When Tieu endures a horrific accident at work and loses her source of income, she fears her daughters will be forced to drop out of school because she can’t afford their fees. But when she receives an unexpected gift, in an unusual size and shape, she begins to feel hopeful again.
Tieu lightly rests her left hand on her right arm. Her skin is painful to look at. Marbled and pocked, shiny and red and raised about an inch above her healthy skin, a severe burn runs the length of her arm, serving as a daily reminder of the gasoline fire that nearly took her life. Tieu is 40 but looks much younger, with shiny black hair parted down the side. She has five daughters — the youngest of which sits beside her now, giggling and bouncing with excitement to have visitors in her home. Another of Tieu’s daughters sits on the other side of her giggly sister, watching her mom with worry as she talks about her burn.
As 16-year-old Van Dai prepares to meet his adoptive family, and his adoptive family prepares to meet him, they share what they’re nervous about, what they’re excited about, and why they are so eager to finally meet one another.
Van Dai is 16 years old. He likes math, soccer and computer games, and is naturally good at things that require problem solving and forethought. He’s a bit shy and introspective, and doesn’t show a broad range of emotion. But when you catch his eye and smile, he will return your smile a thousand-fold. His smile is absolutely radiant.
It’s a hot and humid January afternoon in the south of Vietnam, but cooler where we sit inside on wooden furniture, beneath a blowing fan. In the background, we can hear the sounds of children playing, the occasional squeak of metal swings.
“How are you feeling right now?”
Van Dai’s eyes gleam and glance around the room. He smiles.
Adoptive dad Keith Guess shares about his family’s experience with older child adoption, how it differs from adopting babies, and how Spencer and Leo — two teen brothers from Vietnam — have adjusted to their new home, and their new life, in the U.S.
Susan and I were not thinking about adoption when she saw Leo and Spencer’s photograph on the Holt Facebook page. Something about the picture caught her interest and she forwarded it on to me. Over the coming days, we started discussing if adopting again would be something that would be reasonable for our family. We asked our boys how they would feel about us adopting again. They were all supportive. Our 13-year-old indicated that he would be interested primarily if we would be adopting someone his age.
A bit later, Susan showed me a video of Spencer and Leo racing each other. They are about 11 and 12 years old in the video. As Spencer passes Leo, he turns and grins. Leo responds with a smile. There was something winsome about that moment that made me begin thinking about them as “my sons.” Continue reading “The First of Many Firsts as Family”
When he was about a month old, Bennett was left at the front steps of his care center. He has lived here his whole life, and is now 7 years old.
Bennett is a shy kid at first, but quickly warms up to people! Humor is one of his favorite ways to make friends, and he can often be seen laughing and joking with others. He likes living with a bunch of other kids, but it is hard for him to see other kids leave to join adoptive families while he still waits.
He is learning all kinds of new things in second grade including reading, writing and multiplication. He does well in school and someday, he says, he wants to be a doctor and help people! He knows he will need to learn as much as he can if he hopes to achieve his dream of becoming a doctor, and that’s why he works so hard.
What Bennett most wants and needs, though, is to be a part of a family — a family that will give him all the love and support he needs to achieve whatever he wants in life.
Dustin is a friendly and energetic boy who has been in care since he was 3 weeks old. He is currently in the 1st grade and is reportedly learning well. He can write letters and numbers and enjoys counting. He is said to have mild cognitive delays and a lisp, but is otherwise healthy! Continue reading “Dustin Needs a Family!”
Sometimes when a country hasn’t seen any movement on a waiting child’s file, they remove Holt’s referral for the child. Effectively that means that Holt can no longer seek families for these children.
Vincent is one of three boys who Holt will soon no longer be able to home-find for. If we can find the right family for Vincent, a $5000 Brittany’s Hope grant is available to help cover his adoption costs!
He has decided that five best friends is not enough, and is open to having more. It is rare to see him alone and he is most upset when he can’t hang out with others. He isn’t just popular with his peers, though, he is also close with his caregivers!
Vincent is also a very active boy, which can get him into trouble when he is supposed to be sitting still. He can ride a bike, play soccer, and likes to play pretend with the other kids in his care center.
He is very observant and a quick learner. One of his caregivers told the story of when a carpenter came to repair a door. Vincent was very curious about all of the tools that the carpenter brought and was very interested in the work that he was doing. He sat and watched as the man worked and in a very short time, he knew what each tool was called and how it was used. By the end, Vincent was helping the carpenter by handing him the right tools at the right time.
Vincent also has a very caring and thoughtful spirit. He can often be found helping the younger children in his care center and he likes playing with others and doesn’t mind sharing his toys because it brings them joy. One day, he hopes to be a priest because they help people.
Vincent is said to be in good physical health and to have mild cognitive delays. An adoptive family for this older boy should be knowledgeable about older child adoption issues, such as how grief may affect adjustment and attachment. His family should also have access to a good educational system to help him reach his full potential.
Born with severe sight and hearing impairments, it’s like Giang was trapped, unable to communicate with the world around her. But then, everything changed.
Giang sat on the back of her family’s motorbike, riding home after a full day. Her mother thought everything was going well, until out of the corner of her eye she saw something fly through the air and land on the side of the road.
“No! Not her hearing aids!”
Yes, 4-year-old Giang had apparently had enough noise for the day. But still — believe it or not — this was progress.
When Holt staff member Billie Loewen delivers a uniform to a young girl in Vietnam, she also gets a glimpse of how one small act of kindness can forever change the course of someone’s life.
I know how powerful your gifts, as donors, can be because I’ve been blessed to visit families and children who have received them — and on one especially wonderful occasion, I got to deliver a gift to one particularly sweet and inspirational 15-year-old girl.
When I met Nhi, it was a hot, humid afternoon in late June. My husband and I traveled to Vietnam on our honeymoon, but took a couple extra days to visit with children and families in Holt’s programs. This is one of my favorite parts of working for Holt. I am inspired by the families in our programs. They have big dreams and work harder than most anyone I’ve ever met. They take the small investment or hand-up we provide and completely transform their lives and the lives of their families and communities. I meet mothers, fathers and grandparents who sacrifice everything to provide for their children and grandchildren the opportunities they never had. Many of the parents and grandparents in our programs have survived unspeakable atrocities. War, violence, oppression, the worst kind of poverty. And children seem so much older than their chronological age. They take on adult chores and responsibilities from a young age.
Nhi was no different.
At 14, she was tremendously quiet and absolutely beautiful, but understated in her appearance. In contrast to many American girls, Nhi didn’t wear makeup, anything brand-name or jewelry. Her slick black hair met at the nape of her neck in a low ponytail. She wore simple jeans, flip flops and a polka dot T-shirt.
Just weeks before I arrived at her home in Danang, Vietnam, Nhi received some incredible news. After weeks and weeks of studying for her high school exams, Nhi received her test scores.