How a Cow Helped One Mom Save Her Family

When you give the gift of a cow, you can change a family’s life. In one impoverished community in rural Ethiopia, Holt donors have become like celebrities for all of the generous gifts of hope — especially cows — that they have given to so many families over the years. But as the story of one young mom shows, the greatest gift is often not the gift itself — but what it inspires in the hearts of those who receive it.

Meselech’s home is the smallest in her village.

A traditional, conical-shaped hut made of mud and eucalyptus branches, it’s the same style home as most families’ homes in her community. But the thatching on the roof has worn so thin that when it rains, Meselech and her children have to huddle to stay dry under the broad, droopy leaf of a “false banana” tree.

Meselech, her husband and her four children sleep inside this one-room home — some on elevated beds, others on the floor.

They are six people, living side by side in one room. But they are not alone. Continue reading “How a Cow Helped One Mom Save Her Family”

In Service of Others

When adoptee and physical therapist Kayla Covert travels to Ethiopia as part of a medical mission trip, she discovers the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself.

Kayla (center) teaches staff at the Shinshicho Primary Hospital how to use a pulse oximetry monitor.

We are constantly surrounded by privilege — the comfortable couch where we watch movies, the luxury cars that take us to work, and the gorgeous kitchens where we cook too much for Thanksgiving dinner. This realization came clear to me as I reflected upon my upbringing and current lifestyle. A Korean adoptee adopted through Holt International in 1988, I was raised by a kind and generous family in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, PA. My childhood was filled with dance classes, soccer tournaments and homework that eventually produced a doctorate in physical therapy. I spent 28 years of my life enjoying every benefit that the middle class provided, including the ability to travel and explore other cities and countries.

Traveling nowadays has become a status symbol and, for the most part, a common way tobecome “cultured.” It’s easy to visit tourist attractions, lay on white sand beaches, or take big bus tours that offer you a front-seat glimpse of the country. While these trips can be rejuvenating and enlightening, they are not the kind of trips that shatter your reality and open your eyes to a completely different world. Continue reading “In Service of Others”

A Language We All Share

When adoptive mom Cindy Lamb visits with students at the Yesus Mena Deaf School in Ethiopia, her fluency in sign language helps her communicate. But it’s another language that creates the most soulful connection. 

This past October, my husband, Steve, and I had the rare privilege of participating in the perfect intersection of a lifetime of interests and passions when we traveled to Ethiopia on a medical mission trip with Holt.  Holt helped build and still supports Shinshicho Primary Hospital and also supports Yesus Mena Deaf School in the same town. Steve is a family practice physician and I am an RN with a graduate degree in deaf education. Twenty-two years ago, we adopted a 4-year-old daughter through Holt who is deaf. So, when we were asked to participate in a medical mission trip to Shinshicho with an opportunity to also be involved with the deaf school, we were immediately determined to be a part of the adventure. Continue reading “A Language We All Share”

Top 16 Blogs of 2016

This past year, our organization celebrated 60 years of serving orphaned and vulnerable children and families in countries across the globe. Over these six decades, our work has touched the lives of thousands of people — people whose lives collectively tell the story of who we are as an organization. Their stories are the story of Holt International. And in 2016, many of these people once again graciously shared their life experiences with our readers.

For the first time, we held an adoptee essay contest, asking adoptees to share how adoption shapes or has shaped their identity. We received a number of thoughtful submissions, and featured the winning essay by Noel Hincha in our annual adoption magazine. I am happy to share that the essay penned by one of our runner-ups in the contest is among this year’s top most-viewed blogs of 2016!

Following last year’s trend, stories written by and about adoptees once again topped the list — receiving thousands of views on Facebook and the Holt blog. Among them is a letter one adoptee wrote to her late birth mother, grieving the fact that it was too late for them to meet; a story about a first-generation adoptee reuniting with the man who cared for him in Korea; and a piece by an adoptee from China who describes what the adoption experience was like for her.

Among our Top 16 Blogs of 2016, we also included five stories about our overseas programs — from a story written by a trailblazing woman in our unwed mothers program in Korea to a story about a boy who learned how to express himself for the first time at the Yesus Mena Deaf School that we support in Ethiopia.

And of course, stories by and about adoptive families are always popular among our readers — particularly among families new to the process who appreciate the insight and wisdom that veteran families have to offer. This year, six adoption stories had the most impact on our readers, including, at the top of the list, a heartfelt piece written under a pseudonym by an adoptive mom who wanted to share the truth about raising children with HIV. As more and more families adopt children with more involved and complex special needs, the experiences of these families become increasingly influential — inspiring other families to adopt children with HIV, congenital heart disease or, as one of our top stories explores in detail, Thalassemia.

As we reflect on the year 2016, and on the last 60 years, we thank the many, many adoptees, families, sponsors, donors, staff members, partners and children and families in our programs for your willingness to share what can be very personal and sometimes heart-wrenching experiences. You moved us. You inspired us. And perhaps most importantly, you instructed us. Every year, we continue to learn and grow from what you share with Holt staff and supporters. And we are so, so grateful for your being a part of our story, the Holt story. — Robin Munro, Managing Editor

Top Five Adoptee Stories

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Krista in Korea: A Letter to My Birth Mother

Over the summer, Holt adoptee Krista Gause traveled on the Holt Heritage Tour to Korea. Before her departure, she wrote an honest and heartfelt letter to her birth mother, sharing about her life and grieving the fact that it was too late for them to meet.  Continue reading “Top 16 Blogs of 2016”

At One Deaf School in Ethiopia, This is Their Only Opportunity to Learn…

 

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Ayele is 12 years old.

For the first nine years of his life, he never stepped foot inside a school. Profoundly deaf, he had no way of communicating with his family beyond pointing and gesturing.

But when the Yesus Mena School for the Deaf came to his community in Ethiopia, for the first time, Ayele learned how to express himself through sign language.

This school has had such a tremendous impact on not just Ayele’s life — but on the lives of nearly 500 more deaf or partially hearing children in attendance at this, the first and only deaf school in a region with the highest prevalence of deafness in all of Ethiopia. Continue reading “At One Deaf School in Ethiopia, This is Their Only Opportunity to Learn…”

Merry Christmas, From Aynalem to Degefech

p1b2n85snlp061h3nmd81t3i1tf83Six-year-old Aynalem was adopted from Ethiopia five years ago. One way she and her family stay connected with her birth culture is by sponsoring a child in Ethiopia — a girl named Degefech! This year, in her family’s Christmas card to Degefech, Aynalem — with some typing help from her parents — included a special note just from her.

Hello Degefech, my name is Aynalem. I am 6 years old and I live in Oregon, USA. I am in first grade, in elementary (your primary) school. I play soccer (your football) on a team called Fútbol Club Portland. I like to dance and sing, and I really like to draw. Continue reading “Merry Christmas, From Aynalem to Degefech”

The Story Behind the Photo: 86 and Counting

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At the beginning of November, to kick off National Adoption Month, we shared a collage of all the children on our waiting child photolisting — just a small glimpse of the hundreds of children who we are seeking families for at any given time. We hoped it would kindle a passion in our supporters to help advocate for children who need loving families of their own. And it did!

You shared our waiting child stories. You reposted our advocacy blogs. You helped us tell the story behind each and every photo that we featured on social media during National Adoption Month.

The photo above represents the number of children from our photolisting that we have — thanks in part to your advocacy — matched with families so far in 2016. The black and white blocks represent the children who now are, or soon will be, part of a loving and secure family. The ones in color represent the children who we still need your help advocating for.

In total this year, Holt has matched 86 children from the photolisting — and another 200+ directly with a family! This is something to celebrate!

But we seek a world where every child has a loving and secure home. And until that day comes, we intend to keep working hard to advocate for the children left behind — and we ask you to join us.

One of the best ways that you can support our advocacy efforts is through sharing the stories we post about waiting children. That can be anything from pressing “like” or “share” on Facebook to leading an informational meeting in your community. Creativity is encouraged and we look forward to hearing what you come up with!

Thank you again for your heart and compassion for children who need families. Allied with you, we can achieve anything!
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Becoming a Person Again

When her husband died of AIDS at a young age, Sebele felt hopeless and unsure about how she would support her five children. But with a small business grant and training from our partner in Ethiopia, she has kept her family together — and has become “a person again.”

_hlt0526Sometimes, people say bad things to Sebele’s children. They taunt them because their father died of AIDS. They avoid them because their mother still carries the virus. They push them to the point of tears.

“They come home and they cry sometimes,” says Sebele*, her eyes cast downward, hands neatly folded in her lap, as she sits on her porch beside four of her five children. “They find their father’s picture and they cry.”

Sebele and her family live in Shinshicho, Ethiopia — one of the southern region’s impoverished woredas, or districts, where Holt has for nearly a decade worked alongside local partners to strengthen struggling families, in particular families headed by women. Here, the stigma against HIV remains so strong that the local hospital — a hospital Holt worked alongside the community to help build — has a separate wing to help HIV patients keep their health status private. When Sebele’s husband died, her neighbors shunned her. Friends and relatives became distant. And even though her children are not carriers of the disease themselves, they too experienced discrimination at school and in their community.

“The only thing I wanted was not to live,” she says.

But life was not always so bleak for Sebele and her family. Before her husband died, he earned a good income working in the local government. Her children attended private school. They ate well. They lived well. And they were respected and embraced in their community.

“Their life was normal,” Sebele says of her children, speaking in Amharic to our translator. “They used to get good support. They learned very well. But the only source of income was from their father. So after he died, that made it even harder.” Continue reading “Becoming a Person Again”

Confidence, empowerment and the unexpected lesson from a furry friend

When Ed and Laura Sykora brought their daughter Maci home from Ethiopia, she was shy and timid. Now, she’s a confident and charming 7-year-old. Laura credits an unexpected friend for helping Maci discover her inner voice and feel empowered to handle life’s most difficult questions.

Laura and Ed with their son, Jax, 7, and their daughter, Maci, 7. Both Jax and Maci were adopted from Ethiopia.
Laura and Ed with their son, Jax, 7, and their daughter, Maci, 7. Both Jax and Maci were adopted from Ethiopia.

In my parenting journey, I have learned that I can’t always be there to speak for my children each time they are challenged.  I have learned that my job as a parent is to support and encourage my children and help them develop their problem-solving skills so they are empowered to work through situations.

Three years ago, my husband and I brought home a sweet, sensitive and smiling 4-year-old girl named Maci.

In those first few weeks home, she struggled with her confidence. Quiet and soft-spoken, she didn’t inherently believe that her voice mattered or that what she said was important.

As a mom, I talked to her about how she could feel safe to ask for what she needed and wanted. She could tell her classmates and rowdy brother if they were treating her in a way she didn’t like.

But, though my words were many, I never could have guessed how they would pale in comparison to the power of bringing a new, special family member into our home. Continue reading “Confidence, empowerment and the unexpected lesson from a furry friend”