Amesegenallo – an adoption story from a sister’s perspective

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. Continue reading “Amesegenallo – an adoption story from a sister’s perspective”

These are the hands and feet…

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

NewSong in the alleys of Pune, India

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.

NewSong Kicks off Tour of Holt childcare projects in India

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.

These are the fruits…

By Brian Campbell, Director of Creative Services

Pune, IndiaBefore the first call of birds, the morning is greeted by the beeping of horns. Little auto rickshaws and scooters buzz through the streets of Pune, and vendors – selling all sorts of goods –  prepare their services for the day.

Outside his tidy, modest home, *Sanjay arranges green pears on his cart.  A smile breaches his face as he talks about his family and his small, successful fruit stand – the stand he utilizes to keep his family together and his children in school.  His daughter, *Ahsha, stands beside him in her crisp, clean uniform ready to start her school day.  She stands tall and proud, practicing a few common English greetings and beaming with satisfaction at our group’s approval. A smile and a glow of pride overtakes Sanjay’s face.

Today, Sanjay’s family, thanks to Bharatiya Samaj Seva Kendra (BSSK),  is thriving.

Just a few months ago, however, this scenario didn’t seem likely.

The family struggled under economic pressures.  Sanjay’s future as a truck driver was uncertain, and his children, in order to put food on the table, almost had to quit school and join the workforce.  Identified by community input and social workers from BSSK, Sanjay was provided with a micro loan to start a fruit stand business.

Today, long-term stability is a reality for this family. Sanjay looks forward to growing his small business and even plans on purchasing a motorized truck for selling and buying fruit. His son plans to graduate and become a police officer, and his daughter is looking forward to completing the 5th grade.

The fruits of family preservation and child sponsorship.

*names have been changed

Families say faith motivates them to adopt – Decaturdaily.com

Over 50 years ago, in the aftermath of the Korean war, faith and compassion motivated Harry and Bertha Holt to adopt eight Korean children.  Today, their legacy lives on in the stories of others whose Christian values also moved them to build families through international adoption. Stories like that of the Kirkham family, mentioned in the following news article.  Inspired by scripture, the Kirkhams decided to adopt two Ethiopian boys from Holt’s Waiting Child program.

“We felt we had the opportunity as a family to help children who could not help themselves and do what the Bible says, to care for orphans and widows,” Justin Kirkham told a reporter for the Decatur Daily, an Alabama newspaper.  To read the full article, click the following link:

Families say faith motivates them to adopt – Decaturdaily.com.

Learn More About Holt’s China Program

Join a Webinar Today

Considering International Adoption?

Get the information you need from the convenience and privacy of your home… log on to a Holt adoption webinar. Several times each month, Holt International hosts a live online webinar where one of our adoption workers walks you through the process, answering your questions with helpful audio visuals. You get the most current information about:

• adopting a child through Holt — costs, time frames, countries, requirements, etc.;

• the benefits and considerations of international adoption;

• and you will also have an opportunity to ask your specific questions.

Adopting From China Webinar

In this live, interactive online seminar, we will share about the three ways to adopt from China — the Standard Process (generally, to adopt a healthy infant female); the China Child of Promise option, an expedited process to adopt an infant or toddler, boy or girl, with a treatable or manageable, identified physical condition; and the Journey of Hope for older children or children with more involved special needs. Focusing on the Child of Promise option, we will explain how families indicate the physical conditions to which they are open, and how we work closely with families to make a match within that range of conditions. We explain time frames to complete each process, the steps involved, travel and costs. You will also hear from a family who completed the Child of Promise option and be able to ask questions throughout. All webinars begin on Pacific Time. Click here to join a China webinar.

Read touching stories about families who have adopted a child through Holt’s China Child of Promise option.

We Are Fully Blessed

A mother’s hearing loss, five years prior, leads to the adoption of a hearing impaired son from India

By Ellen Singh

Praise God from whom all blessings flow! And what a blessing Deelip is to us!

My husband, Dave, and I already had two biological daughters, Katelyn and Anna, and one son, Michael, who we adopted from India. Our life was full with our young brood. Yet, for the past several years, we’d continued to casually look at Holt’s “Waiting Child” page. About two years ago, we read a brief description about Deelip, a 3-year-old boy from India, and knew God wanted us to pursue this child.

All we knew about Deelip was his age and his disability of being profoundly deaf. We were specifically interested in a child with hearing issues due to a major event that changed our lives five years prior. In 2004, I contracted bacterial meningitis. By God’s matchless mercy my life was spared. I woke up from a drug-induced coma with complete hearing loss in my left ear. As a result, we have learned so much about hearing issues and have a great sensitivity to others in similar situations. At age 36, I had to instantly learn how to live with single-sided hearing loss, which has been a great challenge.

Through this devastating event, I got to know various hearing professionals and volunteer in hearing loss research. I learned that St. Louis, near where we live, is a Mecca of hearing loss treatment and research in this country. Plus, there were several schools for the deaf nearby!

After discussing Deelip’s medical records with my ENT specialist and touring a local school for the deaf, we were absolutely confirmed that God was leading us to pursue Deelip. Continue reading “We Are Fully Blessed”

Season of Love, Gifts of Hope: Love Can Do Amazing Things

The value of foster care in China

Foster families provide a loving home environment that even the most caring orphanage workers cannot provide. Their selfless love nurtures homeless children while Holt completes the adoption processing for permanent families. Holt’s dedicated temporary families are often the only hope for infants suffering from malnutrition, children recovering from surgery, and others who need extra care.

The Chinese government is asking Holt to step up our foster care programs in China immediately.  Every effort must be made to get orphaned children out of institutional care. 

Before coming home to the United States, Lilah Ruud lived with one of Holt’s loving and attentive foster families. Lilah’s older sister, Danica, had this to say about her visit to China to meet her little sister:

“We visited an orphanage where babies were lined up in beds, in rows. These babies didn’t have the one-on-one attention of a loving family. I also saw babies – like my sister – who had been cared for by foster families. Love does great things for people. Foster care for orphans can change a child’s life!”

The Following is Joan Ruud’s account of meeting Lilah for the first time, and her thoughts on the importance of foster care:

In September 2004, my husband and I decided we wanted to grow our family through adoption. Because we had an 8-year-old daughter, we chose the country based on how quickly we could bring our second child home. As fate would have it, we chose China! As the wheels of foreign adoption churned, we ended up waiting for Lilah for 4 years.

We received our first picture and official match on November 2007, and that Christmas Eve, we received an e-mail informing us that Lilah was not in an orphanage – as we had anticipated – but with a foster parent. Holt had no additional information and we inferred that our daughter had recently been placed in foster care.

During our wait for Lilah, I had read a bit about orphanages.  I just assumed that our child would be placed in an orphanage, and we would bring her home almost directly from that institution. I was prepared for potential developmental delays and perhaps some attachment issues. The news of Lilah’s foster care placement didn’t mean so much to me, because I assumed it had been a recent development in her young life.

We arrived in China on January 8th, 2008 and held Lilah in our arms for the first time on January 13th. We had traveled in a group of 13 families to Jiangxi Province. About half of the children had been in orphanages and the other half had the good fortune to be placed in foster care. We also learned at this time that Lilah had been placed in foster care, thanks to donations to Holt, within a few weeks of birth.

As Lilah was placed in my arms, her inevitable tears began. Poor child had to deal with strange smells, strange sights and sounds, and strange people who were all so ecstatic to finally meet her. After an hour or so, she settled in and we began our bonding. She wasn’t so interested in big sister, she didn’t care for dad at all, but she wanted me. Lilah clearly assessed her situation and gravitated to the most familiar person; I attribute this to her relationship with her foster mother. She had experienced a home and recognized a family and, in particular, a mother. Her eye contact with me was constant. Continue reading “Season of Love, Gifts of Hope: Love Can Do Amazing Things”

Built on a Solid Foundation

Holt’s Family Preservation program in Ethiopia

“The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”–Matthew 7:25

By Ashli Keyser, managing editor

In the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus uses a parable to speak about faith and trusting in Him. He discusses two builders, a man who built his house on an unsteady foundation of sand, and the other who built his house on a rock – a firm foundation of faith and trust.

While the two houses in Jesus’ sermon serve as metaphors for obeying the word of God, I couldn’t help but ponder this parable as I observed two very different houses set atop a small piece of land in southern Ethiopia. Standing in front of one structure was *Ejamo, his wife, *Almaz, and their five children, waiting for our team, including Holt President and CEO Kim Brown, to arrive.

I had seen this family in a photograph, just over a year ago, and was taken aback by how different each of them looked today. The parents no longer had gloomy expressions of hunger on their faces. The children no longer wore tattered rags of clothes. They each stood, happily, in front of their new house, a strongly built hut, made of durable wood and thickly packed mud. Flowerpots lined the windowsills – a mother’s special touch to a home that she could be proud of.

To the right of the family stood another house – a weak and dilapidated hut made of eucalyptus leaves, straw, and misshapen pieces of wood and branches – a house that looked to be more of a nest than a home suitable for two parents and five children. Today that nest-like shack serves only as a devastating reminder of what this family’s life once looked like and what it will hopefully never be again.

What an amazing moment for Ejamo, I thought. Showing off his family’s new and improved house to Kim Brown and the rest of our team. “Look what I’ve accomplished, look what you’ve helped me to accomplish.” The smile on Ejamo’s face matched his equally large 7-foot frame. This family, no longer weak and wanting – like the broken-down house they once occupied – has made a fresh start and stands strong beside their house, a new beginning and a renewed hope.

“We are going to help this family,” said Phil Littleton, Holt’s senior vice president, standing with Ejamo in 2009, in the beginning stages of Holt’s intervention. “We are going to give them what they need to build a better life for themselves.” Continue reading “Built on a Solid Foundation”

Holt Adoptee Camps

A mother’s perspective

When my nine-year-old declared there was “no way” he would go to Holt Adoptee camp for a whole week, I was disappointed. I was sure it would be a good experience, but he didn’t want to sleep away from home. I considered the usual parental options: persuasion, bribery and coercion! Fortunately, I soon discovered Holt’s day camp. Not only was this one-day camp much more acceptable to my eldest, but because the age range was from 5-16, his younger siblings could participate too. And parents were welcome!

The kids and I arrived at Camp Angelos promptly at 9 am, and Harry immediately spotted a friend from home on the basketball court. Before I could even apply sunscreen, he was off, disappearing into a crowd of black-haired, rough and tumble boys. Five-year-old Betty darted across the lawn to the playground. Theo, who is 8 and quite shy in new situations, walked with me to the registration table. Camp leaders Michael and Steve greeted us with friendly smiles and gathered the parents and kids into a big circle for some icebreakers. It was refreshing to be in a group of families similar to our own: kids of all complexions, with parents who resembled them very little, performing motherly and fatherly duties – encouraging, cuddling, slipping away for potty breaks as needed. Many of the kids were reserved at first, but the staff’s enthusiasm was contagious.

Steve invited the younger day campers to team up with a group of older, week-long campers – veterans now, with three days of Holt camp under their belts!  And all the day campers, except one, followed their new teenage mentors onto the lawn for games and icebreakers. Theo stuck to me like Velcro, and I was grateful that the staff and other parents were totally accepting. He participated gamely in the adoptive parent workshop, writing a list of words that described his parents and another that described him (“Mom? How do you spell ‘good climber’?”).  But when one of the camp counselors invited him personally to join in a game of freeze tag, this was too tempting, and I didn’t see him again until lunch!

While the kids played and participated in age-appropriate workshops about race and adoption, the parents were invited to consider adoption from our children’s point of view. We heard from teen and adult adoptees and had the chance to listen, ask questions, and share our own experiences with race and racism. I took home an uncomfortable truth: all of our minority kids, regardless of country of origin, experience racism on a regular basis. Both positive and negative stereotypes, as well as nosy and inappropriate questions about where our kids are from or “what” exactly they are, are upsetting to our children. Adoptive parents often want to minimize these encounters, but we need to acknowledge them. Continue reading “Holt Adoptee Camps”