The Lovely Miss Leanne

UPDATE: Great news! As of February 2013, Leanne has a family!

Date of Birth: October 13, 2000, China

Leanne* is a very sweet girl with great poise and self-assurance. In October, she will turn 12 years old.

Leanne was found in a mountain village of southern China in October 2003. She was then about 3 years old. After a failed attempt to find her birth parents, Leanne went to live at a care center. Here, she stayed until July of 2007 when, at 6 and a half years old, she joined a foster family.

Today, Leanne is a lovely and confident young woman with artistic interests and talents. She excels in language and is a strong reader and storyteller. She also loves to draw, sing and dance – and expresses herself beautifully through these mediums.

Leanne has a scar on the left side of her face from surgery to remove a tumor. At a time in life when girls tend to be overly concerned about their appearance, Leanne seems not at all self-conscious about her scar. During a visit in August 2012, she stood proudly before our staff and confidently answered their questions. For an almost-12 year old girl, she seems unusually poised and self-possessed. She currently attends public school and will start the 6th grade in September. Sweet and polite, Leanne gets along well with her peers and has close friends at school.

Leanne has expressed that she really wants to be part of a family in the U.S., and hopes to be adopted soon. But when she turns 14, she will become ineligible for international adoption. To ensure her adoption is completed by her 14th birthday, she will need a family that’s ready to move forward with paperwork right away and put forth efforts to expedite the home study, immigration and dossier processes.

Continue reading “The Lovely Miss Leanne”

Tropical Storm Isaac Hits Haiti, Families and Children Safe

An update from Sarah Halfman, Holt’s program director for Haiti and Africa:

As many of you know, this weekend Haiti was directly hit by Tropical Storm Isaac.  The storm dumped torrential rains on Haiti throughout the weekend causing damages and flooding throughout the vulnerable country.

Holt Fontana Village held up against all the rain and wind and all the children are doing well.  There was no damage reported at the village.

There have been no major damages reported in the areas where our programs are located.  There has been no damage reported from any of the schools that we work with.  Staff are currently in the process of contacting families to make sure that they are all doing well and so far today they were able to contact approximately 70% of all of the families and all of them seem to be doing well.

While the areas where Holt is working remain relatively unscathed by this most recent storm, many others were not so lucky.  Many of the survivors from the earthquake in 2010 are still living in tent camps throughout the country. These were the most vulnerable to Isaac and many of their homes were devastated during the storm.

Please keep Haiti in your thoughts as they work towards rebuilding yet again.

We will post another update when our staff in Haiti contacts the remaining families in our family preservation program.

Seeking the Perfect Family for Payton

Payton is this week’s featured waiting child. Help find him a family!

Date of Birth: September 17, 2003, S.E. Asia

Did you know that studies show when we look at the people we love, we don’t see their flaws as much as others do? To us, they are perfect. It’s true!

Take Payton*.

Payton has the most loveable, darling, imperfectly shaped face. An almost-9-year-old boy from S.E. Asia, Payton has Crouzon syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that has affected the development of his skull. His nose is squished and his ears are short and curved-in. His head is somewhat misshapen and his chin is asymmetrical.

Payton has some physical imperfections, true. Just like all of us.

But the people who love Payton see only his beautiful brown eyes, glowing with intelligence and warmth. They see his adorable grin – charmingly crooked and turned up to one side. The people who love Payton would not want to change anything about him.

And many, many people love Payton. He is sweet and loving toward his caregivers, shy but polite with strangers. When Holt intern Ally Tritten met him last year, she quickly grew enamored of Payton. She described him as “extremely bright” and “a child who exudes warmth and kindness and has a naturally high potential.”

“He is honestly a joy to be around and a true gift to this world,” she writes.

He loves to read and draw – and when he draws, he is endearingly careful to craft the most perfect lines and shapes. Payton, in fact, strives to complete every assigned task to perfection – and can grow frustrated if things don’t work out as planned. But as we all know – and Payton will one day learn – no one and nothing is perfect. And often, we love people because – not in spite of – their little imperfectly crooked grin, or the short little ears that only they have. And in that way, they ARE perfect to us. Just like Payton is to the people who love him.

Continue reading “Seeking the Perfect Family for Payton”

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday is back!

Meet Kedir, a 12-year-old boy in Holt’s child sponsorship program who lives with his mother and two sisters in Ethiopia. Holt sponsors help to provide Kedir’s clothing and school supplies, including those pictured here!

Views from a paradise challenged—Haiti 2012

Holt International Creative Services Director Brian Campbell joins Secret Keeper Girl speaker Suzy Weibel on a journey to Haiti this week.  While there, the group, which also includes Dove-award winning singer/songwriter Wayne Watson and Holt’s Director of Donor Engagement Kris Thompson, visited children at Holt Fontana Village as well as families in Holt’s family preservation program.


Continue reading “Views from a paradise challenged—Haiti 2012”

Back to School

Children in Haiti are getting a second chance at an education

By Brian Campbell, creative services director

Christian recording artist Wayne Watson and Peterson

As the sun comes up on a picturesque Friday morning, Christian singer/songwriter Wayne Watson pauses before his breakfast plate and discusses the day to come. Today he will meet his sponsored child, Peterson, the little boy who lives just 20 minutes from our hotel.

Peterson’s story is the story of many Haitian youth in the urban areas just outside of Montrouis. Desperate parents look to the city for work and education opportunities—for the chance of a better future.

For Peterson’s family, these opportunities have failed to materialize. Two years ago, Peterson’s father deserted his family when times got tough. The earthquake in 2010 shook out the last possible chance of hope and possibilities for the family. Now, Peterson’s mother, Morgaine*, rents a little structure with tarp walls and scraps of wood and tin. Peterson’s family lives just 35 feet from the main road, surrounded by shops and street sales of everything from charcoal to hairstyling. Morgaine doesn’t sleep well at night. She’s uncertain that she will have a home for much longer. Due to Haiti’s unstable infrastructure, work is scarce, and Morgaine is poorly qualified.

Holt International has come along side this family. With help from Holt’s educational sponsorship program in Haiti, Peterson is able to attend school with his older brother, Enelson.* Now 11, Enelson is looking forward to starting the second grade. Continue reading “Back to School”

Another Sunglasses Day

A Gift Team participant’s emotional journey touring Holt facilities in Korea.

Blog excerpts from Kim Hanson,  adoptee and adoptive mother, and Korea Gift Team participant. In her blogs, Kim shares about her experiences at the Jeonju Baby home and Ilsan Center in Korea, as well as her time spent with Holt foster mothers. Read more about Kim’s time in Korea below, and experience these activities for yourself as part of the Korea gift team in December! Click here to learn more!


Tuesday, December 6 (Visiting the Jeonju Baby Home)

Today our team went to the Jeonju Baby Home. We went to the usual E- Mart to pick up snacks and treats for the kids. Then it was off to the toy store to buy extra fun things that all the kids will have to share. Each team member donated a certain amount of money that went towards specific presents for the kids. When I say presents, I really mean that each of the kids gets one gift, that’s it for Christmas.

Prior to Santa and Mrs. Claus handing out the gifts, the kids put on performances they have been working on all year long just for our visit. They are truly precious. It was such a blessing for me to see these kids put every emotion into their routines.

As I watched the kids, I also watched our tour group. A few were crying, so of course, I started crying. And I didn’t have my sunglasses! They were on the bus, so I couldn’t hide the tears.

I told the other ladies that these kids were in a loving home, and that this home was better than being on the streets. I know that’s a tough thing to consider when we think about how lucky we were to be adopted. The other ladies crying were also adoptees like myself. We saw ourselves in the eyes of these children; we truly are the lucky ones. But today, we needed to remember that we made the day of these precious babies just by being there with them, playing with them, holding them, laughing with them, loving them…even for just those few hours, we made a difference and touched their lives.


Thursday, December 11 (Foster Mother Visit)

Yesterday, a Holt foster mother spoke about her feelings regarding being a foster mother and caring for children. We were handed the translation of her speech and as she was speaking, I began to read it…well, needless to say, I couldn’t read past the first few lines before I had to get my sunglasses. I actually had to stop reading it.

I say these foster mothers have the hardest job in the world, for they give of themselves with their whole heart to care for our children until they are placed with their forever family. I always say the toughest part of raising a child is from an infant to six months, and then they ‘start’ being fun. Our foster mothers raise and love our kids during these months over and over again, child after child. They truly are our angels watching over our angels. We honored foster mothers for their service of 5-35 years and those that were retiring. Continue reading “Another Sunglasses Day”

Someone Who Gets It

Grant heads to preschool and meets a special friend.

by TJ Gorman

Grant met Becky, a fellow Holt adoptee, at his preschool's open house.

Our match with Grant did not happen in a traditional way. We had received an e-mail with three child profiles and inquired about one of the little boys for a variety of reasons. We decided not to proceed. However, in talking with a social worker in Oregon about our decision, she mentioned two new referrals that had come in, both were boys. She spoke with our local social worker, Celeste, who passed on the information to us. We were told Grant had a congenital leg disorder, but the details about his actual diagnosis were hazy. We fell in love with his picture and that was all it took. We were matched in June and traveled to Nanchang, China in November 2011.

Grant adjusted fairly quickly to our family. It became clear that he was well loved and quite spoiled in his orphanage. I had initially opted to take a longer amount of time off from work when we got back, but he was doing so well, I wanted to save vacation for when he would have his surgery. He had gone with his father or me several times to drop off his siblings at day care and also to pick them up. We felt that it was good to have him witness the repeated action of “drop off and pick up,” so he would see that we would, in fact, pick him up when his time came. This method paid off beautifully. He had no issues being dropped off at his new day care when I returned to work. The staff took to him as quickly as we all have, and loved him immensely.

It was a difficult decision to switch Grant from the day care he had come to know to a preschool. We felt that it would ultimately be best for him to be in the same school as his siblings. He would also be provided with physical therapy and any language assistance he may need, and remaining with his siblings would provide comfort in the transition.

Grant excitedly went to the open house. He loved seeing the school and taking his new supplies to his classroom. While meeting his teacher, we were introduced to the three other paraprofessionals in his classroom. We noticed that one of his teachers, Becky Smith, was Asian. We introduced Grant to Becky, and didn’t think anything of it really. After my mother-in-law spoke more with Becky, we learned that she too was a Holt adoptee. She let us know that she was originally from Korea and is incredibly grateful to Holt for the life that she has.

We briefly talked about the local Holt picnics and other events, but we had to move on to the next classroom to meet our other children’s teachers. It was incredibly comforting to meet an adult Holt adoptee that was happy and doing great. It gave us a lot of peace. It also provided us with comfort knowing that there is someone in that room who will understand. She could truly empathize with his silences when he’s reflecting on the changes in his life, understand the tears when he gets rejected over the simplest of things, and rejoice in the accomplishments and growth that he makes. In short, knowing that someone there gets it, and knows the struggles an adopted child can face, let alone an internationally adopted child… it’s awesome.




Holt and OSU Ethiopia Trip Featured in the Eugene Register-Guard!

In June, 13 extraordinary student-athletes from Oregon State University traveled to Ethiopia to build houses for families in Holt’s family preservation program. But that’s not all the did… An excerpt from the Guard story:

“In Silti, the community the students visit, both of the families to receive new homes are headed by women. As women in a traditional Muslim village, they can’t build the homes themselves. Gender roles dictate what they can and cannot do. They work in the fields and wash the clothes and cook the food. They pump water from a borehole and carry it home in 20-liter bins, often with a baby strapped to their back.

But they never, ever build houses.

Ironically, nine of the 13 student-athletes who signed up for this trip are, in fact, women. Over six days, as they climbed roofs, hammered nails, sawed wood, and stomped and plastered mud onto the walls of the two houses, they would be quite the spectacle — defying entrenched social norms. And to everyone’s surprise, the community would not only embrace it, but love it — cheering the young women on, laughing joyously when they inevitably got into mud fights, and helping to rinse the mud off their feet at the end of the day.”

Click here to read the full story in the Eugene Register-Guard.

Click here to learn more about our work in Ethiopia and how you can help families and children we serve there.


Standing On Her Own; Shelley Is Ready To Join A Family!

UPDATE: Yay! As of November 2012, Shelley has a family! Congratulations Shelley!

by Jessica Palmer, Waiting Child Program Manager

Date of Birth: February 5, 2007, China

In July 2010, I had the privilege of spending time with a most precious little girl.  Near the end of my eye-opening trip to China, I had already met and heard the stories of over a hundred children in different areas of the country. Even two years later, Shelley’s* story is still crisp in my brain and heavy on my heart.

Shelley was found in February 2007, at the foot of a hill in the middle of the cold, long winter. She was assumed to have been just born that day, and although the local police searched for her birth family, they could not find them. She was reportedly “at her last breath” when sent to the social welfare institute. The caregivers took this little one struggling to survive to the hospital, where the doctor gave her a grim diagnosis. But her caregivers refused to believe it.  They had seen Shelley make it this far and knew she had a lot of fight left in her.  They lovingly kept her as warm as possible, watching her become healthier every day, and getting her to smile and laugh by playing with toys.  Shelley made it through that winter and spring, and then in July, she joined a foster family. In the years since, they have continued to dote on her, encourage her development, and make her laugh.

At age 3 ½, Shelley was a very responsive, engaging, and beautiful child. I watched her walk with determination while holding onto handrails or a staff member’s hand. I observed as she fit blocks into a hole, and smiled as she played with the older boys visiting from another foster home. She continues to grow and develop to this day.  According to recent reports, she asks good questions, poses for photos, and loves to recite the most recent song or poem she has learned.

With a diagnosis of cerebral palsy, Shelley may need resources beyond what a typically developing child needs, but she certainly doesn’t let that stop her from being a typical kid!  She can count to 100, feed herself with a spoon, and walk alone, though a bit unsteadily.  She knows the names of the parrots and turtles her foster family keeps as pets and is very polite to guests. She is a favorite in the neighborhood and is the first to greet someone she meets. My favorite sentence from her most recent report just about sums it up: She can stand up by herself when she falls down.

Please join me in advocating for Shelley to find a permanent family, one who has access to resources she may need and who understands the implications of the grief that Shelley will most likely feel upon leaving her foster family to become part of her adoptive family.

For more videos, photos and information about Shelley, please contact Erin Mower at

* name changed

Continue reading “Standing On Her Own; Shelley Is Ready To Join A Family!”