The Story of My Life

Growing up without a stable family in the Philippines, Konny Dela Cruz struggled to stay on track — and eventually left school early to work in a garment factory. Then she learned about Holt’s  independent living and educational assistance (ILEA) program — a donor-funded program that helps institutionalized and disadvantaged teens to attend college and learn independent living skills. 

Konny Dela Cruz in her graduation gown.

The story of my life is so beautiful with a lot of learnings.

I was born in 1997. I grew up with a family with whom I have no blood relationship. I was only 2 years old when my mother entrusted me to the care of the landlady of the boarding house where we used to stay because she went to Korea to work.

When I was growing up, I was wondering why there is no name of my father on my birth certificate. I asked the landlady, whom I have been calling grandmother “Lola,” to explain “why I have no father on my birth certificate,” but she would just tell me it is only your mother who can answer your question. And my mother kept ignoring my question, too.

I could not approach any relative because I don’t know anyone — and maybe nobody knows about me, too. Continue reading “The Story of My Life”

This Is Linh’s Story

We were given permission to share this story by the people involved, but due to its sensitive nature we have changed their names.

As Holt’s senior writer for the past eight years, I’ve met a lot of kids. I’ve heard — and retold — a lot of stories. And I’ve seen some pretty heartbreaking things. I feel it, every time. The hurt, the sadness in the eyes of these children.

But at this point, it’s pretty hard to shake me.

Then I met Linh.

Linh shook me. And I can’t get her out of my mind. Continue reading “This Is Linh’s Story”

Secondary Education in Uganda Lets Kids Dream Big

In rural Uganda, sponsors are now helping children attend secondary school — the critical second half of their education that empowers them to rise above poverty, and to dream big. 

Before, Edith might have gotten married. When she graduated primary school last year at age 13 — her education finished — she might have started to run her own household, possibly becoming a mother as a young teenager.

And Raymond? He might have moved to Kampala. As a 12-year-old in Uganda’s largest city, he might have found a manual labor job or started working for a wealthy family — anything to earn a living.

secondary education students in Uganda
Raymond and Edith share about getting to go to secondary school.

There’s no way to know exactly where Edith and Raymond would have ended up. But of one thing we can be certain — they would not still be in school. Thrown into adult life, without a full education, the cycle of poverty would have continued for them and their families.

Continue reading “Secondary Education in Uganda Lets Kids Dream Big”

Why Do You Sponsor Us?

In Bengaluru, India, Holt child sponsors help over 1,000 girls go to school and receive an education — girls like Payal, Sanjana, Manixa and Mayvis. The importance of education for girls is not lost on them. When you educate a girl in India, you help prevent child marriage, and empower her for a successful future. And these girls want to know – why do you sponsor them?

“Why do they want to let the children to study?” says Payal, her dark brown eyes perplexed.

Continue reading “Why Do You Sponsor Us?”

At Her Point of Greatest Need

After her husband died, Shabnam and her five children were grief-stricken and without options. But then, sponsors brought hope.  

He was a river diver. In the Yamuna, the most polluted river in all of India, he dove below the surface to collect metals — copper, silver, gold if he was lucky. But one day, his foot got caught.

His wife and five children waited for him to come home, but he never did…

Continue reading “At Her Point of Greatest Need”

The Gift of Hope

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.

“This daughter,” Tieu says, looking solemnly at her older daughter, “wants to become a doctor so she can treat my hand.” Continue reading “The Gift of Hope”

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”