their wonderful Holt sponsors.

Although sponsorship and the children it serves looks different in different communities, its impact is always the same. Sponsorship ensures children have all they need to reach_DSC0003 their full potential in life. It ensures they can grow up without the fear of not having enough to eat. It ensures they can focus on their studies with the assurance of knowing that when they successfully pass one grade, they can go on to the next. It means they can stay in the loving care of their birth family, despite the hardships they face. Or, if they lost their family, sponsorship promises they will always have a dedicated someone  — a foster mother or nurturing caregiver — to love and care for them while Holt works to find them a loving adoptive family.

So what is Holt sponsorship? Sponsorship is an act of selflessness, of generosity, of kindness and love. It is often the key to making a child’s dreams come true. And it is one of the loveliest ways in which you can change a child’s life… forever.

My Friend, My Sponsor…
Through regular correspondence, a girl in China receives support and encouragement from her sponsor in the U.S.

Su Mu was in middle school when she entered Holt’s sponsorship program. Today, she is a 21-year-old medical student.

Su Mu was in middle school when she entered Holt’s sponsorship program. Today, she is a 21-year-old medical student.

On Thanksgiving Day last year, a young woman named Su Mu sat down at her desk in China to compose an email to her sponsor in the U.S. “Dear my friend–my sponsor,” she typed. “Today is Thanksgiving Day.”

Thanksgiving is not typically observed in China. But on this day, this young woman thought of her American friend celebrating a holiday on which we traditionally give thanks for the many blessings in our lives. It seemed only fitting that on Thanksgiving, she would write her own message of thanks to a person who had greatly blessed hers.

“Knowing you and your family is my honor and my happiness,” she wrote. “I want to tell you a good news. In my mid-term examination, I get good grades. My linear algebra and my computer got the first place. I total score also got the first place. I am very happy! I will work hard to make my dream come true.”

Although a scholar of math and science at the university where she studies in northeastern Heilongjiang province, Su Mu struggles a bit in English and the sentences she typed on her computer were not perfect. But that was really beside the point. If anything, it only reinforced the determined and heartfelt sincerity with which she strived to express her gratitude to the person who, though she had never personally met him, had once helped her pursue her dreams — asking for nothing in return.

For this beautiful gift, Su Mu would find the words.

Su Mu grew up in Fu’an, a mountainous region of Fujian province on the southeastern coast of China, facing Taiwan. Shortly after she was born, her father left home and never returned. Heartbroken, her mother never recovered and later developed a mental illness. Su Mu and her mother moved in with Su Mu’s grandparents, who cared for them despite their own poverty and failing health. To support the family, Su Mu’s grandparents worked for local farmers, harvesting tea leaves and planting fruit. Combined, their labors generated an average income of about 3,000rmb, or less than $500, per year — hardly enough to cover the family’s basic needs, let alone her grandparents’ growing medical expenses and Su Mu’s school fees.

A bright, friendly girl, popular with classmates and teachers alike, Su Mu liked playing sports in her free time. She especially enjoyed running and hiking, and studied calligraphy on the side. But Su Mu was sensitive to her family’s circumstances, and did what she could to ease the burden on her grandparents. “Although the family had a hard situation, Su Mu always had a positive attitude when she met some difficulties,” says Stephanie Kang, a Holt China program assistant in Fujian. “At home, she always tried her best to do housework for her grandparents. On holidays, she tried to do tea work as well for more income for the family. On study, she studied very hard, and she often got good scores.”

Su Mu was 11 years old when Holt International began an educational sponsorship program for elementary school children living in the villages of Fu’an. With the support of her family, Su Mu had successfully completed the 6th grade. But as she was moving on to middle school, she was not eligible to receive Holt assistance. Su Mu’s grandparents encouraged her to study regardless, and managed to scrape together the resources to send her to school. “The family didn’t have any allowance from the local government,” explains Stephanie. “Sometimes, neighbors would try to help the family, such as by donating some clothes for Su Mu.”

With the support of multiple Holt sponsors, Su Mu attended a boarding high school in southern China and visited her family on the weekends. A local sponsor now supports her studies at a university in the North.

With the support of multiple Holt sponsors, Su Mu attended a boarding high school in southern China and visited her family on the weekends. A local sponsor now supports her studies at a university in the North.

In 2008, Holt was able to expand the Fu’an program and offer sponsorship to some middle school students — including Su Mu, who was now almost 14 years old. The program provided a boarding fee so Su Mu could live at school during the week, and return home on the weekends to see her family. With support from multiple sponsors* in the U.S., she didn’t have to worry about being able to afford other basic school expenses, such as books and supplies. And her family didn’t have to sacrifice basic necessities to ensure an education for her.

During those years, Su Mu began writing to one particular sponsor — sending letters through our sponsorship program staff.  When she received a response to her first letter, it moved her to tears. “We simply listened to her heartfelt story of her high school struggles,” explains this sponsor, a former youth pastor named Jeff Fitch who engaged his family in writing to Su Mu. “We responded by encouraging her with words and prayers.”

Following their initial exchange, Su Mu and her sponsor began a regular correspondence — a rare and special occurrence in Holt’s sponsorship program. Su Mu shared about her everyday life and a little about her family and her studies. “I described our family to her and that we had a son close to her age and an older daughter,” says Jeff, who first became a Holt sponsor at a Winter Jam concert four years ago. “We encouraged her and ensured her that hard work studying would pay off in the end.”

Anywhere in the world, a child growing up in poverty with no father, a mentally ill mother and physically ill grandparents might lose hope and just give up on school. With the support of her family and her Holt sponsors, however, Su Mu excelled. “At the end of ninth grade, she was recommended by the middle school to have further education in Fu’an No. 1, and finally she was accepted,” says Stephanie. “With three years of hard study in the high school, she got good scores in the national college entrance exam, and eventually she was accepted by Harbin Medical University.”

Su Mu is now 21 and in her first year of medical school. Although her grandparents wanted her to become a teacher, she chose medicine so she can treat others suffering from illnesses like those of her family members.

When Su Mu received her college acceptance letter, her dream had already begun to come true. Then she received more exciting news. Through a newspaper in the neighboring city of Fuzhou, Su Mu was matched with a local sponsor to help fund her college education! Immediately, Su Mu contacted Holt’s China staff to end her sponsorship through Holt — hoping more children would benefit from the program.

While Su Mu’s time in Holt sponsorship came to a happy conclusion, she has not forgotten Jeff and his family. They have formed a bond, and they continue to correspond every so often — sharing updates and well wishes. As she wrote in her recent Thanksgiving message, “Wherever you are, I silently in my heart [wish] for your blessing. I hope that God bless you happiness.”

No longer is he her sponsor. Now, he is her friend.

Robin Munro | Managing Editor

Not yet a sponsor? Become one at www.holtinternational.org/sponsorship!

* Holt’s care for children is unique because, in most cases, we are providing the majority of support for the child’s livelihood — not just assistance to the child’s community. This high level of responsibility means that our monthly cost of caring for a child often exceeds $30. To keep each sponsor’s monthly contribution low while ensuring every child has all they need to thrive, children are often supported by multiple sponsors.

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3 Comments

  1. Pingback: Dear Readers

  2. Su Mu has a heart of gold and she has a permanent place in my heart. God has given her such a sweet spirit and I am confident that she will shine His light onto others as she has ours. Yes indeed we will always be friends………family! Jeff Fitch

    • Robin Munro says:

      What a lovely thing to say, Jeff. We are so grateful to have people like you make the commitment to sponsor children in our care. Thank you for sharing your story with our readers! I’m sure it will inspire others. Take Care!

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