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.
During the luncheon and ceremony, the two young girls on our team met their foster mothers. I will not tell you what happened, because this is their story to tell. Just as an observer, adoptee, mother, and adoptive mother, these types of reunions touch my heart greatly, to see the joy on the faces of the foster mothers…a pure sunglasses moment.
Below is the speech given by the foster mother:
A Foster Mother’s Love
Five years ago, I had a mind to give someone a helping hand and started taking care of Holt children. At the right moment when the child was held in my arms for the first time, I was deeply moved looking at
the child’s eyes and my heart was full. Little children look like angels. I thought to myself, ‘they are my daughter and my son,’ and I devoted myself to taking care of them. When children are with me, they carry my thoughts back to the past. Someday suddenly the child is sick and is fretful, and I hold the child in my arms and I sat up for the whole night without sleeping a wink. The child cries endlessly day and night and I am bathed in tears and it makes me sad and broken-hearted from time to time. I could not express myself how difficult I am, how broken-hearted I am, and how happy I am….etc. I heartily hope the child will be adopted by good parents and the child will grow up happily and healthily in the child’s new home. As the child’s departure date is coming closer and closer, my heart is beating fast. I am in absent-minded for a while. I have a pang of sorrow thinking that I have to part from the child. I decided not to shed tears of sorrow because the child goes to her new nice home for the sake of the child’s better life in the future, but I cried with the loud sounds, shedding tears incessantly on my face when the child’s back view disappeared from my sight. For the sake of the happy life in the future, I have to bury the child’s figure in my heart. Those pains make cry. However, when I look at the child’s pretty and healthy appearance, and when I received the child’s picture and letter from the child’s new parents, I am very happy to see her pretty and healthy appearance in the picture. You do not know how happy I am at that time. Today I pledge myself to see the lovely child. So, I am here now. I do not know I can get a prize like this and I am thankful to Holt and I am pleased to receive this prize, but I am very much shamed. I have a pride in my own way, so I am still working for Holt. However, I am not a proper person to get praised from the people. I am so sorry to many children. When I am with children, I do my best for them. However, after leaving them, I am so sorry not to do my best for children. I did not hold children in my arms more often and I am kicking myself not to give them my love. I do not know how long I keep my work for children. meeting children, and soon I have part from them. It is a great pity that I have to part from children and it makes me hurt in my heart. On the other hand, I am happy with labors. I think it is a mission which is given to me by God.
I will pray to God for children and their family, I assure all of you that I will do my best for children and I will take care of them prettily with all my hearts and love.”
Monday, December 15—A Day of Hope and Grace (Visit to Unwed Mother’s Shelter)
Our day was spent touring a facility for unwed mothers outside of Seoul. I’ve known about this shelter for a couple of years now, but this was my very first visit. What an oasis for pregnant, unmarried women. The support and education they receive would not be provided for them if this facility didn’t exist.
When an unwed mother is not accepted in her own family or by her own culture, this place becomes her home, and the staff and other mothers become her family.
This unwed mother’s shelter gives these mothers a sense of hope, no matter the choice they will make for their babies. My hope for them is that they never regret the choices they make. A mother’s love never dies when there is hope and grace.
Visit to the Ilsan Center
Yesterday, we spent our day at the Ilsan Center. This is the orphanage that Harry Holt built for Korean War orphans and children with disabilities. Today, it is a home for those with disabilities and can house up to 300 residents at one time. There are 100 housemothers that work at Ilsan in varying shifts to care for the residents within cottages that house those with similar disabilities and ages.
Ilsan is truly a magical place…this is where it all began. The history is amazing, and you gain such an appreciation for the Holt’s and David Kim’s hard work and dedication. For myself as an adoptee, this is more than the beginning, this is my ‘first house.’ I like to think of this place as my place of ‘birth’. I come here and gain such a sense of peace. I think it’s because of the wonderful family environment everyone has created here…there are no pretenses, there are no expectations, but to only be a family and see your potential as a human being no matter what circumstances you are in. This is a place where you can feel like you matter as a person. You are no longer judged or looked down upon. The saying for Ilsan is “Love in Action,” and this can truly be seen everywhere.
What an honor it is for me to come here each year and show my gratitude to Harry and Bertha Holt right at their grave-site. Even in death, they are still watching over their children and loving them.
Being invited to Molly Holt’s house this year was quite the surprise. It was my first time being inside the house that Harry Holt built, lived in and cared for each new resident that came into his care. Molly Holt continues her father’s great love the same way he did. We saw some of the residents that live with Molly, such a wonderful family environment.
After lunch, we were separated into groups and each brought big bags of presents to each of the cottages. This is the reason I keep coming back, to see the joy and the excitement on the faces of the residents when they see us and know that they will receive one gift. It only takes one gift to make them feel like they are on top of the world, if only we could all feel this way, rather than thinking we need so much more. When we enter their cottage, they greet us with hugs and smiles that melt your heart. What a wonderful gift to us.
After playing Santa it was off to the Christmas party. So wonderful to see the gymnasium full of party decorations and the majority of the residents. Though the gift team is responsible for giving this party, we are treated like honored guests. This year, I was so surprised that the Ilsan choir sang for us, they made me cry with their beautiful voices singing Silent Night. I am in awe of this choir. I heard them sing at the 50th Anniversary celebration in October 2005, my first time ever to Korea. I have kept this choir in my heart ever since. The joy and their passion for singing were so powerful that I have never forgotten them.
This year, join Holt’s annual Christmas Gift Team as they share in hugs and prayers with the Ilsan residents. Enjoy homemade gifts, as well as songs and skits performed by the children. You’ll experience the culture, taste the cuisine, and marvel at the extraordinary beauty of Korea. But most of all, you’ll help create a magical, joyous Christmas for a special group of children!
Share in the joy and spirit of Christmas! Also, explore Holt’s history and see Holt’s vision in action – through parties at Ilsan and the Jeonju Baby Home, as well as a visit to an unwed mothers’ shelter, and a lunch to honor foster mothers.