Senior Writer Robin Munro discusses her experience at a Holt-supported foster care program in Northern China.
by Robin Munro
Jilin City, China—Today, we drove to a small farming village just outside of Jilin City, a forested, mountainous region of Northern China where Holt sponsors foster care for 39 children. Here, amid lush green acres of corn stalks, rice fields and gable-roofed homes, we meet several of the children in our sponsorship program. Ducking out of the rain, we step into an unoccupied house – recently built by the village – where the families have gathered, anticipating our arrival. I am with Sue Liu, the Beijing office manager and assistant to Jian Chen, Holt’s China director; Jessica Palmer, Holt’s Waiting Child program manager; and a couple officials from the Jilin City Social Welfare Institute, with whom Holt has partnered since introducing a foster care project to this region in 2006.
I find a windowsill in which to sit and observe the scene – foster mothers sitting in a circle on the floor, cooing over babies swaddled in blankets as Sue and Jessica assess the children’s development and the foster care manager distributes formula and food. One boy – an older boy of about 9 or 10 – comes over to talk to me. “Hello,” he says in English, smiling. “Hello,” I say back, followed by a couple more simple phrases. He shakes his head, not understanding. “Ok,” I say. And he repeats. “Ok.” He wants to learn, wants to engage me with any means of communication he can find. I give him a thumbs-up. And he lifts his hand to mimic me.
Holt Senior Writer Robin Munro is traveling with Waiting Child Manager Jessica Palmer to learn more about a new group of children in Holt’s Journey of Hope program, as well as other Holt-supported programs.
by Robin Munro
At the Jilin City Social Welfare Institute – the third orphanage we’ve visited in China – the beds are empty. Except for one tiny newborn who recently came into care, no children occupy the cribs and beds that line the rooms. It’s a lovely building – a home for the elderly, and orphaned and abandoned children, with a central atrium that lets in abundant natural light. It’s a wonderful sight, all these empty rooms – it means all the children who’ve passed through this orphanage are now in Holt-sponsored foster care, a program that serves 39 children in partnership with the welfare institute.
After a short stay when they come into care, the children occasionally visit the orphanage for physical and developmental exams, and rehabilitation training for those with special needs. But their homes are apartments and houses, where they get to experience family life.
Today, we get to meet five children in Holt sponsorship, a program that funds their clothing, food and other basic needs for 350 Chinese Remnibi, or about $55, per child per month – a cost shared equally by Holt and the Jilin City Social Welfare Institute. We enter a room – the only one emitting any sound – and find four boys in motion, bouncing on giant balls or rolling around in soft tubing, teasing each other and making faces. Two of the boys, dressed in matching striped polos and shorts, look like twins. They are foster brothers, though not related, 8 and 9-years-old – happy, hyper, outgoing boys with telltale scars on their lips from cleft lip surgery. Their foster mom tells us they are both their teachers’ favorites in their 2nd and 3rd grade classes, both very popular with other children.
I can see that right away. The older boy, Shen Ying (name has been changed), has a great sense of humor. He jokingly puts on a scarf and exaggerates his smile for the camera. I bet he’s the class clown – sharp, easily bored, requiring constant stimulation. When he lacks engaging activity, I bet he creates it, entertaining everyone in the room. I like him immediately, and think about how lucky the family is that gets to adopt him. Continue reading “Telling Their Stories”
Holt Senior Writer Robin Munro is traveling with Waiting Child Manager Jessica Palmer to learn more about a new group of children in Holt’s Journey of Hope program.
Robin Munro, Senior Writer—Today, we visited a beautiful orphanage in Northern China – a place full of color and life. Each room opened onto another group of faces – curious, apprehensive, wide-eyed faces. Most of these children have special needs, conditions beyond which most birth families have the capacity to provide medical care – conditions like cleft lip and palate, CP, Down’s Syndrome, Spina bifida, feet and hand deformities, as well as a few cases of pneumonia.
In the first room we enter, metal barred cribs line the wall. In each, a child sits or lays, staring at the ceiling, the wall, or nothing in particular – into middle space. These children have some of the most severe conditions. Most don’t seem to notice our presence in the room – don’t jump up, or cry, or reach out to us. I walk over to one boy, who lifts his head when I touch his back. His head is swollen from Hydrocephalus, a condition in which water gets onto the brain. In some cases, this condition is minor and won’t interfere with the child’s life. But this boy’s condition is serious, says Sue Liu, the Beijing office manager. As I rub his back, he begins to smile. When I stop, he stares at me blankly. I gently touch him again, and his smile returns. Continue reading “Who do you see?”
In July of 2010, Holt’s senior writer visited the Peace House, a haven for sick children who come from all over China to receive medical care in Beijing — many of them suffering from serious medical conditions. After leaving the hospital, the children recuperate at the Peace House. Many go on to join adoptive families. Since this article was written, Holt took over operations from Peace House founder, Teresa Huangwu. In that time, five children have received surgeries, and a sixth will soon come to stay at this nurturing and peaceful sanctuary in the heart of the city.
Robin Munro, Senior Writer—At the Peace House in Beijing, the floor is where the action is. A ball flies at me from one direction. From another, a baby comes crawling to investigate. The children seem intrigued by my foreign blue eyes. My camera. My notebook. My purse. Especially my purse.
While otherwise occupied in a game of catch, I feel a sudden tug on my shoulder straps, and look down to find a sticky-fingered hand first unzipping, then probing the contents of my bag. Here I find Jhi Lin (name has been changed), who’s discovered a little bottle of hand sanitizer. Clutching it in his hand, he makes for the bedroom and tries to shut the door. I catch it, and follow him in. Dismayed, he takes my hand and ushers me back out. I follow him in. Back out we go. The look on his face says, “Silly lady, don’t you see – I want to be alone with this bottle of green goo, my new-found treasure!”
Finally, a caretaker comes to intervene. Jhi Lin graciously accepts his defeat, and hands the bottle back. “Xie Xie,” I say. Thank you. He smiles, and moves on to explore other frontiers.
Jhi Lin will turn 3 in August. Full of life, full of moxie, he is a dark-haired, bright-eyed mischief-maker – a typical toddler. He came to the Peace House one year ago, where he stayed while Peace House foster mother, Teresa Huangwu, raised funds for his heart surgery. His condition was severe – a congenital heart defect that causes what’s commonly known as “blue baby syndrome.” This surgery cost over $100,000, which healed him completely – a feat accomplished by love alone.
“Teresa finds the resources to do the surgeries,” says Jian Chen, Holt’s China program director. “It’s not her work. It’s purely out of love.”
Teresa Huangwu started her unofficial work as a foster mother after inspiration struck, eight years ago, while working as a volunteer caretaker in an orphanage. While washing a malnourished baby with a cleft lip, she thought how much better a child could be nourished to health in a warm, cozy home environment than in a sterile institution. A small home, where a sick child could get constant nurture from a loving caregiver. “I just thought, ‘If we could just take the baby home and nurse him,’” she says. “And then bring him back.”
In August of 2003, she founded the Peace House – a haven for sick children from all over China who come to Beijing for medical care. A clean, cozy apartment cluttered with toys, the Peace House is just that: a peaceful place of healing and nurture. Its location in Beijing is critical – it enables the children to get the best medical care in the country. After surgery, they stay here until their condition stabilizes – until they are ready for adoption.
Holt Senior Writer Robin Munro is traveling with Waiting Child Manager Jessica Palmer to learn more about a new group of children in Holt’s Journey of Hope program. On her first day in country, she met 3 of these beautiful children. The following is her thoughts on this meaningful day.
Robin Munro, Senior Writer
Wuxi, Jiangsu, China—Today, we arrived in a town called Wuxi, in the south China province of Jiangsu. We are here to meet a group of children the Chinese Center of Adoption Affairs, or CCAA, designated Holt to find families for. They are all children in Holt’s Journey of Hope program– a special program for older children, or children with special needs in southern China.
On our first night, we meet three children. Their orphanage is in Zhenjiang, a great distance from Wuxi. But the caregivers know traveling to meet us will heighten the children’s chances to be adopted. Here, Waiting Child Program Manager Jessica Palmer will interview the children, assess their conditions and post their pictures on Holt’s photolisting, in hopes of finding them families.
*Yan Lin is 12. She is tall, in shorts and a T-shirt, a Mickey Mouse button on her yellow Crocs shoes. She seems shy among strangers. When summoned, though, she quickly snuggles up to Sue Liu, the young, sweet-faced manager of the Holt office in Beijing. In care since she was a baby, Yan Lin was born with a minor condition which made it difficult to control her bowels. She underwent surgery to correct this condition. Now healed, she is more confident in school. She wants to be a teacher, like her favorite caregivers. She feels discouraged when children find families. And fears for the day she turns 14, when she will no longer be eligible for adoption.
*Yan Bing is almost 5. He likes to pose for pictures – to throw up his hands as though about to summit a roller coaster ride, a big open grin on his face. He climbs on Sue’s lap and makes himself at home there, stealing her bracelets to try on his wrists.He is adorable, and seems perfectly healthy. When Yan Bing came into care – as an infant – his head was swollen from communicating hydrocephalus; he had water on his brain. Now, his symptoms are gone. He has developed into a healthy, high-energy charmer of a child. I can’t imagine he will stay in care much longer, and feel confident about his future. Continue reading “In Hopes of Finding a Family”
Jessica Palmer, Holt’s Waiting Program Manager, is currently in China with Holt’s Journey of Hope children—a group of older children, some with special needs, who are in desperate need of families. On her second day in China, Jessica interviewed and interacted with the children and learned more about their specific stories and personality traits. Once Jessica returns, she hopes to use the information she has gathered to help these beautiful children find families of their own.
The following is Jessica’s account of her visit to Wuxi, Jiangsu, the location of Holt’s 2010 Journey of Hope camp and where Jessica first met the Journey of Hope children….
by Jessica Palmer, Waiting Child Program Manager
Wuxi, Jiangsu, China—Although I couldn’t understand the Mandarin being used by the loving caretakers as they described the children in their arms, I looked into their eyes and could still sense the feeling and meaning behind their words….“Please don’t forget about this child. She deserves a loving family too.”
On my second day in China, I traveled to the city of Wuxi, Jiangsu, where I assisted in interviewing and assessing children in Holt’s Journey of Hope program, in hopes of finding them permanent families of their own. Dozens of children and orphanage staff, from all over Jiangsu Province, attended this special camp.
One child, 10-year-old Xing Men, was able to share his touching story with us. In care since birth, Xing Men has leukoma of his left eye. This charming young man explained his interests – particularly origami – practiced his English for the group and recited ancient poetry for us. He then told us about how he feels when other children go home with their families and how he doesn’t understand why a family doesn’t come for him. Continue reading “They Need Loving Families Too”
“God placed an abandoned Korean baby in our home so that almost 40 years later she could minister and provide the help we needed most at this time in our lives”
by Mike Query
Matthew 6:7-8 “When you pray, do not use a lot of meaningless words, as the pagans do, who think that their gods will hear them because their prayers are long. Do not be like them. Your Father already knows what you need before you ask him.” GNB
So, we have the above verses, but just how far before the need arises does God provide? In my case, try 35 plus years!
In August of 1970, Jeri and I were blessed by the birth of our third child, Andy. It had been eight years since our second child was born and we weren’t trying to have any more, but God, in his infinite wisdom, knew that in order for us to have a fourth child, we needed Andy. Excuse me, a fourth?
Well, now we had a dilemma. Do we raise Andy with kids that are eight and nine years older, do we have another, or do we adopt? Since Jeri had Rh factor problems with Andy, it was decided that I should man-up, do the right thing and make sure there were no more surprises. Easy for her to say!
After some serious prayer, we were led by the Holy Spirit to pursue adoption. We contacted Holt International in early 1971 and were told that it would take 12 to 24 months for our daughter to arrive. Long story short, six months to the day after our first contact with Holt, she was carried off of an airplane in Eugene, Oregon and placed in our arms. Lee Byung Hee was 26 months old, and we named her Lani Jean. Continue reading “The Answer is on the Way”
The following is a journal entry from Ashli’s trip to Ethiopia with one of Holt’s medical mission teams.
By Ashli Keyser, Managing Editor
Durame, Ethiopia—Our last day in Durame had come to an end…or so I had thought. As our group piled out of the cars we had been traveling in all day, I thought about how grateful I was to be here and how much it meant to me to see and experience the work Holt is doing in Ethiopia. I thought about the children and babies I had witnessed being rocked, hugged and fed by their loving, smiling caretakers; I thought about Holt’s work at the Shinshicho clinic and the hundreds of sick children and families who were being helped during this week-long medical campaign. It had truly been an amazing trip. But on this particular evening, exhaustion had also set in and I was more than ready to rest my head on my pillow and drift off into sleep. I had already made it half way up the stairs when Dr. Fikru, Holt Ethiopia Director, suggested that a group of us take a trip to one of Holt’s partner care centers—an hour drive from our hotel. I guess sleep would have to wait.
As I positioned myself in the same seat I had left not more than ten minutes ago, I rested my head on the window to the right of me, closed my eyes and tried not to think about how tired I was as the van pulled away from the hotel. It had been a wonderful, eye-opening trip thus far but, at this particular moment, I was feeling a little unenthusiastic. So, I did what I always try to do when things aren’t going according to my plans…I prayed.
“Lord,” I thought. “Thank you for allowing me to be here. I am pretty tired right now and feeling a little unenthusiastic about this unplanned trip. But I am trying to have faith that you still have more to show me….more to reveal to me. I may not be able to see it right now, but I pray that my purpose for this hour-long trip will be revealed to me…help me to see what You want me to see.” An hour later we made it to the care center.
Manel’s journey from Holt Fontana Village to his home in the United States
by Laura Conners
The road to bring Manel home from Haiti was a long one, but one we would travel again and again.
After deciding that international adoption was the answer for us, Scott and I quickly chose Haiti. At first, we were leaning more toward Ethiopia since our niece is from Liberia. Once we read about Holt’s Haiti program, however, we both felt pulled in that direction and knew in our hearts that this was meant to be. After applying to Holt in April 2008, we were quickly matched with Manel who, at that time, was nine months old. I remember seeing his big brown eyes in the photo that Mike Noah sent to us, and I knew that Manel was my little boy!
As we watched the news coverage on the evening of the earthquake, Scott and I were numb with fear for Manel’s safety and for the Haitian people. We saw the Haitian government buildings in ruins and knew that our adoption paperwork was lying amongst the rubble. A long night followed before we heard from Holt and found out that the children and staff at the Village were safe. I just remember feeling so helpless and didn’t know how to answer the questions from family and friends on what was going to happen. Continue reading “Miracles Happen”
“To everything there is a season, and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven.”—Ecclesiastes 3:1
The following is a glimpse of Holt’s work in Haiti since the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake…..
A time to embrace……
Three weeks after the earthquake, Holt Fontana Village staff in Haiti gathered around to say goodbye to 21 children leaving the Village to unite with their permanent families in the United States. The children, already matched with adoptive families prior to the earthquake, had their adoptions expedited and have been home for 4 months.
“When the talk of Humanitarian Parole Visas started, Scott and I were afraid to believe that Manel’s case would qualify. Within days, however, we received phone calls from our senator’s office, the governor’s office, and from our social worker telling us to believe it,” said Laura Conners. “When Manel’s eyes met mine for the first time, and I heard him yell “Mommy!” the anxiety of the last two years melted away as he jumped into my arms. A miracle had happened….read the rest of the Conners family’s story
A time to Love….
21 children had departed Holt Fontana Village and only four children remained in care, giving Holt the opportunity to protect and care for children affected by the earthquake. Through the hiring of additional Village staff and the completion of new houses on the property, Holt welcomed 40 orphaned and vulnerable children into Holt Fontana Village.
“Appropriate permanency planning services will be provided for the children including family tracing and search for kinship care placements,” says Dan Lauer, Holt Vice President of International Programs.
22 of the 40 children are currently receiving temporary care at the Village while their family members stabilize and can prepare a better home for them. With the loss of housing and income, many families are struggling to care for their children, and Holt is happy to provide these children protection, love and stability while their families get back on their feet. Continue reading “A Time to Heal”