On this blog, we share stories and updates about our work around the world. With reporting from Holt staff in the U.S. and overseas as well as contributions from adoptive parents, adoptees, sponsors and supporters, we strive to represent the heart, life and experiences of our extended “Holt Family.”
A message from Kim Brown, Holt president and CEO:
You likely know about the incredible work taking place at the Ilsan Center in Korea. As a Korean adoptee and father of two adopted children from Korea, Ilsan has a special place in my heart and I praise the Lord for the work that goes on there. But during my most recent visit to the center, I couldn’t help notice the poor physical condition of some of the buildings, especially “Molly’s House,” where Harry and Bertha Holt’s daughter still cares for Ilsan children and residents. These buildings are badly in need of repair.
God has truly blessed us by calling then 19-year-old Molly, more than 50 years ago, to follow in her parent’s faith-filled footsteps. A trained nurse, Molly cares for orphaned children in their very first days at the center, as well as after surgery or during a serious illness. She’ll tell you that she keeps them for as long as needed, “Until these children know that they are loved and wanted.” Over the years, her Christian faith has driven her to minister hope to some of the most needy children in Holt’s care.
Unfortunately, Molly’s house is one of many of Ilsan’s 15 buildings that need repair. During my visit I saw exposed electrical systems, outdated plumbing, crumbling stairs and peeling paint.
To bring our facilities up to recently revised government standards, we’ve launched a five-year renovation campaign for Ilsan and need your help to make these vital repairs.
The following is the story of Min-kee, a 6-year-old resident at Ilsan who was brought into Molly’s care….
Min-kee came into Ilsan’s care at 16 months of age. He started out with a foster family, but when it was determined that he would most likely need ongoing and more in-depth care, he was transferred to Ilsan and into the arms of Molly Holt. Upon arriving at Molly’s House, where all new arrivals are brought, Min-kee had several developmental delays and was not able to walk or feed himself. He had low set ears, a webbed neck and short extremities – traits often associated with Noonan’s disease, a congenital heart defect for which he was later diagnosed.
“When the young children and babies arrive at Ilsan, they start out at my house and the housemothers and myself teach them to sit up, walk and feed themselves,” explains Molly. “Min-kee was quite delayed when he came to Ilsan, but then started functioning really well after awhile. He learned to feed himself and speak.
“Before moving into another house at Ilsan, the children will usually stay at my house for a month or so while we assess their needs. If children continue to struggle or they need more long-term care, they will come back to my house for however long they need.” Read More
Adoptees discovering their homeland and heritage
by Robin Munro, senior writer
For Shannon Landry – a 16-year-old Nebraskan girl adopted as a baby from China – life so far has mostly revolved around school and soccer, friends and family. Returning to China rarely crossed her mind, though she thought it would be cool, she says, to see where she was born.
But from the time she turned 10, her mother told her that one day, they would go.
That day arrived this past summer, when she embarked on a two-week tour of China. She expected a cool adventure – an adventure that has since become a lifelong journey.
“I just feel like there’s so much more I could learn about me. Before, I never really thought about it,” Shannon says, “but now that I’ve had the experience, I don’t want to lose it.”
Joining 21 other adoptees and their families, Shannon and her mom, Melanie, traveled to China on a Holt heritage tour. The adoptees – all girls from this country of the one-child policy – explored the land of their birth, together. They climbed the Great Wall and toured the Forbidden City. They learned to cook traditional Chinese dishes, studied calligraphy and honed their chopstick skills. On a cruise down the Li River, they saw cormorant fisherman and water buffalo. They traveled to a panda reserve, where some even held these squirmy, soft-furred vegetarians, subdued by honey on the paw. They biked and cruised and climbed through China, ending where they began their adoption journey – at the White Swan Hotel in Guangzhou, the southern city home to the American Consulate, where all adoptive families secure their child’s visa.
But for many of the girls, the most meaningful part of the trip occurred on separate journeys – journeys to their finding places, their orphanages and foster families. Here, they found a connection to their past.
When Shannon visited her orphanage, she broke down in tears. “I got to meet the old [orphanage] director, which was really cool,” she says. “It kind of felt like I had a connection with her.” Shannon spent the morning at the orphanage, holding and playing with the children. She met children with special needs, a characteristic shared by many of those needing adoptive families in China. “That definitely impacted me the most,” she says. “That stood out for me and I think it did for a lot of the girls.”
Holt heritage tours are designed for adoptees and their families to experience the customs, culture and history of their birth country. Central to the tour philosophy is the adoptee’s personal story, and personal journey. To recreate this story, Holt strives to coordinate visits to adoptees’ orphanages and reunions with foster families, whenever possible. Read More
The journey that changed my life
by Alexa Dantzler
Exactly one year ago, my parents told me news that forever changed my life. One evening, my parents gathered us in the living room. We called our oldest sister, Dana, at college. And then my dad said, with a grand smile on his face, “Girls, your mother and I have decided to begin the adoption process of a little boy, in an age range between 4 and 7, from Ethiopia. We know you have always wanted a little brother. Now, the opportunity has presented itself to us.” After hearing this, it seemed as though our living room turned into a water park – we all broke into tears.
I was so overcome with joy and excitement that I could barely sleep that night. I prayed, asking God and St. Charles – the patron saint of orphans and adoption – to please watch over our adoption process and let it progress quickly. From that night on, I prayed every night for my brother’s health and spirit.
In June, we were matched with our little man, Berhanu. He was four years old and looked so adorable that I wanted to just take him out of the photo, hug and squeeze him. It was so exciting to hear my dad read Berhanu’s monthly health and social assessments, and see updated pictures of him. Finally, one afternoon, my dad called us. It was early December. He told us that we should start packing our bags – on Christmas day, we would pick up our “little prince” in Ethiopia!
All of a sudden, it was December 23rd. I was more than ready to take off for Ethiopia! We arrived in the capital city of Addis Ababa on Christmas Day, which was actually night in Ethiopia. When I stepped out of the airport and into the night air, I sensed a feeling of returning home, as though I just belonged in Ethiopia. In bed that night, I still couldn’t believe we were finally there, and that my brother was sleeping peacefully right next door in the Addis Ababa transition center. Read More
Contemporary Christian music group NewSong, founder of Winter Jam, is currently traveling in India to view Holt’s childcare and family preservation programs there.
by Brian Campbell, creative services director
Pune, India – The van stops at the mouth of a back alley neighborhood, where Billy, Eddie, Matt and Russ of the Christian music group NewSong step out with Roxana Kalyanvala, BSSK’s director. As they wind through the alley, the NewSong members begin to notice the houses that line these narrow streets – tiny, one-room dwellings with makeshift doors composed of wood, sheet metal and roofing tin.
The guys pause outside the doorway of a family in BSSK’s family preservation program, where a woman named *Shveta answers the door. With gracious gestures, she welcomes the NewSong members into her home. The guys politely remove their shoes and enter the home’s one room – roughly 8 feet by 12 feet in size. They stand beneath a corrugated iron roof, which, heated by the sun, has turned the room into a sauna. But the guys are eager to hear Shveta’s story and don’t seem to mind the heat as they listen to her talk, and Roxana translate.
Day laborers, Shveta and her husband work when they can. In India, the average day laborer earns an annual income of roughly 4,000 rupees, or less than $100 a year. To help support the family, their two children – a teenage son and young daughter – quit school to work. With day-to-day survival the main concern, the long-term goal of
education had fallen to the wayside.
Recognizing their need, BSSK stepped in to help this family out of dire poverty. The social
service organization provided tailor training for Shveta and employment leads for her husband. BSSK also provided the resources the children need to continue school.
“How does a family live on less than $10 a month?” Matt whispers as the group steps out of the house. Then, the thought sinking into his heart, he continues, “What did these children eat for less than $100 a year?”
In the alley outside Shveta’s home, Russ and Matt turn and look around for the answer.
“The folks of Holt International are the feet and hands here on the ground,” says Eddie. “They come in here and do what they can for these kids to have a better future.”
Holt International’s child sponsorship program is the best way to support the continuing efforts of BSSK’s family preservation program.
Contemporary Christian music group NewSong, founder of Winter Jam, is currently traveling in India to view Holt’s childcare programs there. Here, Holt’s creative services director, Brian Campbell, describes their visit to BSSK – a model childcare and social service center founded by Holt in 1979.
by Brian Campbell
Pune, India – The children line at the window. For the last few weeks, they’ve eagerly anticipated the arrival of the four performing artists who make up the Christian band NewSong. They’ve prepared songs and dances for Eddie, Russ, Matt and Billy, and can’t wait to do a little performing themselves.
When the vans pull up and the guys step out, the children squeal with excitement. As Newsong begins to climb the stairs, the children call out “Mama, mama!” – the word for uncle in Marathi, the main Indian dialect used here in the city of Pune, India. A BSSK staff member hands the guys a guitar, brought from home. The children beg them to sing Jingle Bells and Old MacDonald, and the guys proceed to belt them out with great gusto. But their biggest hit requires audience participation: “If you’re happy and you know it.” The children catch on quickly, and begin to sing along, mimicking the guys’ clapping, stomping gestures. When the song ends, the children cry, “Encore!” Not to disappoint their fans, the guys repeat “If you’re happy,” this time picking up the pace and challenging the children to sing faster.
The next stop on NewSong’s tour of BSSK is a room full of toddlers. This audience isn’t quite so immediately sold on the four rockers who enter their room. Staring at the strangers, they warily move toward their caregivers. But it’s not long before the guys are on the floor, playing with the children, now friendlier and more at ease. The guys each hold several of the little ones. “This is amazing,” Matt Butler says to his bandmate, in a near whisper, as a child grabs the end of his nose. “Look at all these little faces.”
Before too long, the guys lead a siege of youngsters to the playground. They push swings. They catch children at the bottom of slides. They spin the merry-go-round. Laughing, Matt, Eddie, Billy and Russ play as naturally as the rest of the kids.
As they pile back into their van at the end of the day, Russ Lee smiles. “What a blessing to be with those kids,” he says.