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.
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”
Cold. Wet. Shivering at night. Constant colds and flu. Kids with sleep deprivation. For Preun, a single mother of three school-aged children, this was simply her reality.
With no money to repair her leaking roof and thatched walls, the rainy season in Cambodia was absolutely miserable — and a very serious threat to her children.
Every time it rained, her children’s school supplies, their precious rations of rice and few blankets were soaked or ruined. Her children struggled to keep up in school. The coconut leaves they used for walls dripped with cold, dirty water. When they fell sick, they could not afford to see a doctor.
In Cambodia, palm trees are used in all kinds of ways. The tall stalks act as landmarks, designating a family’s home and property. Its fruit is used to make delicious “fish amok” — a traditional Khmer dish featuring rich, creamy coconut curry. And when you pull apart the different strands of the palm leaf, you can bend and twist it upon itself to create the traditional craft of a rather lifelike locust.
Cambodians use palm trees for all kinds of good things.
In Cambodia, there are many threats to family stability, and when parents or grandparents fall into hardship, they are forced to make difficult decisions about how to ensure their child or grandchild’s basic needs are met. In desperation, many parents will take the last resort — relinquishing their child to orphanage care. But through research and community collaboration funded by Save the Children, USAID and GHR Foundation grants, Holt hopes to create a model of services that keeps children out of institutions and with their families.
Last January, I was sitting under a tin-covered porch on a rough, wooden platform. Red-faced and sweating, I was not cutout for the heavy, exhausting heat of the Cambodian summer.
The shade of Sinat’s porch was welcome relief. Sinat’s house is a single-room structure, with green tin walls. Unlike many of the homes in rural Cambodia, her home is not built on stilts, which typically protects homes from flooding. For that reason, Sinat and her 15-year-old grandson sometimes sleep in their rice storage room, an additional structure behind the main house, elevated about four feet off the ground on thick, wooden stilts. Continue reading “Holt Secures Grants to Reunite Children With Families in Cambodia”
DJ You started her career working with families and children in 2000 as a social worker for Holt Children’s Services of Korea, a separate but closely tied organization to Holt International . Recently, she accepted a position as Holt Korea’s outreach program director after serving as a social worker in Seoul for the last 16 years. “I’m very happy to still be serving children in different countries,” DJ says. “I was called to love the children of the world.”
Below, DJ shares about her cherished career uniting children with families through adoption — many of them Holt families in the U.S. — and what it has meant to her to work with the organization Harry and Bertha Holt founded 60 years ago in her native South Korea.
Since I was in 6th grade, I’ve wanted to be a social worker. Serving orphaned children has always been my dream, and I know God called me to care for orphans. My mother was a social worker and great role model for me. She ran an orphanage with my aunt in Seoul, South Korea, and I was around children all the time.
My mother’s love and passion for orphaned children was unstoppable. One of her friends introduced her to the Holt reception center that was not too far from my mother’s orphanage. Whenever my mother had some extra time, she went there and volunteered to take care of babies. She remembers working with Harry Holt. She said he always took care of the most vulnerable children — loving them, feeding them and “making them chubby,” then giving them back to the caregiver when they were healthy enough. Then, he would take care of the next vulnerable child to come into care. My mother still remembers the children’s names and nicknames. They are all probably grandparents now.
Like my mother, I had hoped and dreamed to work in an adoption agency one day, especially an international adoption agency. When I was a junior in college, my sister and I did a volunteer escort trip, bringing a baby to the United States and into their new family. Continue reading “Living Her Dream”
Around the world, education is one of the most effective ways to help children and families escape long-term poverty. But in the countries where Holt works in SE Asia, this basic right of children is not easily obtained.
In impoverished communities across SE Asia, parents often let their children drop out of school to enter the labor workforce at very early ages. But high dropout rates, lack of education and poverty are all primary factors contributing to child trafficking.
Children as young as 12 who drop out of school have become easy targets for traffickers who recruit them with the promise of job placements in big cities. Sometimes, they end up in very harsh working conditions. Others are trafficked for far worse reasons.
Preschools or daycare for children ages 3-5 are also not available in many rural areas in SE Asia — resulting in delayed social, language and academic development. In some countries, the frequent migration of parents to seek jobs in big cities has resulted in children not having access to preschools. Many parents simply can’t afford to send their children to preschool, or do not understand how education impacts the development of their children prior to Grade 1.
Without your help and partnership, Holt could never reach so many lives in SE Asia and the many other countries where we work. Thank you for being part of a big cause serving children and families around the world!
Thoa Bui | Senior Executive of South & Southeast Asia Programs
In February, I spent a week visiting children and families in Holt’s program in rural Cambodia, where extreme poverty, under-development, food shortages and un-policed exploitation threaten the stability, health and wellness of children, families and entire communities.
On our last day in Kampot, an older woman met our Holt group just as we were returning to our vehicle to head back to Phnom Penh. She didn’t speak English, so I shook her hand before hopping in the backseat of the SUV. I have no idea how far she walked to find us.
She walked to the driver’s side window and told our community development officer that her family really needed a new roof, and to ask if we could help provide one. He discussed her request with Holt’s director of programs in Cambodia, Kosal Cheam, who translated her request to us as we drove away.
While I didn’t actually see her home, I imagined it was similar to those I had visited all week. It was probably a thatch roof with thatch walls, built on stilts.
A leaky roof in Cambodia is a huge threat to children’s health and safety. During the rainy season, children will be more susceptible to colds and illness. The leaking can rot the floor and ruin the whole home.
I asked how much the new roof would cost, and Kosal said it would be about $100.
Upon returning to the U.S., I donated $100 to our Cambodia program, designated for this family. It was such a minimal cost to change a family’s life and keep them safe.
Last week, I received an email from Kosal and I opened it excitedly, expecting to see pictures of the new roof.
I was heartbroken by her news.
The roof was delayed because the grandmother died just a few days prior and the mother, father and children were preparing for her funeral.
As if that weren’t sad enough, Kosal also said that because the family’s home was in such poor condition, there wasn’t enough support from the walls and central pillars to support the weight of a new roof.
Kosal included two attachments, and I clicked them open. I was shocked by what I saw.
This is a picture of the family’s home.
And this is a picture of the family. Thann, the little boy on the left, is in Holt’s child sponsorship program, so he receives help with his school fees and other critical, basic needs, like emergency food. Thann is a good student and doing well in school. His younger sister is too little to enroll in school. The family makes their income farming rice, but Holt’s on-the-ground staff are helping them to learn new income generating skills, like animal raising. Also, Thann’s mother is in a Holt-funded self-help and low-interest loan group in her village. You can read more about Holt’s self-help groups here.
Children and families in our programs tend to be among the most vulnerable in the world. In Cambodia, poverty is especially pervasive. However, even by that standard, this home is in very, very rough shape.
I can’t imagine the sadness this family is experiencing, having just lost a dear loved one and family elder. And to go through the excitement of learning that one of grandma’s last wishes for her family — a new roof! — was granted, but then impossible to complete… That must have felt just hopeless.
But I know we can make a miracle for this family and give them some hope in their time of need.
For $400 more, we can not only replace the roof, but fix the family’s home to support the new roof.
To make a donation, call Holt Development Associate Courtney Young at 541-687-2202 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and let her know you want to donate to Thann’s roof project. She will be happy to take you donation over the phone. You can also donated here, but be sure to write “Thann’s Roof Project CBACE15-002” in the comment box.
Any amount you give will be used 100 percent to help this family. Anything above $400 will be redirected to a similar program of greatest need.
Thank you for giving this family the resources they need to get back on their feet. Your gift will be truly inspiring and life changing for them.
If you make a gift, we will email you when we receive an update from Cambodia.