Rescued From Domestic Violence

You Gave This Family Warmth!

Gerel and Erhi when Holt first learned of their situation.

Because of you, Gerel and her daughters have a safe home, and hope for the future. But when we first met them nine months ago, Gerel was six months pregnant, and bone thin. She ate only flour so that her 3-year-old daughter, Erhi, would have enough to eat. Both Gerel and her daughter suffered from malnutrition.

Like so many women and children living in poverty in Mongolia, Gerel and Erhi stayed in an abusive situation because they had nowhere else to go. Continue reading “Rescued From Domestic Violence”

My Heart is Awake

For Courtney Hohenlohe Langenburg, Holt’s development officer, working on behalf of orphaned and vulnerable children around the world is personal. And nowhere was she reminded of this more than in Mongolia… 

It started in 2015. After a meeting, Paul Kim came to my desk and said, “You know, we should totally do a donor team to Mongolia.” I replied with what I can only imagine was a very blank stare, “Why?”

He sold me on the idea and two and a half years later a team of us were off. I didn’t know a lot about our programs in Mongolia. I just knew it as a small program that Paul had talked about from time to time and that I had a few donors specifically interested in. I left for Ulaanbaatar with an open heart and an open mind.

I want to highlight one day — a day that was particularly hard. After we went to visit the Red Stone School, we went out to visit families who were living near the landfill. The staff in Mongolia took us to find families who needed help — and hope. These families were literally living among the trash of the landfill. In on ger, they were surviving on moldy bread they had found in the garbage.

As an adoptee, it’s impossible not to see yourself in every child who seems to have a less fortunate outcome. That day I found myself asking, “Why me, God? Why was my outcome so different?”

One of my donors, a mother of two children from Mongolia, once told me that the hardest part for her was looking at the ones who would be left behind. The ones who would not go home with a family.

I understand so clearly that I’ve been blessed with the privilege to speak up for those who did not get to go home. And those who do not have anyone to advocate for them. After that I week I understood why Paul, for years, had been pushing me towards Mongolia. He knew that if he could get people to see the program we would understand the need. My heart is awake and ready to answer the call for these kids!

Courtney Hohenlohe Langenburg | Development Officer

Learn more about Holt’s work in Mongolia. 

Holt’s 2017 donor team in Mongolia.

The Loveliest Place

At a special library and after-school program in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, children growing up in poverty discover a love of reading — and so much more. Read the poems that several children wrote in gratitude to sponsors and donors for their beloved library, full of dreams. 

Smiling shyly, 12-year-old Davaa brings her library book over to show me what she is reading. The title is in Mongolian Cyrillic, but the cover image seems familiar. It’s a group of Western-looking girls in Civil War-era dress, sitting around a table, eating pie.

“She is working on a book about little ladies,” explains our translator, May Gombo, a member of the Holt Mongolia staff.

Little ladies… Oh, it’s “Little Women!” I realize. Of course, Davaa is reading “Little Women” — the classic Louisa May Alcott story about the four March sisters, a story almost unavoidable if you’re a girl under 12 years old and growing up anywhere in the U.S. It’s perhaps surprising to see it here, in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia — about as far as you could possibly get from the book’s setting in Concord, Massachusetts. But it’s not at all surprising that the book’s timeless and universal themes would resonate with a young woman like Davaa. “Little Women” is a story about the bonds of sisterhood, and about a family learning to live with less after the loss of status and wealth. It’s about growing up, and about learning what’s most meaningful in life. Continue reading “The Loveliest Place”

It’s Safe Here

While domestic violence has become a growing issue in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, only one shelter remains open for the dozens of women and children who seek refuge here every year. Earlier this year, with a loss in government funding, the shelter nearly closed it doors. 

Och* leans into her mom – making herself as physically close to her as possible.

Och is 4 years old, with shiny black, braided hair, a red striped dress and knee-high boots. She is shy of strangers, and whispers into her mom’s ear as she eats the sugar cube that came with her mom’s tea. Her mom, Bayarmaa*, is 29 and has the same dark shiny hair as her youngest daughter. It’s late morning on a Tuesday in May, and Och’s older sister — a third grader — is currently away at school.

But neither of Bayarmaa’s daughters like being away from their mom for long. And they never, ever want to be left alone.

Bayarmaa sits with her hands tucked between her knees, and her shoulders curved protectively inward.

“How are you feeling now?” we ask her.

Tears start forming in the corners of her eyes.

“The most important mission in my life,” she says, “is to raise my children safe, and to give them all the education they can get. I will support them in every way.” Continue reading “It’s Safe Here”

July Under the Eternal Blue Sky

Holt adoptive mom Karen Myers shares about Holt’s first Mongolia Heritage Tour and her 15-year-old son Zack’s experience visiting his birth country for the first time since he came home to his family.

Karen and Zack attend the festivities for Mongolia’s annual Naadam holiday celebration.

In July 2017, my son and I had the opportunity to join five other families from across the U.S. on Holt International’s inaugural Mongolia Heritage Tour. I adopted Zack in September 2003 when he was a year and a half, and this trip would be our first time back in Ulaanbaatar — UB. So many questions flooded my brain as I packed for the trip. How would my Mongolia-born, all-American-boy respond to the unanswerable and confusing questions that the trip would inevitably bring up? And most of all, would he want me to come with him? Continue reading “July Under the Eternal Blue Sky”

Thank You For Seeing My Life

Before leaving on Holt’s inaugural Mongolia Heritage Tour this past summer, John Clark and his family donated the funds to build a new ger — a new home — for a vulnerable family living beside a garbage dump in Ulaanbaatar. Below, John shares what inspired his family to give, followed by a radio interview with the family who received a new ger. 

Standing in front of the brand new ger they built, the Clark family poses for a photo with the family who received this new ger. From left: Ariana Clark, Carver Clark, Enkhjargal, her husband and three children, and John and Janette Clark.

The most memorable time for me on the Mongolian tour was being able to help a family in need of permanent housing in Ulaanbaatar.

Before we left for our tour, I was moved by the Holt video showing how others had donated funds to help build gers for needy families. I didn’t consider the expense. I felt we should do this. Continue reading “Thank You For Seeing My Life”

Never Their Fault: Part One

When a team of Holt donors travels to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia to build homes for four of the most vulnerable families in the poorest district of the city, something so unexpected happens — so stunning and so moving — they decide on the spot to build one more.

Amin-Erdene zips up her cousin’s vest on a 30-degree day in Ulaanbaatar. They live next door to each other in the ger district of Mongolia.

Amin-Erdene kneels down to zip up her little cousin’s vest — a shiny, hot pink, sleeveless thing that looks far too flimsy for the weather, which has dropped 40 degrees since yesterday. It’s early spring in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, a high desert region where the temperature can swing dramatically from both season to season and day to day. Yesterday, it reached the high 70s. Today, it’s in the low 30s, but feels even colder — a face-numbing, paralyzing cold that makes me want to curl into myself like a potato bug.

But 7-year-old Amin-Erdene and her cousins seem unfazed.

In a country where in the depths of winter the temperature can drop 40 degrees below zero, this is nothing. Amin-Erdene blankets a heavy coat over her little cousin, who sits in an old car seat outside the crowded ger where they’ve been living. Her feet poke out of the coat, in socks and white-heeled dress shoes that make me think of something our local partner said — how parents will often keep their kids home from school in winter because they’re worried about frostbite, and they can’t afford warm shoes. Amin-Erdene’s older brother picks up another little cousin and snuggles her close to him, kissing her on the cheek. Continue reading “Never Their Fault: Part One”

Never Their Fault: Part Two

When a team of Holt donors travels to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia to build homes for four of the most vulnerable families in the poorest district of the city, something so unexpected happens — so stunning and so moving — they decide on the spot to build one more. 

Read part one of this story!

A couple miles from Amin-Erdene’s ger — down a hill, past a gulley, right of a small store and up another hill — sits the school where Amin-Erdene and her 10-year-old brother walk every day. There are no street signs in the ger district, and Gantuul expertly navigates the rough terrain by memory — taking shortcuts to families she has visited countless times.

The school is an informal, one-room schoolhouse for kids who have dropped out — or never attended — public school. Many of their families make a living from scavenging recyclables from the trash dump that sits atop the hill, overlooking the city. Some are homeless, or near homeless, living in makeshift shelters built of scraps found in the dump. For these kids, this school is more than just a school. It provides the things a home should provide — hot cooked meals, often their only one each day, water and soap to clean up with, freshly laundered clothes, and a warm, bright place to study next to an electric radiator.

For many children in this community, lunch at the Red Stone School is the only hot meal, and sometimes the only meal, they receive each day.

About 30 kids attend this school, called the “Red Stone School,” in two shifts each day. They know each other well, and they understand each other. Here, no one is bullied for smelling bad or having filthy clothes or having parents who dig through trash to survive. Here, they belong. Continue reading “Never Their Fault: Part Two”

Never Their Fault

When a team of Holt donors travels to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia to build homes for four of the most vulnerable families in the poorest district of the city, something so unexpected happens — so stunning and so moving — they decide on the spot to build one more.

Amin-Erdene kneels down to zip up her little cousin’s vest — a shiny, hot pink, sleeveless thing that looks far too flimsy for the weather, which has dropped 40 degrees since yesterday. It’s early spring in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, a high desert region where the temperature can swing dramatically from both season to season and day to day. Yesterday, it reached the high 70s. Today, it’s in the low 30s, but feels even colder — a face-numbing, paralyzing cold that makes me want to curl into myself like a potato bug.

Amin-Erdene zips up her cousin’s vest on a 30-degree day in Ulaanbaatar. They live next door to each other in the ger district of Mongolia.

But 7-year-old Amin-Erdene and her cousins seem unfazed.

In a country where in the depths of winter the temperature can drop 40 degrees below zero, this is nothing. Amin-Erdene blankets a heavy coat over her little cousin, who sits in an old car seat outside the crowded ger where they’ve been living. Her feet poke out of the coat, in socks and white-heeled dress shoes that make me think of something our local partner said — how parents will often keep their kids home from school in winter because they’re worried about frostbite, and they can’t afford warm shoes. Amin-Erdene’s older brother picks up another little cousin and snuggles her close to him, kissing her on the cheek. Continue reading “Never Their Fault”