When you give a Gift of Hope, you will provide children and families with critically needed items that will help them to survive.

Clothes and a supply of milk can make the difference in keeping a family together. Livestock can help provide income to a financially burdened family. Single parents often struggle to raise their children and, in some cases, supporting a mother and her children for a few months can give a family the opportunity to get back on their feet.

Such was the case with Biruk. A single mother of six children, Biruk struggled financially and emotionally after the loss of her husband to malaria. With her life turned upside down and never enough food or income, the thought of raising her children became overwhelming. Biruk made the heartbreaking decision to relinquish her children into Holt’s care. That was in 2009, before Holt’s intervention.

In April of 2010, a group of Holt staff visited Biruk and her children. In a year’s time, this family’s life had changed dramatically. No longer in a state of crisis, Biruk proudly showed off her home and graciously offered her visitors fruit as they entered the door.

Holt recognized that all Biruk needed was a little help, and so we stepped in and gave Biruk what she needed to keep her children with her.

Holt gave Biruk a cow, nutritional grains to eat and sell, and school materials for her children. Biruk received training on profit making and saving money, parenting, and health and sanitation. The family has been able to cover home expenses through the selling of milk products. The children go to school with full tummies, eager to learn.

“I prayed for help,” said Biruk, pointing to a Bible on her pillow. “I am so grateful to God that I can now help my children and keep them with me.”

Funding items in Holt’s Gifts of Hope catalog helps Holt provide this kind of support and hope to struggling families.

 

In April, Holt’s director of programs in South and Southeast Asia, Jennifer Goette, visited Holt-supported projects in the Philippines.  Here, she reflects on her visit with young scholars from the Independent Living and Educational Assistance program.

ILEA scholar Romnick Toledo on his high school graduation day.

On April 6, with the Executive Director of Kaisahang Buhay Foundation (KBF) cheering him on, Romnick Toledo* proudly accepted awards at his high school graduation for Best in Architecture Skill Modeling, Best in Technological Education and Christian Youth Leadership.  For 17-year-old Romnick, this day was not just a turning point in his life – it proved that a young man like him can beat the odds.

 

Growing up in an orphanage from the age of 7, Romnick did not have a permanent family to provide love, care, guidance and preparation for adult life.  He had dreams of becoming an architect, but as adulthood loomed closer, it was unclear how Romnick would achieve the self-reliance he craved.  For most children, “aging out” of an orphanage means a struggle to transition from life in an institution to an independent life, often without the educational or vocational skills needed to survive.  But with the ongoing assistance of the KBF’s Independent Living and Educational Assistance (ILEA) program, Romnick has achieved incredible success in high school and is planning to enroll at the University of the Philippines later this year.

With his university degree, this ambitious young man hopes to become a successful architect so that he has the money to help other orphaned and abandoned children. “Children are the key to success,” says Romnick.  “I want to help other children just like me to know abandonment is not a burden.”  With his own finances, he hopes to create a program similar to ILEA with branches in other countries.  “Not having a family did not stop me [from continuing] my life,” he says.  “I have been successful in pursuing my goals – and other children can be too.”

Each scholar is unique and each has his or her own story to tell.  Although the majority of scholars were raised in institutions without families of their own, a few scholars have been rescued from abuse and exploitation.  Precious Valencia* came to the Nazareth Single Mothers Home, another KBF program, at the age of 14.  After escaping an abusive home, she arrived at KBF pregnant, with nowhere to go and little hope for her future.  With counseling and support, Precious made the difficult decision that she was not ready to be a mother.  She gave birth to a son, who was adopted by a family in another country, and she resolved to continue her education.  KBF accepted her into the ILEA program as a second-year high school student and has provided support ever since.  Precious is now a poised 18-year-old pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Social Work at the University of Rizal.  She says her goal is to “help others like KBF helped me…I want to show my gratitude and work at KBF someday.”

With funding from Holt International Children’s Services, KBF currently supports between 13 and 16 promising scholars with educational assistance, group housing, case management, group social work and job placement support. Since its inception in 2000, the ILEA program has empowered 76 young adults from unique circumstances to achieve independence and self-reliance.  While some of these scholars have worked toward a high school diploma and then opened their own businesses, nearly half of the scholars have graduated from vocational courses or completed four-year university degrees.

Romnick with Rosario de la Rosa, the executive director of Kaisahang Buhay Foundation.

 

* name changed


” Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.” –James 5:13

Today is National Day of Prayer. On this special day, we ask that you join us in lifting up a prayer for the children — especially the orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children all over the world. Pray for the children in Haiti still struggling with the aftermath of a devastating earthquake. Pray for the sick and hungry children and families in Ethiopia. Pray for children in our care centers still waiting for families of their own. And in all of this, pray for Holt, that we would be prepared to serve these desperate and helpless children in any way we can.

Today is a day dedicated to prayer. It is a day for hope. And it’s a day to offer hope through your prayers….

Today, we ask you to pray and to give hope…..

Visit Holt’s Gifts of Hope catalog to find out how you can give hope to a child today!

 

How a silly movie helped one girl keep it real

by Michelle Li

When I think of my childhood, I can’t resist thinking of good ole Navin Johnson. You know, he’s Steve Martin’s quirky character in the 1979 movie, The Jerk. Navin grew up as the only white kid in a black family from Mississippi and was obnoxiously delusional about his upbringings. And despite loving his adoptive family more than anything else, he had a whole world to see.

My mom hated that movie. But oddly, there’s something I can still relate to.

Just like Navin, I grew up a poor, white kid in rural Missouri. Okay, we weren’t really poor, but my parents certainly made sacrifices for me. I was a first-generation college student. My dad spent a lot of hours operating a backhoe on various construction sites to get me through my undergraduate years. My mother gave up her own education to cart me around to tap classes and basketball practice in high school. I was a good point guard, but I wasn’t that good.

For the most part, I grew up like any other white girl in the Midwest. I was the only Asian-looking girl in my class up until high school graduation. I had little interest in anything that sounded Asian-y. I once remember throwing a fit when my mom suggested I take a martial arts class. Of course, now I regret not knowing any self defense moves.

The point is, as a child, I thought I was white and nothing else. Then, I grew up.

Some people might assume it took meeting my birth family to make me realize that yes, indeed, I was Korean. That’s partly true. After all, we reunited when I was practically a kid. At 18, I discovered my birth family was intact. My three sisters and I were all born within about 5 years from one another. They were learning English. I had already coincidentally registered for Korean language classes at the University of Kansas. We were well on our way to adding each other to our family trees. My parents at home felt like they got three more Korean girls out of the deal. Life was good.

So, I took my newly-found Korean roots to KU. I joined the Asian American Student Union. I started hanging out with Korean kids from my language class. Then something weird happened. A few of my new friends turned on me.

“You’re so white-washed,” one girl said.

“You aren’t diverse enough,” another guy told me.

“It’s a shame you’re adopted,” another one said.

I remember feeling betrayed because I had put so much effort into becoming their friend. Here I was, unnaturally calling the older boys “ohpa” and learning phrases like “maekju masheetda” to cheers a beer, and what did I get in return? A swift kick in the shins.

It made me angry because these kids were actually born in the United States, unlike me. And they wanted to scold me about diversity? Most of them only hung out with Korean students in the science library, speaking only Korean to one another. Where were their non-Korean chingus?

I was confused. No white kid saw me as white. No Korean kid saw me as Korean. Who was I?

I’ve heard so many adoptees ask this question. Even though many are living happy lives, many will also tell you they don’t feel like they fully belong in any place. In one breath, my friends would tell me they just saw me as Michelle, but in the second breath, they’d make some wise crack about me being Asian. I could never escape looking different in the United States. Read More

by Robin Munro, Senior Writer

Date of Birth: September 24, 2004

I overlooked Natalie*.

Last summer, while visiting orphanages in China, I met so many children.  Children I’ve been writing about and gushing over for months – like this boy, who made me laugh, and this boy, who performed handstands, and this boy, who went rummaging for a Minnie Mouse key chain.  Children so adorable and funny and memorable that I’ve made it my mission to find them homes. Many of them were older boys with special needs – three traits that make them especially hard to place with adoptive families.  Traits that label them and limit them – limit educational and employment opportunities in China, and limit the number of families interested in adopting them – but barely even begin to define them.

It’s an easy thing to do.

When so many children need love and attention, it’s easy to focus on those who immediately grab your interest – or, as a prospective parent, to zoom in on children who meet a certain profile – and overlook the rest.

In China, I was so preoccupied with the more outgoing children that I missed out on meeting some wonderful little ones – children with shyer natures, quieter demeanors, and eyes that sparkle with intelligence and wonder.

Children like Natalie.

Natalie lives at one of the orphanages I visited – the same orphanage where I met Sam.  So recently, when Holt’s waiting child program manager suggested I write about her, I had to ask, did I meet her?

“She was in one of the first groups we saw,” she said.  “I think you were distracted by the little guy with the deformed feet.”

Jessica’s notes say Natalie was crying and had a sad face.  In the pictures we took of Natalie that day, she looked more frustrated than sad – her forehead scrunched in consternation, her little rosebud mouth turned down in a tight frown.  She probably wondered why we made her stand before the camera, holding up a piece of paper with her name on it.  Reports from caregivers say Natalie is “quiet, timid and fairly introverted.” Naturally, posing for pictures would not be high on her list of favorite activities.

But in other pictures, on different days, Natalie is smiling, and surrounded by friends.  Most likely, she knows the person taking her picture.  In the one where she looks happiest, she is engaged in another activity – not standing still before a camera.

I look at Natalie’s wise, thoughtful eyes, observing her surroundings, and I see a storyteller.  Her reports say she likes to read books and draw pictures.  Maybe one day she will grow up and tell her own story.  Maybe she will write a book, a memoir of her childhood – like adult adoptee Thomas Park Clement, profiled in the upcoming Holt Magazine.  Maybe now, as she hangs back from the group, watching and absorbing, the scenes are imprinting on her memory.

What potential this little girl possesses.  So easy to see now that I look closer.

Natalie has spina bifida.  As a consequence, she is incontinent.  But don’t stop there.  Look closer, and see the girl that I now see – described as rational and self-disciplined, a capable learner.  A little girl shy with new people, but fun and playful with her friends – like all of us, different with different people, and in different settings.

Natalie has reminded me to look beyond the surface.  As a little girl, I was just like Natalie – shy and timid, always absorbed in a book.  But unlike Natalie, I had a family who saw all my potential.  Lets hope a family takes a closer look at this beautiful 6-year-old girl with big, thoughtful eyes, and sees all the potential waiting there.

Natalie would thrive most in a family comfortable with her diagnosis and able to provide any therapies or medical treatment she may need.  Experience parenting past her age is preferred.

For more information, contact Erin Mower at erinm@holtinternational.org.

* name changed