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Hope as High as the Mountains, Kindness as Deep as the Sea

In July, Holt advocates and donors met children at one middle school in northeastern China who are receiving support for their education.

Holt sponsors help support 31 students at Meihekou Middle School in China.

Summer holidays have just begun and the corridors at Meihekou Middle School in Jilin Province, China are quiet, except for the echo of nine shuffling pairs of footsteps. Bright art hangs on one wall, and light from the windows that line the opposite wall floods in, revealing a courtyard with a worn cement basketball court. It’s a hot and sticky July day in China, and the nine American guests spill into a large classroom with two long wooden tables covered in red tablecloths and flowers. To their delight, they are greeted by more than 30 students — each wearing white and blue collared shirts and kahki pants — a few teachers, the headmaster, a parent and a graduate of the school. The guests place colorful gift bags of books they have brought from the United States especially for today on the table, and then find a seat directly across from the children.

All of the American guests have something in common: a strong heart of advocacy for impoverished or at-risk children, as well as a dedicated support of Holt International to help make a difference. They are Holt board members, long-term supporters and adoptive parents who have traveled with a Holt Focus Team to China to see first-hand the impact Holt’s programs are having in the lives of vulnerable children.

All 30 of the students have something in common, too. They study at Meihekou Middle School because of the support from their Holt sponsors and other supporters of our family strengthening work here in China. Continue reading China sponsorship

Philippines ICAB Board Members Visit Holt International in Eugene

Ameera Chronister, home eight weeks from the Philippines, visits with Dr. Castillo (left) and Dr. Ortega of the ICAB board.

A few weeks ago, Holt received two special guests from the Philippines at our headquarters in Eugene, Oregon. Professors Susana Ortega and Maria Lyra del Castillo both serve on the Inter-country Adoption Board (ICAB), which functions as the central adoption authority in the Philippines. Holt works closely with the ICAB board to place children from the Philippines with families in the U.S., and this visit provided Dr. Ortega and Dr. Castillo with an opportunity to learn more about Holt International and meet directly with our staff in the U.S.

Although this was Dr. Ortega’s first visit to Holt, Dr. Castillo remembers visiting our offices and meeting Bertha “Grandma” Holt in the 1970s.

“What I felt really excited about when I visited in the past was that I saw how many older kids were being placed in homes. [Holt] was really a pioneer in that area,” Dr. Castillo shared with our staff at a special reception for our guests.

Through the years, Holt has developed unique recruitment efforts to find families for older children and children with special needs in the Philippines. In 2011, Holt led our inaugural Philippines Ambassador trip in which volunteer ambassadors traveled to meet a small group of older children. Alongside Holt staff and social workers, the ambassadors got to know the children and then returned to the United States excited to share the children’s stories with prospective adoptive families. After incredible success placing children through this program, Holt led our third annual ambassador trip in 2013.

“With the summer hosting and ambassadors, we have placed many older kids,” Dr. Castillo said. “We are really blessed.”

During the reception, both Dr. Ortega and Dr. Castillo also shared about recent changes to the ICAB board’s oversight of the Philippines international adoption process. One significant change occurred years ago when ICAB began recruiting board members from different professional fields.

“With the multidisciplinary board, people are coming from different sectors,” said Dr. Castillo, who as a professor of social work comes from the academic field.

While Dr. Castillo has served on the ICAB board for the past 20 years, Dr. Ortega joined as a consultant in 2009 and now serves on the placement committee that matches families with children. “Different people come together once a week to discuss the cases, including a doctor, a lawyer, an NGO representative, a psychologist and a social worker,” explained Dr. Ortega, who as a professor of psychology voices the psychologist’s perspective in the matching process. “We want to make the best possible choice of adoptive parents for our children.”

Although the process to adopt from the Philippines tends to be long, Dr. Castillo attributes the somewhat longer process to the great care ICAB takes when making such life-changing decisions on behalf of children. “They are very careful when they match families in the Philippines,” Dr. Castillo said. “I appreciate the input from different disciplines, and it is great for me to see the improvements.”

Continue reading Philippines ICAB Board Members Visit Holt International in Eugene

Sweet Baby Drew Needs a Family!

This sweet baby boy needs a loving family! Please share his story to help us find him one.

DOB: December 28, 2013, Northeast Asia

Drew came into the world three days after Christmas last year — a sweet boy with dark eyes and clear-cut features. He stayed with his birth mom for two weeks before she decided to make an adoption plan for him.  After coming into care in January 2014, he was placed in a loving foster family — including an experienced foster mother and father in their 50s, as well as a foster brother and sister, both in their 30s.

In this family, he has thrived. He smiles and laughs often, meets eye contact and babbles as though trying to communicate, and will listen for the doorbell and respond when someone enters the room. He can also bear weight on his legs, roll over and firmly grab objects — all strong indicators of good development.

Although he has grown healthy and strong in his foster family, Drew did experience several seizures in June of this year and was diagnosed with epilepsy. He is now receiving medication and treatment and has not had another seizure since.

Drew’s foster family truly adores him, and they just love to hold him and shower him with kisses. They hope that an adoptive family will also see what a sweet, lovely boy he is and provide a stable, loving home for him. Drew needs a family open to the unknowns regarding his special needs and who can provide him with any medical care or therapies he may need.

Click here to read about eligibility requirements to adopt Drew.

Contact Kristen Henry at kristenh@holtinternational.org if you are interested in receiving more information about Drew.

An Equal Chance

With the support of Holt sponsors, a young girl in Cambodia stays in school and remains in the loving care of her grandparents.

Champey* lives with her grandparents in a rural province in southern Cambodia. She is 11 years old and in the sixth grade at a primary school about a mile from her home. When she was just a year old, her parents moved to Phnom Penh to seek work — leaving their infant daughter in the care of her elderly grandparents. When Champey became old enough, she went to live with her parents in the city. She was unable to attend school in Phnom Penh, however, and spent her days cleaning, cooking and looking after her younger brother.

A year later, her parents sent her back to her home province to once again live with her grandparents. Here, she had little to call her own. But she could ride her bike through the open fields of rice surrounding her village. She could sleep peacefully in her grandparents Khmer house, built on stilts to protect them from the annual rains. And finally, with the help of Holt’s sponsorship program, she could return to school.

Since 2005, Holt has worked alongside Pathways to Development — our partner organization in Cambodia — to sponsor children and strengthen families in Takeo, Champey’s home province. Takeo is a particularly impoverished region of the country, and children here are more vulnerable to malnutrition, separation from their families and dropping out of school.

Sponsored children and their families in Takeo benefit from many different programs that Holt and Pathways maintain in the community — including programs to support the nutrition, health and education of children and families as well as a microloan program to help families become economically stable and self-reliant.

Champey and her grandmother stand before their home in Takeo province.

To address the immediate nutritional needs of families in Takeo, Holt and Pathways provide them with emergency food packets containing rice, cooking oil, iodized salt and protein. They maintain a community rice bank for families during the three-four months before rice harvest, when they often experience a shortage of food. They also provide trainings to educate families on a balanced diet, signs of malnutrition and healthy eating. And once per month, our partner staff holds community breakfasts in each village — a time when children and families can come together, socialize and participate in educational activities that support their overall wellbeing.

Continue reading An Equal Chance

My Life in a Mosaic

Holt adoptee Alexis Hawks reflects on the meaning of identity and the many mosaic pieces that define who she is.

Alexis and her mom when they first met in China.

Everyone on this planet is a walking mosaic. Throughout our lives, we find pieces to add to the image that is You and Me. Sometimes they’re embedded deep inside us, waiting to emerge and shine. They can also be found, earned and maybe even given to us.

I remember acquiring one of my first pieces when I was very young. My mom has blue eyes, and I thought once I reached a certain age, my brown eyes would be transformed to match hers. So of course, when the question, “Mommy, when will my eyes be blue like yours?” came up, she quickly corrected my former way of thinking. Obviously, I was too young to understand genetics. The only thing I comprehended from her explanation was that because I was adopted, I could never have blue eyes. I was so upset that they would forever remain such a boring color. The same color as my first piece: Brown. It was the only time I ever wished I wasn’t adopted. The only time I wished the woman that spent all this time raising me had given birth to me as well. However, being a child with a short attention span, it didn’t take me very long to get over it.

I was adopted through Holt in 1999 when I was only one year old. Now I realize that I am lucky. I never had the opportunity to question why I was being taken to the other side of the world to begin my permanent life as a U.S. citizen. Most of my school friends were adopted from China as well. My best friend was adopted through Holt the same year I was. I almost never felt different than anyone else. There was always the occasional question to be answered, though.

Sometimes as an adoptee, I feel like my mosaic is flipped over, so all my pieces are undetected, mounted on a foreign substance — material that is familiar to me, but completely bizarre to some. People want to inspect me. They want to know my “dramatic” life’s story. They want to know about my real parents. Am I related to my sisters? Would I change anything? In return, I smile and shake or nod my head respectfully, but in the back of my mind I can’t help but wonder, “Why does it matter?”

I don’t mind being asked these questions. I believe curiosity isn’t something that should be held in contempt, but sometimes I am confronted by people who believe that because I’m adopted, I’m missing a crucial part of who I am. They look at me as though my picture can never be complete. My personal experiences have actually had the opposite effect. I am confident in this growing montage of myself. I know what I like, what I believe in, what I want to do with my life. I don’t think anyone can control these things. Of course our parents will influence us, but it is my own decision whether I find their opinions to be true or not.

As I’ve grown, more pieces have been added to my “big picture,” slowly covering that unknown material that is my foundation. I was born a clean slate, but it was me who found these fragments that made my mosaic strong. After 15 years of being an adoptee, I realize that everyone is defined by more than where or who they come from. I am more than blood and DNA. I am more than a pair of brown eyes. I am a mind, and a voice. I am somebody’s daughter. Someone’s sister, whether we came from the same people or not. I am—in the simplest, most true way of describing it—

Me.

Alexis Hawks | Kapaa, Kauai

Learn about Holt’s many post-adoption services, from camps and tours to birth search assistance!

November is National Adoption Month!

National Adoption Month starts in just two weeks! And we want to share with you what we have planned for this special month dedicated to adoption and advocating for children who need families around the world.

In the past decade, Holt’s focus has shifted. We now almost exclusively seek loving families for children with special needs. That’s where the need is today, and our forthcoming National Adoption Month campaign reflects this need.

Right now, Holt has far more referrals for children than we have families to adopt them… especially from China and Korea. Older children, children with special needs and boys need advocates in particular!

In 2012, this little boy’s family saw his story featured on the Holt blog.

For the entire month of November, you’ll want to be sure to follow Holt’s blog for stories about children who need families, educational posts to dispel myths and answer frequently asked questions, and candid stories from veteran adoptive families.

AND most importantly, National Adoption Month is all about ADVOCACY. We share the stories and you help take our message to the world via social media, your church and friends! Social media — with the help of adoption advocates like you — has the power to change a child’s life! We’ve seen its tremendous impact again and again:

In 2012, we posted Willow’s story on Facebook, expressing the urgent need to find her a family. In a matter of hours, Willow’s story was shared more than 1,000 times, and today her family is on their way to bring her home.

We featured “Natalie” on our blog in 2011. When a woman in California saw her story on our blog, she contacted our waiting child program. Natalie came home to her family in 2012.

Also in 2012, Holt posted a story about “Hudson,” a toddler from India with lower limb paralysis. Beth Schwamberger saw this post and contacted Holt’s waiting child program immediately. Hudson, now Holden, came home to the Schwambergers last year.

We hope these and the upcoming National Adoption Month stories inspire you! Maybe they’ll even inspire you to start your own adoption journey, and what better time than in a month dedicated to adoption! Click here to start your adoption!

 As a sneak peek to what we have in store next month, read about the Walsh family’s journey to their son Eli….

Continue reading November is National Adoption Month!

Sponsors, Watch Your Mailbox for a Special Drawing, Letter or Photo

We have exciting news for our awesome child sponsors this week!

Soon, sponsors of children living in Cambodia, China, India, Mongolia, Thailand, Philippines and Vietnam will receive additional and personalized updates from their sponsored child. Sponsors of children in Ethiopia will begin receiving these updated in early 2015!

Over the next few months, watch your mailbox for this envelope — or, if you receive paperless updates, keep an eye on your email.

Inside, you will find a drawing, photo or letter from your sponsored child! We are excited for sponsors to learn more about the child they help support, and the children in our programs are excited to share more about themselves with you.

Most sponsors will receive at least one additional update from their child every year — building on the quarterly updates they already receive from Holt. Some sponsors may even receive more than one.

As our overseas program staff receive more training and improved technology, we hope to continue to expand and improve communications between sponsors and their sponsored child.

If you have questions about when you will receive a photo, drawing or letter from your sponsored child, you can call us at 1-541-451-0731, email us at sponsorship@holtinternational.org or visit the MyHolt Sponsorship Service Center by clicking here.

Check out a few of the beautiful photos, letters and pictures we’ve received from children in our programs so far: Continue reading New Sponsorship Documents

Help Find Families For Children This National Adoption Month!

Once a “waiting child,” Qiu Ni came home to her family in 2012.

This National Adoption Month, we invite you to share in our commitment to find loving adoptive families for children!

At Holt, we believe every child deserves to grow up in a loving and secure home. But right now, Holt has far more referrals for children than we have families to adopt them… especially from China and Korea. Older children, children with special needs and boys need advocates in particular!

Throughout the month of November, we will share stories on our blog and social media pages about children waiting for families. You would not believe the number of children whose families first saw them on the Holt blog or Facebook page — children like Qiu Ni, who we featured in 2011 as “Natalie.” When a woman in California saw her story  on our blog, she immediately contacted our waiting child program. Qiu Ni came home to her family in 2012.

If you are a family considering adoption, National Adoption Month is also an extraordinary time to begin your journey. Follow the Holt blog for candid stories from veteran adoptive families as well as educational posts to dispel myths and answer frequently asked questions about international adoption.

And if you are an adoptee or adoptive family, celebrate adoption by sharing your own story or donating to the Special Needs Adoption Fund — helping another family adopt and another child come home.

Go to holtinternational.org/nationaladoptionmonth to learn more, find ideas and be inspired!

You can help change a child’s destiny!

During a holiday celebration at the school for deaf students Holt supports, classes met outside for a performance of the nativity story.

For children around the world with disabilities, like 9-year-old Tigabu, the barriers to a quality education often seem so large and difficult to overcome, they feel hopeless.

Tigabu’s parents are subsistence farmers in Shinshicho, Ethiopia and they struggle to afford even basic necessities, like food or clothing. They want their son to reap the benefits of a good education and create a better future for himself, but physical disabilities are heavily stigmatized in Ethiopia.

Many villagers in this region still believe that only a family curse could cause their children to be born deaf. However, this so-called “curse” affects an abnormally high number of children in Shinshicho, and no one is sure why. Regardless of prevalence, resources for children with disabilities are scarce, schools turn deaf children away, and even the tools to independently learn sign language are virtually non-existent.

It’s a heartbreaking reality, and many deaf children have been hidden away, marginalized from the community, excluded from schools, and destined for a life of poverty.

Children in one class at the school for deaf students in Shinshicho that Holt supports stop to smile for a photo.

But not anymore.

On a stormy, hot day in early September, Tigabu walked two hours for his first day of 4th grade classes at the only deaf school in the region — a school Holt helped to start in 2010 and that you help us continue to support today.

This year, more than 400 deaf children enrolled for classes.

Many are able to attend thanks to Holt’s supporters who provide more than just school fees, uniforms and supplies. The students also have access to medical care, supplemental food and clothing, and vocational training and education for their parents — so families can diversify their income and rely less on farming.

With help from people like you, the students and their families will grow strong, stable and self-reliant — eventually generating enough income to cover all their needs and invest in their future!

When you give a gift to our family strengthening fund, you help stabilize or reunite vulnerable families like Tigabu’s, and not just in Ethiopia, but in more than 11 countries where we work!

Even a small gift makes a life-long impact on the children and families we serve. Even a small gift can be enough to keep a family together and help a child choose a new destiny —and a better, more stable future.

Read more about Tigabu, and how your support is helping children attend school and families grow strong in Ethiopia by clicking here.

Share the Spirit of Christmas With a Child in Need...

As a Holt supporter, your gifts make a tremendous difference in the everyday lives of children.

You help to ensure children have everything they need to grow and thrive — from nourishing food and warm clothing to the nurturing care of a loving caregiver or family member.

But Christmas is not every day. It is a day of celebration… a day to be with loved ones and to share our many blessings with those in need.

This year, you can extend your blessings and share the heart of Christmas with an orphaned, abandoned or vulnerable child. Watch your mailbox for a special package that includes a Children of the World ornament for you to sign and return by November 30. When we receive all the ornaments, we will send them for the children to receive at a special celebration. Or if you would like to give online now, click here!

Although our celebration with the children will vary from region to region, know that every gift you send of $25 or more per child will help us give the children a day to remember — a day of comfort and joy that truly captures the heart of the holiday so many of us observe here at home.

We are grateful for all you do for children, and God bless you for sharing the wonder of Christmas with a child in need this year. We can’t begin to accomplish this without you, and we are so happy we have the chance to do it with you!

Click here to share the spirit of Christmas with a child in need!