Realizing Her Potential

Widowed at 38, and supporting six children, Sao Yien struggled to make ends meet. But when she received a Gift of Hope to build a small business, she realized how strong and independent she truly could be.

Thoa Bui (left), Holt’s vice president of programs in South and S.E. Asia, hugs Sao Yien as she cries on her shoulder during their recent visit.

When Sao Yien said goodbye to Thoa, she buried her head in Thoa’s shoulder and cried. She didn’t say anything. She just cried. And so did Thoa.

Thoa Bui is Holt’s vice president of programs in South and Southeast Asia. Sao Yien is a woman in our family strengthening program in Battambang, Cambodia. A widow, Sao is the sole support for seven members of her family, including her own child, her sister’s five children and her 90-year-old grandmother. Until two years ago, when Holt’s social work team in Cambodia began working with Sao, she and her family were living in extreme poverty.

“At that moment before we parted,” Thoa says, “she was crying — and I was crying too to be honest — and I said I have a lot of feelings because I totally understand what you have gone through, and I understand the burden of responsibility that you continue to carry for these children and your family.” Continue reading “Realizing Her Potential”

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”

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”

A Stroke of Generosity

What do chicks, fish, a food cart and a garden all have in common? For one family in Thailand, it’s anything but luck. 

“She’s a smart woman,” says Jintana Nontapouraya, the executive director of Holt’s longtime partner organization in Thailand. “Just unlucky.”

Rada’s life was going well. She had graduated from technical school and was pursuing a university degree when her whole life changed. In the second year of her accounting program, her father passed away.

Today, 37-year-old Rada sits on the floor of her home, sharing about this difficult time in her life. She wears a zebra-striped jumpsuit and tendrils of her black hair, blown loose by the fan on this hot day, wisp across her face.

“After my father died, a family member who was a fortune teller told me that I had to come home and become a Buddhist nun,” Rada says, “or else I would die.”

Feeling like she had no other option, that’s what she did. After several days of serving in the Buddhist temple, she got a job selling brand-name shoes in one of Bangkok’s largest shopping centers.

“During that time, when I was around 18 or 19,” says Rada, “I met the children’s father.”

She became pregnant with their first child, and they moved in with his parents.

“He usually didn’t work,” Rada says about the children’s father. “He depended on his own mother and father and I worked most of the time. And he was very jealous when I would go work.” His jealousy turned violent.

Continue reading “A Stroke of Generosity”

Life in the Caves

In China, some of the poorest children and families live in ancient, hand-dug caves — the only housing they can afford. In the harsh, frigid winters, life is not easy. But these kids are in school because of the support they receive from their sponsors. Through education, children like Ping have the best possible chance to escape poverty forever. Thank you for supporting kids like Ping! Your commitment to children is making a world of difference.

To read more about life in the caves, click here.

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”