For Deaf Students in Ethiopia, the First Day of School is a Major Milestone

Around the world, the extra cost to send children back to school is often an overwhelming amount for parents. Books, school supplies, shoes and uniforms all add up — and on top of already expensive school fees. However, for one special school in Ethiopia, you can help provide children with the supplies they need and ensure the first day of school is marked with joy and celebration.

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In 2009, Holt came to Shinshicho — first renovating a local clinic, and then partnering with the community to build a full maternal-child hospital to serve the region’s nearly 250,000 people. In recent years, Holt also developed programs to strengthen families at risk of separation from their children. Through our work in the community, Holt heard about the need for a school for deaf children and decided to help. A Shinshicho resident donated the land and space, and we worked with the community to build a school for deaf children. Anticipating only 50 students on the first day, we were shocked when more than 200 children showed up to learn. This year, more than 500 students will attend Yesus Mena School for deaf children.

There’s a universal kind of magic in the first day of school.

The potion is simple: mix one new outfit with two cups of optimism for what a new school year may hold — one from the child, one from the parent. Add a fresh-faced teacher and 50 sets of new notebooks and school bags. Blend it all together with a dose of excitement and a pinch of nerves. Add a new best friend and a handful of lunch-time giggles. Drink it up, knowing this school year will be the best one yet. Continue reading “For Deaf Students in Ethiopia, the First Day of School is a Major Milestone”

The Same Opportunities for Every Child

What is the difference between a child with special needs and a child without them?

Hint: it’s not the special need.

It’s the access “normal” children have to certain opportunities.

For example, the difference between a child who is deaf and one who is not, isn’t the ability to hear. The difference is how easily both of those children can learn a lesson in school. Or make friends. Or communicate with their family.

If, for instance, a teacher can give a lesson both audibly and in sign language, then both children can easily and equally learn the same lesson. In that instance, there are no differences between them.

Check out this video to learn how people like you helped our dear friend Jordan Love have access to all the opportunities he needed to live a full, independent life — and dedicate his time to advocating for children with special needs.

With the love and support of the staff at the Ilsan Center for children with special needs — as well as his sponsors and later his family — Jordan had every opportunity to achieve his dreams. But for many children with special needs, the playing field is anything but level.

Where Holt works in Shinshicho, Ethiopia, the rate of deafness is abnormally high, and no one is sure why. Disabilities are heavily stigmatized, and children with special needs are often hidden away. Very few people speak sign language, and when Holt began working in the region in 2010, there were no schools for deaf children.

Here, the difference between a child born deaf and a child who can hear is access to medical care, the opportunity to communicate, and the hope of a bright future and quality education.

Those are major differences.

But, they are all things that can be fixed … with resources.

So, with the help of people like you and your donations to the Molly Holt Fund for Children With Special Needs, we built the first school for the deaf in Shinshicho and over 400 deaf children attend classes each year.

Now, deaf children can access the same quality education as children who can hear. The school also helped educate the community about deafness, and the children in attendance are able to make friends and feel embraced by their community more easily. Nearby, a hospital project (also started by people like you) will soon research why deafness may be higher in this particular region. Perhaps someday, we can find a cause and a cure.

This is a simplified example of how people like you and I can serve children with special needs in a meaningful way. Children with special needs don’t need special treatment. They just need the same opportunities as every other child.

With a gift to the Molly Holt Fund, you provide those opportunities.

Today, help a child with special needs receive the resources he or she needs by giving a gift to the Molly Holt Fund! And learn more about who this special fund helps, and what your gift will accomplish.

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Do you know a mother like this?

Philippines Stacy 2015 5For many years, Holt has, with great admiration, witnessed once-struggling mothers in our family strengthening programs achieve amazing accomplishments for the health and well-being of their children. These mothers worked 15-hour days, earning pennies so that their children could eat and attend school. In Thailand, a mother took a job sewing palm tree leaves together for a mere $2 a day to help her 14-year-old daughter stay in school. In Haiti, a mother worked two jobs to support her daughters after her husband died in the 2010 earthquake.

Philippines stories 2Mothers would do anything for their children. They would give up everything just to see their children thrive and succeed in life. And nothing brings Holt greater joy than to help these mothers succeed for their children. When you purchase a Gift of Hope today, you help mothers help their children, too!
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Chickens can help a widow feed her children nutritious eggs. When you purchase a “vocational training” Gift of Hope, a single mother could learn the valuable skills she needs to earn a steady income and help her family stay together.

By helping mothers, you help children! By purchasing a Gift of Hope today, you will change lives.

The time to give hope is now!

Phillip Littleton
President and CEO

Multiplying Our Efforts

 After adopting two children from Ethiopia, physicians Andrea and Andrew Janssen decide to leave their small town in eastern Oregon and move their family across the world to teach at Addis Ababa University. Here, they will train some of the first doctors in Ethiopia to specialize in family medicine.

The Janssen Family.As a college freshman at Westmont I had never experienced rural medicine. Leaving Santa Barbara for rural Zambia to work with Dr. Rob Congdon opened my eyes to malaria, malnutrition and mongu. (Mongu —fried caterpillars — are crunchy and akin to bacon, a good protein source in rural Zambia.) Although I suffered from a bout of cerebral malaria during my four-month trip to Luampa Mission Hospital, it was the suffering of one malnourished girl that indelibly changed my future.

Mbambi was 18 months old, 11 pounds and came to the hospital with “kwashiorkor,” or protein calorie malnutrition. She had been brought by her uncle, her closest living relative. Her muscles were so wasted she still couldn’t muster sitting or smiling. Diligently, I fed her millet cereal with peanut butter, long before the creation of Plumpy’Nut — the peanut-based paste now commonly used to treat severe malnutrition. I learned to carry Mbambi on my back African-style. I taught the uncle how to bathe her and soon all the patients in the male hospital ward began to care for her. I was filled with joy when, after several months, Mbambi was able to sit up and play a few small games. God birthed the idea of adoption in my heart through that one small child in Zambia. I returned inspired, challenged and changed. Continue reading “Multiplying Our Efforts”

Tam’s TV Debut

Last year, Holt adoptee Tamirat Hines submitted a story he wrote to the producers of a children’s TV show called “Green Screen Adventures.” Tam’s story, entitled “Land Shark,” aired in August 2014! Here, Tam’s mom shares about his interest in writing and the lesson of “Land Shark.”

We first saw our son, Tamirat, in the Holt facility in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in Oct. 2009. He was just over 2 years old, and he hid behind the nanny who led him by the hand. He was tiny, with shiny curly locks and deep brown eyes, and he was wearing an Elmo T-shirt.

Fast forward to 2015. Tam is 7 now, and he is far from tiny. He is tall for his age, tall enough that mom can wear his shoes and his hoodies. He is kind and outgoing, an avid reader and a prodigy on the basketball court. And he still has the soulful eyes and the charming smile we fell in love with when we met him. Continue reading “Tam’s TV Debut”

Gifts of Hope

Can you put a price tag on Hope? Can you calculate the worth of something so abstract?

The worth of something is, after all, relative — it changes from place to place, person to person, currency to currency. Hope is relative too, and looks different for everyone.

By definition, hope is a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.

The expectation that something is about to change.

Something is about to get better.

Hope is also a feeling — a very powerful one — that drives us to continue to push through hard situations, eager to find the light in the darkness.

Continue reading “Gifts of Hope”

Rights of Children

On November 20, the world will celebrate an important landmark anniversary for human rights and children.

The day marks the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the 1989 United Nations treaty that — for the first time in history — defined the civil, economic, political, social and cultural rights of children. It also set goals to improve the livelihoods of children around the world.

Today, as we reflect on Holt’s nearly 60 years of serving vulnerable children and families around the world, we also celebrate the ways in which the lives of children around the world have improved thanks to the Convention and the work of dedicated children’s rights advocates.

In the same breath, we also recognize areas where more work needs to be done to reach the goals of the Convention, and how Holt can push forward — working toward a more just and equal world, where every child is valued and loved and no child is alone. Continue reading “Rights of Children”

You can help change a child’s destiny!

During a holiday celebration at the school for deaf students Holt supports, classes met outside for a performance of the nativity story.

For children around the world with disabilities, like 9-year-old Tigabu, the barriers to a quality education often seem so large and difficult to overcome, they feel hopeless.

Tigabu’s parents are subsistence farmers in Shinshicho, Ethiopia and they struggle to afford even basic necessities, like food or clothing. They want their son to reap the benefits of a good education and create a better future for himself, but physical disabilities are heavily stigmatized in Ethiopia.

Many villagers in this region still believe that only a family curse could cause their children to be born deaf. However, this so-called “curse” affects an abnormally high number of children in Shinshicho, and no one is sure why. Regardless of prevalence, resources for children with disabilities are scarce, schools turn deaf children away, and even the tools to independently learn sign language are virtually non-existent.

It’s a heartbreaking reality, and many deaf children have been hidden away, marginalized from the community, excluded from schools, and destined for a life of poverty.

Children in one class at the school for deaf students in Shinshicho that Holt supports stop to smile for a photo.

But not anymore.

On a stormy, hot day in early September, Tigabu walked two hours for his first day of 4th grade classes at the only deaf school in the region — a school Holt helped to start in 2010 and that you help us continue to support today.

This year, more than 400 deaf children enrolled for classes.

Many are able to attend thanks to Holt’s supporters who provide more than just school fees, uniforms and supplies. The students also have access to medical care, supplemental food and clothing, and vocational training and education for their parents — so families can diversify their income and rely less on farming.

With help from people like you, the students and their families will grow strong, stable and self-reliant — eventually generating enough income to cover all their needs and invest in their future!

When you give a gift to our family strengthening fund, you help stabilize or reunite vulnerable families like Tigabu’s, and not just in Ethiopia, but in more than 11 countries where we work!

Even a small gift makes a life-long impact on the children and families we serve. Even a small gift can be enough to keep a family together and help a child choose a new destiny —and a better, more stable future.

Read more about Tigabu, and how your support is helping children attend school and families grow strong in Ethiopia by clicking here.

Ethiopia students return to school with Holt’s support

In Ethiopia, students head to school this month with support from their Holt sponsors and donors — some for the first time.

Through our work with vulnerable families in Shinshicho, Holt found that many children who start school — even at 5 or 6 years old — weren’t prepared for classes. They lacked an understanding of structure, routine and basic, preschool-appropriate knowledge. In response, we partnered with the community of Shinshicho to support the first Kindergarten in the region.

In the first week of September, the dark mass of stormy skies over Shinshicho finally breaks apart, however briefly.

There is still a 90 percent chance of rain again today, the first day of school, as there has been for nearly three months. Between the thunderstorms, wind and seemingly endless rain, the dirt roads are washed out and muddy, with deep puddles blocking even the most major roadways.

Soon, though, the rainy season will change — returning to a hot and dry dust storm and droughts that make farmers curse their land.

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Tigabu signs “I love you” to a Holt staff visitor.

Born sixth in a family with seven children, 9-year-old Tigabu has more than once wondered if, indeed, his family is cursed. His parents are subsistence farmers who struggle to afford even basic necessities, like food or clothing. His four sisters and two brothers help where they can to earn extra income for the family, but that often means skipping class to help their parents harvest or carry crops to market.

Until recently, however, Tigabu and his siblings had no school to miss. Their opportunity to attend school is a new one. Continue reading “Ethiopia students return to school with Holt’s support”

How Does Your Money Get To Your Sponsored Child?

Every month, you faithfully send your $34 to your sponsored child … Sort of.

Technically, you send your gift to Holt International, trusting that we will properly steward your money and direct it to your sponsored child. We don’t, in fact, actually give your sponsored child and his or her family $34 in cash or check each month.

Why, you ask? Wouldn’t our sponsorship program be just as effective if we simply wrote a check each month?

Well, that’s a great question, and it is one that our sponsorship team hears often.

There are many reasons why Holt doesn’t give cash to the children and families in our programs, but the biggest reason is that we care deeply about those who we serve and we want every mother, father and child in our programs to be successful. Remember, Holt’s ultimate goal is to ensure that every child has a permanent, loving family. But while our goal for every child is the same, the way we work toward that goal is different for every child. Continue reading “How Does Your Money Get To Your Sponsored Child?”