A Gymnast Helps Set the Bar High in Ethiopia

From swinging golf clubs in Oregon to swinging hammers in Ethiopia, the Beavers Without Borders crew create quite the entertaining – and inspiring – spectacle, using their unique athletic skills to complete the houses for families in Holt’s Family Preservation program.

This week Holt Senior Writer Robin Munro joins 14 Oregon State University (OSU) athletes traveling to Silti, Ethiopia. On this exciting trip, the athletes — volunteers with OSU’s Beavers Without Borders — will build homes for struggling families in Holt’s family preservation program. Initiated by former OSU football player Taylor Kavanaugh, Beavers Without Borders is an organization that gives OSU athletes the opportunity to travel to developing countries to help families in need.


By Robin Munro, Senior Writer

Silti, Ethiopia–It’s early morning on day two of our work in Silti, and quiet in the village as we arrive. Few people are out in their yards or on the road, and many of the children are in school. Yesterday, it seemed as though the whole village came to greet us – and many people stayed around to watch us most of the day. Today, only a few small children and a few older men have come to observe the students work.

The air feels cool and fresh and the ground is still a bit damp from the rain that fell the night before. It is the beginning of the rainy season in Ethiopia, and the community is busy planting maize, coffee and other local crops in the fields that surround the homes.

After the welcome ceremony yesterday, the students made fast work of the two houses. The local workers had already laid the foundation and raised a portion of the super structure when we arrived. This put us a bit ahead of schedule, which was helpful as the construction process required a bit of a learning curve. Namely, hammering nails proved a bit more challenging than the students might have expected. To some, the work came more naturally – in particular to Seshia Telles, one of the three Oregon State golfers on the trip. Although more accustomed to hitting golf balls, she adapted her swing from club to hammer with ease. Stephanie, the only gymnast on the team, climbed right to the top of the house, where she remained perched throughout the day – holding pieces of wood for her teammates or the local carpenters to hammer into place.

“I felt so comfortable up there,” she says later. Her flexibility and comfort balancing on high, narrow beams gave her an edge that the carpenters quickly recognized. Only initially did she have trouble communicating with them, she says. They soon recognized her value, and began directing her where they wanted her to move.

Families in the Silti area observe the Beavers Without Borders crew building houses for families in Holt's family preservation program.

Meanwhile, the villagers looked on with curiosity and amazement. In this rural, Muslim community in southern Ethiopia, gender roles are firmly entrenched. Women do not wear pants. Women do not hammer nails. Women do not build houses.

“Women don’t do that. They don’t climb up on roofs like that,” says Miruk Alemu, a Holt Ethiopia staff member who traveled with us to Silti. Although she came along to serve as translator, she quickly joins in the construction work. Continue reading “A Gymnast Helps Set the Bar High in Ethiopia”

Intercountry Adoption Universal Accreditation Act of 2012

Updated Information 28.June.2012:

HR-6027 To Provide Universal Intercountry Adoption Accreditation Standards has now been introduced in the House. Sponsored by Sires (D-NJ) and co-sponsors Hahn (D-CA) Manzullo (R-IL)

Here is the corresponding House Bill for S. 3331 sponsored by Rep. Sires

Holt International strongly supports this legislation and will be working to move this initiative forward.  For information contact Susan Soonkeum Cox at susanc@holtinternational.org

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) have introduced the “Intercountry Adoption Universal Accreditation Act of 2012” to provide universal intercountry adoption standards.

Holt International is grateful for their efforts to improve the standards for all intercountry adoptions to ensure equity and protection for children and families.

Holt will provide updates on this legislation as it is available and request your supports as the process moves forward.  For more information contact Susan Soonkeum Cox, Vice President Policy & External Affairs at susanc@holtinternational.org

Oregon State Athletes Show Their Spirit in Ethiopia

The student-athletes arrive in Silti and get the “welcome” of a lifetime.

This week Holt Senior Writer Robin Munro joins 14 Oregon State University (OSU) athletes traveling to Silti, Ethiopia.  On this exciting trip, the athletes — volunteers with OSU’s Beavers Without Borders — will build homes for struggling families in Holt’s family preservation program. Initiated by former OSU football player Taylor Kavanaugh, Beavers Without Borders is an organization that gives OSU athletes the opportunity to travel to developing countries to help families in need.

By Robin Munro, Senior Writer

Silti, Ethiopia — Some moments in life are so extraordinary, so surreal, they leave you thinking, ‘Did that really just happen?”

The Beavers Without Borders team arrives in Silti. Here, they will partner with Holt, building homes for families in our family preservation program.
For the OSU students and Holt staff traveling on the Beavers Without Borders trip to Ethiopia, today brought one of those moments.

The students arrived in Addis Ababa yesterday afternoon to a warm welcome by Dr. Fikru, Holt Ethiopia’s country director, and the Holt Ethiopia staff. After a quick tour of the Holt office, where the staff presented each of them with a rose, the students piled into three vans and headed south for Butajira.

Although sleepy from two days of travel, everyone marvels at the vast Ethiopian landscape glowing in the setting sun. Our destination lies a little over two hours south of Addis, in a rural agricultural area rimmed by the hilly calderas that edge the Great Rift Valley. Here, in a small, Muslim village in the district of Silti, the student-athletes will build two houses for families in Holt’s family preservation project.

The sky turns dark and flashes with lightning as we get closer, illuminating the small villages on each side of the road. Fields of maize and coffee trees are interspersed by traditional round homes and the occasional spire of a mosque. When we arrive at the hotel, we eat in a dimly lit bamboo hut, smoky with the smell of roasting coffee. And then, we sleep.

We wake early and head for the village. I ride with Josh Andrews, a football player, Martie Massey, volleyball, Clark Fisher, rowing, and Stephanie McGregor, the sole gymnast on the trip. As we approach the village, a big white banner hangs from the brush. It reads “Welcome Beavers Without Borders Team Members.” On a road free from any other signs or advertising, it hangs in sharp contrast. It sticks out. Just as we stick out, drawing curious stares from passersby. Continue reading “Oregon State Athletes Show Their Spirit in Ethiopia”

In His Mommy and Daddy’s Arms

Carter Needs a family!

From China

Born May 3, 2006

The Casey family has adopted seven children, including three girls and four boys, all from India. Five of their children have special needs, and were adopted as “waiting children” through Holt. Through the years, the Caseys have encountered many different challenges as adoptive parents, including issues associated with older child and special needs adoption. They have also experienced the wonder and joy, seven times over, of bringing a new child into their home.

by Anne Casey

All of our children were considered special needs with many unknowns. We prayed and discerned about each one, and each adoption was a step in faith. Throughout each process of contemplating another adoption, we have always tried to look at the “big picture” – including the needs of our prospective child as well as the needs of the children already in our home.

It seemed that each time we adopted, we were able to stretch a bit further what “special needs” we felt comfortable to care for. It has always seemed that with each of our adoptions, our hearts were leading and our heads were in tow. And I think, deep down, we always knew that somehow, the child had already made his forever imprint upon our hearts!

But we gave each adoption their due process and allowed God to work through us, striving to attain the balance between head and heart. We also trusted the folks in Holt’s waiting child program to make decisions in the best interest of each child!

Holt adoptive mom Anne Casey shares a little about Carter, 6, from China. Carter is still waiting for a family:

Carter sounds much like my children, all of whom enjoy playing outdoors. He appears to mirror my sons as they too enjoy their time in the sand and dirt. His hearing impairment does not seem to slow him down. My daughter is also hearing impaired, and she loves to run and play just like Carter! Clearly, his personality and preferences shine through. His active and outgoing personality seems to be a common thread throughout his descriptions. Continue reading “In His Mommy and Daddy’s Arms”

Positive Parenting, From Eugene to Bangalore

Last month, representatives from two of our partner organizations in India traveled to Holt’s headquarters in Eugene, Oregon. While in Eugene, the visiting social workers gained an overview of the programs and services offered by local parenting organization and long-time Holt partner, Birth To Three/Parenting Now!. Here, Sylvia – a social worker from Vathsalya Charitable Trust (VCT) in Bangalore – shares about her time at Parenting Now! and how she plans to apply the practices she learned once home in India.

To read more about the training at Birth To Three/Parenting Now! for our visiting social workers, click here.

Sylvia with a child then in care at VCT, now home with a family in the U.S.

The Birth To Three/Parenting Now! experience was truly different for me because this was the first time I was in training for parenting groups. Very basic things like how you welcome a group, use the right words and thank parents for making it to the group made so much sense. Just by recognizing their presence, you actually make them feel they are welcome and important in the group.

We often feel it is not important to acknowledge their presence. I think it sure makes a difference.

During the training, it was an eye-opener for me to learn better ways to manage children’s behavior. When they have their meltdowns, instead of losing our tempers, we can use alternative techniques such as giving them positive attention. We all like to be appreciated; acknowledging positive behavior, in turn, encourages positive behavior. We can provide positive attention by giving children special time and showing approval. Special time is time that you set aside each day  to spend alone with your child. The time should be regular enough for the child to count on it, and centered on the child’s needs or wants.

Or catch children doing something good and show approval, giving a reason why the behavior is important. The purpose of showing approval is to encourage your child to continue a particular behavior. Also at times, we can divert their attention to other things and sometimes even ignore the behavior so as not to reinforce it with attention – be it positive or negative. Continue reading “Positive Parenting, From Eugene to Bangalore”

Athletes Partner with Holt to make a Difference!

Beavers Without Borders and Holt International join together for the children and families of Ethiopia.

Next week, 14 Oregon State University (OSU) athletes – volunteers with OSU’s Beavers Without Borders – will travel with Holt staff to Siltie, Ethiopia, where they will build homes for struggling families in Holt’s family preservation program. Initiated by former OSU football player Taylor Kavanaugh, Beavers Without Borders is an organization that gives OSU athletes the opportunity to travel to developing countries to help families in need.

“The students really take ownership of their experience. It’s very powerful,” says Taylor. “It’s been a great success, and we hope to bring it to other schools in the future. We look forward to this trip with Holt.”

This exciting project is detailed in the latest issue of Beaverblitz.  You can find the article here.

Interested in learning more about Holt’s involvement with Beavers Without Borders?  Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter and receive the June edition in your inbox next week!  Our senior writer Robin Munro will travel with the Beavers Without Borders group. She shares a pre-travel story in the upcoming  e-newsletter!  Sign up here!




Start Envisioning With Us!


Join us in Haiti!

Holt is excited to introduce “Holt International Vision Trips!”– trips designed especially for YOU!

Holt recognizes the growing interest among our supporters to see first-hand the work we do overseas. We created Holt vision trips for individuals who have a passion for Holt’s mission and want to learn – and see! – more. Whether you’re a Holt child sponsor, an adoptive parent or adoptee, a Holt donor, or just someone who wishes to see Holt projects up close and personal – these trips are for you!

 On this once-in-a-lifetime, 5-day trip, you will:

*Meet and interact with the precious children at Holt Fontana Village, our care center in Haiti.

*Visit the schools we support through our family preservation program, and take part in a special service project there.

*Meet a family enrolled in our family preservation program.

*Learn how our work has changed and evolved in light of the devastating earthquake in 2010.

*Visit a museum and take part in additional sightseeing activities.

And come home with a greater understanding of Holt’s mission and vision.

Last July, Tiffany Marshall, an elementary school teacher in Portland, Oregon, spent a month volunteering at Holt Fontana Village. After her time in Haiti, she came home with a new perspective, and a lifetime of love in her heart for the children she met.

“I’m sure this will come as no surprise to many of you, but I’ve fallen in love,” Tiffany wrote on her travel blog. “Not only that, I’ve fallen in love with more than one person. Of course they’re all under 4 feet tall, but that’s not a problem for me. Seriously, these children have a way of wrapping themselves around your heart.”

You’ve read the stories. You’ve seen the photos. You weep and pray for the children in our care, and you rejoice with us when they travel home to families of their own.

Now, this is your chance to meet the children. To embrace them. To see their smiles with your own eyes, and not just through a photo. To witness first-hand what you’ve helped accomplish through your generous gifts, and to experience Haiti and embrace Holt’s mission like never before!

 Click here to learn more about our vision trip to Haiti, and sign up today!



A Miracle Baby

When Mary Beth Picker saw her son, Josiah, for the first time she got an unexpected surprise. 


The Picker family

Josiah was born in January of 2009. Unable to care for him, his family relinquished him to the Durame Center, the care center Holt helped renovate in southern Ethiopia. Severely malnourished, he was quickly transferred to a hospital in Addis Ababa, where he stayed for two weeks.

“I know that a caregiver was with him all of the time,” writes his adoptive mother, Mary Beth Picker. “They told us that they were all praying for him, and their prayer was just that he would open his eyes, that’s how sick he was.”

The following September, when Mary Beth and her husband, Casey, came to Ethiopia to take him home, they could not find the gaunt, malnourished infant from Josiah’s referral photo. Instead, they were introduced to a healthy, chubby 6-month-old boy.

“The staff in Ethiopia called him their ‘miracle baby,’” writes Mary Beth. “I know that the care he received saved his life.”

Today, Josiah is a happy, healthy 3-year-old boy, thriving in the love of his family.

“I can’t say enough about the care he received there,” Mary Beth says of the childcare center in Durame. “All of the nannies were so nurturing and loving. Besides being in a loving family, I can’t imagine a better place for the children to be.”


A blog excerpt:  the day the Picker family met their son, Marefu (Josiah)

by Mary Beth Picker

— Friday, July 24th finally came; meeting day, the day I had been dreaming about and imagining for a year was finally a reality. We met the rest of our travel group in the lobby of the hotel. It was fun to meet friends who I had been chatting with online for several months. We were all antsy to get next door and meet our kids. First we had an orientation meeting with some of the Holt staff. Again, we were blown away by the kindness, grace, and beauty of the Ethiopian people. The Holt staff is so warm and friendly, we immediately felt comfortable with them. Continue reading “A Miracle Baby”

When The Tide Rolls In

An adoptee’s story about diving deeper and embracing two cultures.


by Kristin Zebrowski

 I took a running start. Then, with all my might, I launched it towards the sea. “It” was a bottle. All glass, corked. And rolled tightly inside it – a scroll of paper bearing instructions for the finder to return it via post with indication of how far it had traveled. My 12-year-old mind was enchanted by the idea of a message in a bottle. Mysterious, quixotic. I knew I had to send one.

The salted air whipped my hair around my face as I struggled to keep the bottle in sight. It bobbed on the surface of the Pacific, nearly swallowed by the frothing waves that threatened to drag it into indigo depths. There are four prevailing currents that constitute the Northern Pacific Gyre and dominate the largest ocean on Earth: the Kuroshio, the North Pacific, the California, and the North Equatorial. They connect in a clockwise pattern, joining the Asian Coast with that of America. I watched the California current sweep my bottle away, not turning my back until I could only identify it when the sun peeked through the gray-blanketed sky and gave it away. A tiny token of reflected light.

Where would it go? I crossed my fingers and hoped for China.

I hadn’t seen China in almost a dozen years. At three months old I was abandoned at a police station, parentless in Nanning, a city of almost six million. Three months later I was adopted and came to the United States. Whatever happens in the future, my blank biological family tree precedes me, as if my own roots have been washed away.

Growing up, questions of where I fit in engulfed me. Among my friends I stood out as the only Asian, easily identifiable in pictures as short, dark-skinned, and black-haired in a sea of fair-skinned blonds and brunettes. They spoke of family histories and traditions and, strangest of all to me, things that “run in their families,” like an aptitude for sports, or being susceptible to a certain illness, or reaching a certain height. My future, not just my ancestry, was unfathomable, which only made me even more of an outcast. Continue reading “When The Tide Rolls In”