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Winter 2012


Peace, I Give to You

A Special Look at Holt’s Peace House in China

in this issue 4


My Peace, I Give To You

Winter 2012 vol. 54 no. 1

In 2009, Holt’s China program began sending children in need of medical care to the Ping An M ­ edical Foster Home – or “Peace House” – in Beijing. After surgery and before joining ­adoptive families in China or the U.S., children r­ecuperated here, at this small cozy group home in the heart of the city

Our Vision Holt International is dedicated to carrying out God’s plan for every child to have a permanent, loving family.

From The Field Holt’s director of programs for Southeast Asia ­recently returned from Thailand. While there, she witnessed the devastation caused by the worst monsoon season in 50 years, and sat down to chat with a Holt Sahathai Foundation foster mother


Shelby Marks came home to her family in November through Holt’s China special needs ­process. She joins her sister, Kira, also adopted from China.

From The Family Adopting older children


Post-Adoption Adoptee camps

Dear Readers I take great delight in reading and printing stories written by Holt sponsors. There’s something special about a sponsor’s thoughtful words for their sponsored child.


­special relationship exists between them. The sponsors will, most likely, never meet their ­sponsored children, but with every prayer sent to their sponsored child, every updated photo hung on the refrigerator, sponsors show their sponsored children that they are loved, regardless of the distance between them. “My wife is from the Philippines, and I have visited there to build homes for the poor,” says Anthony Swanson, who signed up to sponsor a child with his wife at a Winter Jam concert. “We really wanted to sponsor a child and tell our 5-year-old son about what we were doing. We selected a child his age, so that we can teach him about people who are less fortunate. We look forward to continuing on this journey of sponsorship.” In December, I had the opportunity to witness the beginning of the child/sponsor ­relationship – like the one highlighted above – at a Winter Jam concert in Portland, Oregon. En masse, concertgoers stepped up to the sponsorship table — lined with hundreds of ­picture folders of children waiting to be sponsored. In just 15 minutes, people came forward and answered the call set forth in Matthew 25:40: “Whatever you do for one of the least of

H olt I nt e r n at i on a l / W int e r 2012

these, you do for me.” Teenagers pulled their money together. Youth groups chose a child to sponsor together, as did families. A beautiful sight to see: families, and even children, embracing the commitment to care for a child in need, a child thousands of miles away. Each picture, each little face, saying: Will you help me? And one by one, God’s people stepped up and answered the call. That night, 210 people sponsored a child. A girl in India will now receive books to go to school. A little boy in Ethiopia will have enough to eat.

In 1955 Harry and Bertha Holt responded to the conviction that God had called them to help children left homeless by the Korean War. Though it took an act of the U.S. Congress, the Holts adopted eight of those children. But they were moved by the desperate plight of other orphaned children in Korea and other countries as well, so they founded Holt International Children’s Services in order to unite homeless children with families who would love them as their own. Today Holt International serves children and families in Bulgaria, Cambodia, China, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), Ethiopia, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Nepal, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea (South Korea), Romania, Thailand, Uganda, Ukraine, the United States and Vietnam. President & CEO Phillip A. Littleton Vice-President of International Programs Dan Lauer Vice-President of Finance & Administration Kevin Sweeney Vice-President of Adoption Services Lisa Vertulfo Vice-President of Development Jack Wharfield Vice-President of Policy & External Affairs Susan Soon-keum Cox Senior Advisor David Lim Senior Executive Jian Chen Holt International magazine is published quarterly by Holt International Children’s Services, Inc., a nonprofit, Christian, child welfare organization. While Holt International is responsible for the content of Holt International magazine, the viewpoints expressed in this publication are not necessarily those of the organization. Creative Services Director Brian Campbell Managing Editor Ashli Keyser Senior Writer Robin Munro Graphics Chloe Goldbloom Subscription Orders/Inquiries and Address Changes Send all editorial correspondence and changes of address to Holt International magazine, Holt International, P.O. Box 2880, Eugene, OR 97402. We ask for an annual donation of $20 to cover the cost of publication and mailing inside the United States and $40 outside the United States. Holt welcomes the contribution of letters and articles for publication, but assumes no responsibility for return of letters, manuscripts or photos. Reprint Information Permission from Holt International is required prior to reprinting any portion of Holt International magazine. Please direct reprint requests to editor Ashli Keyser at 541/687.2202 or Copyright ©2012 by Holt International Children’s Services, Inc. ISSN 1047-7640

In just one night, 210 lives were changed forever. Go to to find out how you can do the same.

Ashli Keyser | 2

Managing Editor

P.O. Box 2880 (1195 City View) Eugene, OR 97402 Ph: 541/687.2202 Fax: 541/683.6175


Opening Doors, C ­ hanging Lives A review of 2011 The year 2011 has come to an end, and what a year it’s been. God continues to bless this organization in abundance, guiding our every direction. Our work for children always has been – and always will be – a reflection of Christ’s love. And I know I speak for everyone at Holt when I say we are excited to embark on new opportunities in the countries and among the people we serve. We are determined, now more than ever, to continue this work – God’s work – for the world’s most vulnerable children. We never see the love of Christ and the generosity of our loyal supporters more than when tragedy strikes one of our countries. In October, lives changed forever when the worst monsoon season in more than 50 years hit Thailand. Nearly 300 people perished and 8 million families were affected. Homes were destroyed, hearts were broken, but the spirit of Holt’s foster families could not be crushed. In the face of such devastation, Holt took comfort in the inspiring stories brought to us from the field. Although

helped us further our family preservation efforts in Vietnam and Cambodia, Haiti, Thailand, Uganda, the Philippines and Nepal. Like many adoption agencies, we too met with obstacles in 2011. But when God closes the door on one country or project, he always provides Holt another opportunity to care for children. In 2011, 600 children were placed through Holt with ‘­forever’ families in the United States. More than ever, families ­welcomed children with special needs into their homes and their hearts. Many older children, including several of those in our Philippines Ambassador program, also found loving homes. The face of in­ ternational adoption has changed, and prospective adoptive families are whole-heartedly embracing it. Harry and Bertha would be happy to know that children with special needs – c­ hildren once forgotten – are now first in line to join loving ­adoptive families overseas.

many of our foster mothers lost their homes, they never wavered

As we say goodbye to 2011, we pray for the wellbeing of

in their devotion to their foster children. Our overseas staff

orphaned and abandoned children around the world, and all the

­sheltered the families, and kept the children safe. We commend

children in our care. This is a prayer that extends to all of our

Holt’s foster mothers in Thailand for their love and dedication, as

countries, and to all of our staff overseas and here in the United

well as our staff and donors who rose to meet the need.

States. We look forward to 2012 and all the blessings the year is

Love, it seems, can be felt in all facets of Holt work. It was love, and a passion for the message of James 1:27 (…to look after orphans), that led 18,000 new supporters to say ‘Yes!’ to becoming contributions have brought warm clothes to children in Mongolia,

continues to guide this organization, just as He has for the past 55 years. We look forward to seeing what doors the Lord will open next.

food and medicines to North Korean orphanages, school s­ upplies and books to girls in India, and income-generating livestock to

Phillip Littleton | President & CEO

struggling families in Ethiopia. Generous sponsors have also


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a part of Holt’s child sponsorship program in 2011. Their monthly

sure to bring. Holt offers 2012 to the Lord, and we pray that He

Robin Munro | Senior Writer

MY PEACE, I GIVE TO YOU IN 2009, HOLT’S CHINA PROGRAM BEGAN SENDING CHILDREN IN need of medical care to the Ping An Medical Foster Home – or “Peace House” – in Beijing. After surgery and before joining adoptive families in China or the U.S., children recuperated here, at this small cozy group home in the heart of the city overseen by its founder, Teresa Huangwu.

Last September, after eight years of devoted service to ­children, Teresa officially passed the torch to Holt. With it, came a new era of Holt’s care and service to orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children in China LEFT: Lining a mantelpiece at the Peace House are photos of children who’ve come and gone over the years. Here, Teresa holds a photo of Max as she tells his story.

In August of 2007, a little boy was born in China’s eastern Heibei province, bordering the Yellow Sea. He had ten fingers and ten toes, dark, lovely eyes and a perfect button nose. He was also born with feet that curved down and inward, and a noticeable defect on his lower spine. His father sat down to write a letter, explaining the action he was about to take. ‘We are not stone-hearted people,’ he wrote. His parents simply could not afford to care for him. With that, they left their newborn son – and the note – in a place where they would be easily found. Three weeks later, Teresa Huangwu scooped this boy into her arms where she found him at a local o­ rphanage and brought him to Beijing for medical care. A doctor applied casts to reshape his feet, malformed by a c­ ongenital disorder called “clubfoot.” His spinal condition turned out to be a mild form of spina bifida, and did not require surgery. With casts on his legs, Teresa brought this boy to a small apartment in the heart of Beijing. Here, he would stay for the first three years of his life, doted upon by 6 live-in caregivers as well as Teresa, founder of the aptly titled Ping An Medical Foster Home – the Peace House. A PEACEFUL PLACE OF HEALING AND NURTURE With advanced degrees in special education and education psychology – a field she worked in for ten years – Teresa had long held both a personal and professional interest in the health and wellbeing of children. But she had never before worked in foster care when, nine years ago, inspiration struck. Then in her early 50s, she often volunteered her time at orphanages near her home in Beijing. One day, while washing a malnourished baby with a cleft lip, she thought how much better a child could be nourished to health in a warm 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. Teresa raises the money for the children’s surgeries, even sometimes matching donor funds. After surgery, they stay at the Peace House until their condition stabilizes. They then return to the orphanage and wait to be adopted. If they require more involved follow-up care, they stay longer. In 2009, Holt began referring children to the Peace House from our projects in the provinces. Gradually, Teresa developed a working relationship with Holt and, in particular, Sue Liu, Holt’s office manager in Beijing. “A baby who was staying with us was matched with a family through Holt…She came to see the baby herself and that was how we got to know each other and learn about each other’s work,” says Teresa. Together, Sue and Teresa visited orphanages in Heibei and Jilin provinces. Sue began referring more children to the Peace House, and Holt helped pay for surgeries whenever possible. Teresa raised the majority of funds and provided before-and-after care. All on one condition. “My only requirement is [that Holt] submits adoption paperwork,” says Teresa. She hesitated sending ­c hildren back to orphanages that may not submit adoption applications to the Chinese Center of Adoption Affairs as fast as possible, leaving the kids she helped to languish in institutional care. Because of Holt’s s­uccess placing ­c hildren with special needs, however, Teresa came to rely on Holt to find homes for children in her care – e­specially those with more involved medical conditions.


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Two years after Teresa scooped him into her arms, Holt’s Waiting Child program matched the little boy with the perfect button nose and the feet that turned inward. In June 2010, his adoptive parents – Eric and Jill

Wohlfeil – traveled from Wisconsin to Beijing to bring him home. Already, they had a good sense of the boy who would become their son, Max. “We had been in correspondence with Teresa from the time that we were matched with Max,” says Eric. She sent DVDs, photos, updates on his health and education. “She wanted us to get to know Max and also for us to understand that he had such ­excellent care there,” says Jill. “She wanted to make sure that his care would continue.”

In video and photos, Eric and Jill could not, however, fully grasp the quality of care Max received at the Peace House. Not until they visited themselves. “We were completely blown away,” says Jill. “It was so much more than what we were expecting – the care that they got, the facility, the small amount of children, it was ­amazing. It was totally amazing.” To keep the ratio of caregiver to child as close to one-on-one as possible, eight is the maximum number of children cared for at the Peace House at any one time. “They were like their mommies,” Jill says of the children’s caregivers. “It was really sweet to see.”

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A healthy, chubby 3-year-old boy, fluent in Mandarin and well attached to his ‘mommies’ and foster siblings, Max had clearly thrived in Peace House care. “In any other setting, he probably would have been back in the orphanage right after his feet were corrected,” says Jill. In China, the government will pay medical costs for children living in orphanage care. “The Tomorrow Project takes care of all the surgery expenses, but the funds are designated to a hospital in [the child’s] province, which may not be able to take care of their special needs,” explains Jian Chen, Holt’s director of ­ programs for China. In Beijing, children have access to the ­country’s top surgeons. Critical to recovery is the care children receive before and after surgery as well, which the Tomorrow Project does not always fund. “I’ve seen children get surgery, but no follow-up care,” says Jian. “You just have a cut. That’s it.” At the Peace House, children stay as long as it takes to recover – from 3 months to 3


years – and caregivers are equipped to monitor and attend to the children’s special medical needs. Both physicians, Jill and Eric were impressed by how well Teresa had trained the caregivers to care for different medical problems. “One boy had such a bad heart defect that he would fall over and faint,” Jill observed. “The women knew what to do when that happened.” With Max, the caregivers helped him learn to walk while he regained muscle tone. (Today, he walks very well, says Jill.) They kept a close eye on his spinal condition. And they p­rovided s­omething just as essential to his wellbeing as medical care –

something hard to find in an orphanage with too few c­aregivers for too many children. They provided constant love and a­ttention. “I don’t think you have to be a physician to see the importance, where they had consistent caregivers in a smaller environment,” says Jill. “That was like a home to them.” A SHARED PHILOSOPHY, A NEW OPPORTUNITY Attentive, nurturing care in a family-like setting is a ­philosophy Holt has long embraced – and fostered in countries we serve. In the mid-1960s, we introduced in Korea a model of foster care founded on this philosophy, and proceeded to replicate this model in India, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, Romania and in the late 1990s, China. Many of the children Sue referred to the Peace House came from Holt-supported foster care programs in the provinces. Sharing our philosophy of care, Teresa began urging Holt to create another medical foster home like the Peace House. “As I learned Holt processed so many adoptions every year in the U.S. and most of the children [had] special needs, I thought Holt should open its own foster home in Beijing,” she says. So in 2011, when Teresa decided to retire as manager of the Peace House, she proposed Holt take over. On September 15, 2011, Holt officially assumed management of the Ping An Medical Foster Home. In the eight years that Teresa oversaw the Peace House, 280 children received medical treatment and care. Many of these children have gone on to join adoptive families either in China or the U.S. – children whose conditions were once so severe,

their chances for adoption were slim. For the children in her care, Teresa made adoption not just a possibility, but a likelihood – and a reality. “Most people [at her age] would sit comfortably and sip the tea,” says Jian. “But she puts out her heart and soul for the children.” Even now, Teresa has no intention of sitting back and sipping tea. Although Holt will take over the day-to-day management of the Peace House, Teresa will continue to raise funds for the children’s

After graduating from Michigan State University in May of 2010, Hope set out to find a career in broadcast journalism. Visually impaired since childhood, Hope aimed to become the first blind news anchorwoman. While in college, she gained experience shooting and producing news stories for her campus channel, and later hosted a live news segment at a local station. Entering a troubled industry during a recession, however, Hope struggled to find a permanent position. At the same time, a childhood dream she’d neatly tucked away started to make its way to the forefront of her mind. “Having FROM LEFT: Max celebrates his second birthday at the Peace House. Teresa with Max on the day his parents first met him in China. Max waits to board a plane to the U.S. with his older brother Mitch, adopted from China in 2008. With cake and presents, the Wohlfeils celebrate one year home with Max. Max selects a pumpkin.  RIGHT: The Wohlfeil f­ amily, from top left: Madeline, Margo, Jill, Martha, Eric; b­ ottom: Mitch, Max and Matthew.

medical procedures – the cost of which can range from under $10,000 for a cleft lip to over $100,000 for a heart problem. This is one reason Teresa only cared for eight children at a time. “When you have 50 kids, you don’t know how to raise the money,” she says. “And some of these kids can’t wait, especially the heart problems.” To ensure attentive care for every child, Holt will keep the Peace House small, but Jian hopes to use it as a model to create more medical foster homes. “If successful, we will duplicate the Peace House,” says Jian. “But not expand.” Through the Peace House, Jian also hopes to raise local ­ wareness and generate greater support for children in need of a medical care. This, however, will require someone – on site – who can communicate the impact of our work, and inspire others to get involved. Someone with strong communication skills, new media and tech savvy, and a passionate drive to help children. Someone like 23-year-old Hope Springstead. A HOPEFUL BEGINNING

In August of 2011, she contacted Jian about volunteering at an orphanage in China. “She said, ‘We don’t have anything right now, but I’ll keep you in mind if anything comes up,’” says Hope. “A few weeks later, she called me and told me about the Peace House.” After explaining the project, Jian asked Hope if she would be i­nterested in joining the staff. Hope would use her journalism skills to communicate with donors, volunteers and families. With gratitude and excitement, Hope accepted Jian’s offer. In January, Hope will return to China for the first time in twelve years. She’s already come up with several ideas to help promote the Peace House, including setting up a website and blogging about the children in care. She’s eager to get to work. She’s also excited to meet the children. “In just a few months,” she writes, “I’ll be back in China holding some little girl’s hand, telling her of the possibilities that await her and give her reasons to dream and smile.” As Jian says, “Every child needs an advocate and someone to take them into their heart.” For the many children yet to stay at the Peace House, that ­someone may be Hope.


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Around the time that Teresa notified Holt of her plans to retire, a recent college graduate – and adoptee from China – sent an email to Jian, inquiring about volunteer opportunities in China. Jian had met Hope once before, at the wedding of a young woman for whom Jian had once helped find a family. Hope grew up with the bride – first at an orphanage in China, where they lived together for several years, and then in the U.S., where they remained friends after joining different adoptive families.

experienced firsthand accounts of how orphans are treated, I knew without a doubt that I would make my way back to China one day,” she wrote in a recent personal essay. “Around age 12, my desire to open up and run my own orphanage was impressed upon my heart.”

LEFT: Family Photo: Ryan and Niki, with Nathan, Averi and Connor

Peace Along the Way The often-grueling adoption process is nothing compared to what waits for families at the end. For the Wolff family, this meant meeting their beautiful, healthy son from China

H olt I nt e r n at i on a l / W int e r 2012

About six years ago, Ryan and I began to feel the pull on our hearts to adopt a child from China. Then, a couple months later, God brought our beautiful children and us to Rio Rancho, New Mexico, and led us into foster care. “Our plans”, so it seemed, were changing. We had never thought of getting involved in foster care until we learned about the great need for children to have good, safe foster homes in our state. We learned so much about abused and neglected children, and a ton about ourselves. God grew us exponentially during this time. He brought children into our home that challenged us. He brought children that held our hearts when they would leave. And He brought us back to our first desire: adopting a child from China. God chose a child who needed our family, and we embarked on the journey to bring him home from the other side of the world. In September of 2010, we filled out the application with Holt to begin the process. At first, we were only interested in adopting a little girl from China. As we continued praying, God reminded us that He had made the decision, boy or girl, with our biological children! So, we decided to give that decision over to God, and let him decide, and show us who our next child would be — boy or girl. For several months, we filled out form after form, prayed, went through the long international homestudy process, prayed, background checks, kept praying, fingerprinting and praying…. you get the idea. Then, one day, we received an email from Holt with children that were being placed on the Waiting Child list — and there he was! We knew he was the one, and immediately fell in love with him and his amazing smile! We called right away and asked for all his information. After a couple weeks, we got the call that confirmed that Feng, Xin Tong would be our son! To say we were excited doesn’t even begin to describe what we were feeling!


At the same time we were filling out all that paperwork, our new son, Aaron, was being moved from his home province, Jiangxi, to the Peace House in Beijing — a move brought on by the need for a urogenital surgery. Teresa, the wonderful woman at the Peace House, heard about Aaron and welcomed him to come and receive his surgery. While Aaron recuperated at the Peace House, a woman who had taken in children for Teresa while they were healing, came in, saw Aaron and fell in love with him. So, in November of 2010, with the help of Teresa, Aaron went to live with an amazing foster family and their children. After seven more months, we finally flew to China to meet Aaron! We were blessed to spend time with Aaron’s foster family before flying to Aaron’s province to finalize his adoption. While in Beijing, we met several people who helped Aaron along his ­journey — including Teresa from the Peace House. She is such an amazing woman who loves all her kiddos! We learned about all the c ­ hildren that Peace House has helped by providing a l­oving home and raising funds for much needed surgeries. We are so thankful for the role that Teresa and Peace House played in Aaron’s journey. We have been home for three months, and Aaron is doing great! Aaron is a happy, energetic 4-year-old boy who loves his ­brothers and sisters and charms everyone! We are ever thankful for the four children God has graciously placed in our family – three beautiful biological children and one beautiful Chinese boy!

Niki Wolff | Rio Rancho, New Mexico

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pia) — Elgin, TX Ellie Hubbard, 5 (Ethio Grover Beach, CA Sarah Chapman, 13 — Deanna, 6 (India), and [2] es) — Denver, PA Pat ty Unruh, 5 (Philippin [3] ) — Oxnard, CA Samantha Love, 3 (China [4] ) — Enterprise, MS John Benefield, 2 (Korea [5] stwood, KY ), with her family — Cre Amy Michaud, 12 (Korea [6] (Korea) — 12, and Crosby Hinze, 15 Grace, 10 (Korea), Kirk, 17, , nah Han ] [7 Runnells, IA ton, NJ s (China) — Westamp Shelby Marks, 23 month [8]



to: Mail original color prints ine Holt International magaz OR 974 02 P.O. Box 2880, Eugene, at or upload digital photos

from the field

For the Love of the Children Jennifer Goette, Holt’s director of programs for South and Southeast Asia, recently returned from Thailand. While there, she witnessed first-hand the devastation caused by the worst monsoon season to hit Thailand in 50 years and sat down with a Holt Sahathai Foundation foster mother. Bangkok, Thailand – Watching the floodwater rise in and

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around Bangkok in news reports, it has been difficult to get a true account of the tragedy caused by the worst monsoon in Thailand in 50 years. Until my visit to Bangkok, I didn’t understand the true impact of the tragedy or how critical the work of Holt Sahathai Foundation (HSF) has been for families dealing with dislocation and personal loss. Since early October, HSF staff has worked tirelessly to ensure the safety of children and families served by their program. They have coordinated deliveries of food and supplies to hundreds of families using military vehicles, small boats and sheer ­w illpower. They have relocated approximately 25 children and their foster parents to the HSF office, where the families have found safety, comfort and nutritious food. In many cases, HSF staff have continued working long hours, seven days a week, despite the ­ ­desperate situation of their own families and homes. Patchara has been a foster mother with HSF since 1996. I can tell that Patchara, with her warm personality and sweet ­d isposition, holds a special place in the hearts of the entire staff.


Nearly 15 years ago, Patchara adopted the first child she fostered and has remained a foster mother with HSF ever since. Patchara shared with me about the uncertainty families faced in the early days of the flood, when it was unclear just how grave the situation would be in areas around Bangkok. As the floodwater rose higher throughout Pathum Thani Province, the local residents evacuated to higher ground, staying with friends or relatives, or relocating to temporary evacuation shelters. As she worked with her husband to construct a barrier around their home, Patchara’s primary concern was not for the safety of her house or her ­personal belongings — which are now two meters

ABOVE: Families in Holt’s family preservation p­ rogram being ­transported by boat to the Holt Sahathai Foundation (HSF) office  RIGHT: Flooding in Bangkok.

under water — but for the safety of her two foster children. “They are my family,” says Patchara with a smile. “There was no ­question that I would continue to provide for their care during the disaster.” Like the other foster mothers, Patchara has been forced to relocate to ensure the safety of her foster children. HSF’s foster program — staffed with 10 social workers, providing support and training to 100 families fostering 130 children — completed a weekly assessment of the dangers associated with the f­looding for each family. When it was determined that the Patchara ­family could no longer stay in their home, HSF worked with Mrs. Patchara to determine that the HSF office would be the safest place for her and the two children. HSF immediately arranged for transportation and assisted with the move. Fortunately, nearly every foster mother has been willing and able to continue to provide care in the face of the tragedy. In the

couple of cases where foster families have not been able to continue care, the children have been welcomed at the HSF office to be cared for by staff and the two cooks hired to prepare food during the ­crisis. “For HSF, there are so many challenges caused by the flood,” says Jintana Nontapouraya, executive director of HSF. “Out of 100 foster families, there has only been one who has not been dramatically impacted by the flood. We are responsible for these children and take this very seriously.” With the situation brought on by the flood, Jintana plans to provide the relief and reconstruction needed for each family. When asked about the support HSF has provided, Patchara becomes animated. “I always feel supported by HSF during ­d ifficulties,” she says. “During the flood, before I ­relocated to the HSF office, the staff called every day and responded i­mmediately to my needs. I feel safe here at the office and can continue to ­provide care to my two foster children.”

Jennifer Goette |

FROM TOP LEFT: Children being cared for by HSF staff after the flood.  For families able to remain in their homes, food and water were distributed weekly.  Patchara and her foster child took refuge at the HSF office when her home flooded.

Director of Programs, S & SE Asia

from the family

Why Didn’t You Come Sooner? When Holt asked Stacie and Taylor Forsberg to consider adopting an older child, they initially thought it would be too ­challenging. After a change of heart, they welcomed 6-year-old Jacob into their family. Today, when asked what age they would prefer if they were to adopt again, Stacie doesn’t hesitate. “Older,” she says. Here, Stacie tells her story of adopting Jacob, from Uganda, and Leah, from Ethiopia. Some of the earliest memories I have are of wanting to help ­children. At the time, I don’t think I even knew the word ­“adoption.” What I did know was I wanted to be a mom to children who didn’t already have one.

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In 2002, I married my husband, Taylor, and within a year, I became pregnant with our first child, Ben*. We began trying for our second child shortly afterward, but after 2½ years of trying to conceive, we began fertility treatments. As we were leaving our first session, the nurse said to us, “Don’t worry, we will get you pregnant.” At that moment, we r­ ealized: it’s not a fertility clinic’s place to “get us pregnant.” I had brought up the idea of adoption to Taylor before. After deciding against fertility treatment, we returned to the idea. Our journey began in 2007. Shortly thereafter, I finally achieved my childhood dream. Through adoption, I became a mom to a child who needed one. Our beautiful daughter came home to us from Ethiopia at age


19 months. The first six months home were really hard. But once we reached six months, things started getting easier, and we realized: we could do this again. After nine months home with Leah*, we began our second adoption, this time with Holt. Thinking we wanted our daughter to have a sibling with the same heritage, we applied for Holt’s Ethiopia program. Holt then asked us to consider their Uganda program. The majority of the children, however, were of an age that we did not feel comfortable with – either older than our eldest or about the same age as our daughter. We decided to stay with the Ethiopia program. Even though we decided not to go with the Uganda program, our hearts still went to those older children. They just seem to wait so much longer than the younger ones. Most families want babies. Older kids seem to have such a slim chance at a family. So, a few days later, I asked to see the files of Holt’s waiting c ­ hildren from Uganda. I wanted to see their faces. I wanted to know who to pray for. It makes everything so much more real when I see a face – not just a number or statistic or a file, but a face.

Both my children stood at my side as I opened file after file. Still, none of the children fit the age range with which we felt comfortable. They were either between our two children or older than our oldest. But after opening seven children’s files, we opened Jacob’s*. Ben – who looked at the previous seven without saying a word – instantly said, “Mom, we need to adopt him. He’d be perfect for our family.” He then promptly left my side to go play. I realized then that God had other plans for our family – a plan that didn’t include another journey to Ethiopia. Taylor and I prayed a lot and discussed Jacob’s file at length. Jacob was only nine months younger than our eldest. This gave us a lot to think upon – two boys only nine months apart in age. We realized they could either be the best of friends or the worst of enemies. We thought about the time constraints we might face if they chose to be involved in different activities within the same season. We thought about the cost of sending them to college that close together. But in the end, we agreed: we wanted to adopt this boy with the amazingly sweet, mischievous smile. First and foremost, we felt it was God’s will for our family to adopt Jacob. We also decided that Jacob needed a home more than we needed the “easy” way out. We realized that things might be harder for us for a while, but not near as hard as a lifetime spent in an orphanage would be for Jacob. I can still hear the sweet voice on the other end of the phone telling us he was ours. At the end of August 2010, we left our home to meet our son. In the last year, I’ve been asked more times than I can count the difference between our two adoptions. “Which one was easier – at 19 months or 6 years of age?” I’m often asked. That’s not an easy question to answer. Both have been the hardest things I’ve done in my life, yet both have brought the most blessings as well. But in some ways, it is actually easier adopting an older child. Because Jacob was 6 years old when we adopted him, we could talk and reason with him in a way we couldn’t with our 19-month-old. Although Leah knew that everything in her life ­ was different, we couldn’t help her through that. We were not able to reason with her. In Uganda, the orphanage staff was able to prepare Jacob for the change about to happen in his life. They walked him through the idea of adoption while still in familiar surroundings. He knew we were coming, and why, and when we met him, we were able to talk to him. When we shared photos, he understood what we were showing him.

The first five years of a child’s life, the parents lay the f­oundation. Before we said “yes” to adopting an older child, we were told we needed to understand this concept well. We missed out on b ­ uilding that foundation. Someone else helped build his ­foundation, but it has lots of cracks in it. It’s not built on solid ground. It’s shifty. Our job is to help him repair that foundation the best we can. We can help repair the big cracks that we see, but what worries us the most are the hairline cracks that are not ­v isible to the naked eye. The little things that we don’t ­understand about all he’s endured up until now. The things that maybe he doesn’t even know, but that cause him to act and react to ­stimuli in certain ways. We feel these are the hardest things with an older child adoption. But these are also what make it the most rewarding – to see your child grow and make sturdier his foundation in life. I’m often asked, “If you did it again, which age would you choose?” To this, I can h ­ onestly answer, “Older.” Jacob so longed for a family, and when we first brought him home, he would repeatedly ask, “Why didn’t ­ you come sooner?” Our heart truly goes out to older children that wait for families, and wonder – like Jacob – why it’s taking so long.

Stacie Forsberg |

LEFT: The Forsberg family–Stacie and Taylor with Jacob, Ben and Leah

Dunnell, Minnesota

I don’t mean to paint a rosy picture. This last year has been hard, but it’s been beautiful to watch Jacob start to come out of his hard shell – and become a child in the truest sense of the word.


H olt I nt e r n at i on a l .o r g

Jacob has always been able to tell us what he needs. That doesn’t mean it’s always been easy to meet his needs, but he’s at least been able to express them. Younger children can’t express themselves quite so easily, and we sometimes struggled to ­understand our daughter’s needs.

Jacob had a need to control every aspect of everything around him, including our family life. Jacob has a huge fear that ­something bad is going to happen to me when he’s not by my side, which can be a bit suffocating. He needs to know every person we talked to on the phone. He needs to know exactly what the next day will be like. He doesn’t handle changes well, whether in our usual schedule at home or in the seating arrangement in his classroom at school. To Jacob, change means something bad can – and will – happen to him. Jacob’s way of dealing with stress is very worrisome. But all of this pales in comparison to what we see slowly emerging within him. We see a little boy learning to be a child and to lose the fear that developed over four years in orphanage care.

A family….That’s All Help us find a family for these beautiful siblings from Africa *Alex, Keith, Mark and Sadie don’t need fancy clothes. They don’t want iPods, iPads or a new computer. They have no desire to eat at the finest restaurants, vacation to tropical destinations, or play the latest and greatest video game. There is something they do want, though. It’s not something that can be found in stores or bought online. This gift doesn’t come in a package, or through the mail. But it’s a priceless, ­precious gift. Something they want more than anything else: “All they want is a family,” says Pat McConnell, Holt’s director of services for Africa, who met the sibling group of four in 2011. “They are so used to having so little. They want to be able to eat. They want to go school. And they want a family. That’s all.” Life for these siblings — three precocious and soft-spoken boys and a 3-year-old sister who they adore — hasn’t been easy. They lost their parents to HIV/AIDS three years ago and currently live with their impoverished grandparents in a tiny, one-room house. The grandfather has fallen ill. The grandmother is losing her vision. They are no longer able to provide the care their grandchildren need.

g this s­ ibli ng If you are inte rested in ado ptin Erin Mower act ont ­ c se plea gro up from Afri ca, erin m@ at m wit h our Wai ting Chil d pro gra rg al.o hol tin ter nat ion

All four children have tested negative for HIV. “The children are in good health,” says Pat. “We need to find these children a family together. We do not want them to be ­separated from each other. They have a very strong bond.” Alex, 11, Keith, 11, and Mark, 7, enjoy playing soccer. Alex loves school. His favorite subjects are math and science. Mark enjoys taking care of his grandparents' garden, and Keith likes writing. At 3 years old, Sadie likes listening to stories and asking ­questions. “They are all bright, well-behaved and active,” says Pat. “They look forward to having a family one day, and know that a family might be out there for them.”

*names have been changed *To adopt these siblings, Holt prefers that prospective adoptive families have experience with older child/sibling group adoption. We also prefer that interested families have no young children in their home.

You can easily share their story! Find it on Holt's blog: Or scan the code and share with your mobile device!

All they want is a family. We hope we can find them one. It may not be easy. But, with your help and prayers, we know that it’s possible. Please share this story with your friends and family.

BELOW–FROM LEFT: Alex, 11, Keith, 11, Sadie, 3, and Mark, 7.

Adoption….and a Dime A sweet story of how a family’s faith in God and their love for children led them to their daughter, Coraline When Jessica and I started our adoption for our daughter, Emaline, we went through many emotions. We were happy, ­nervous and excited, but also wondering how we would be able to pay for all of it. We knew that we were going through this journey with faith in God and that He would make this happen if it was His plan. One day while out shopping, we found a dime in the parking lot. As I picked it up, we commented and joked that we found “A Dime for Emaline." Little did we know that this would be our rallying cry and theme throughout our adoption. We found that this dime became the first of many we would find and place in our jar that was designated for our adoption fund. We soon began to believe and realize that God was planting this seed of faith for us to keep going, and keep moving through this journey, because every time we would start to doubt or wonder, a dime would show up. The dime became our symbol of hope, and we knew God would make a way. After almost four years from the time we started our first a­doption, God began to lay on our hearts the thought of going through this process again. Being the stubborn person I am, I was not sure I wanted to go through it — mainly due to selfish reasons. I wondered if I wanted to share the love I was giving Emaline with another child. I now know how crazy that thought was. One day, Jessica asked if I had given any more thought to a­ dopting again. I told her yes, but was not sure I wanted to pursue

pursue it just yet. After some conversation, she asked if I could run out to the car to retrieve something she had left. As I walked outside, I had that conversation in my head about adopting again. And that’s when I saw it! The “it” was a burning bush of sorts for me. Just ahead of me, about 15 yards away, was a very bright and shiny object that was reflecting the sun. As I walked closer, I said to myself, "No, No, No Way!" Sitting in front of me was a brand new dime. I almost hit my knees right there. In James 1:27, God says: "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." We focus on this verse and use this daily. Coraline has been home for seven months. In March, our little ­peanut will be 4 years old. She is doing amazingly well and ­adjusting to her forever family. When I look at my two daughters, I realize that adoption was truly designed by God. Coraline and Emaline were made for each other. Two peas in a pod. We could not have asked for more than what God has done and continues to do. As we continue on our journey with our new family, we always look back with amazement and wonder about how this journey started out with hope, prayer, and a dime.

Michael & Jessica Varn | Trinity, Florida

BELOW: The Varn Family: Michael and Jessica, with children Coraline (left) and Emaline (right) Right: Sisters, Emaline and Coraline.

post-adoption Straight from the Adoptee Why Holt Adoptee Camp is So Special A message from Michael Tessier, youth services manager: Hey, everyone. I wanted to give you an opportunity to learn about camp straight from the mouths of some of our biggest participants. What follows is an interview I conducted that will hopefully help you learn more about the program. My interview is with Rachel, an adoptee from Wisconsin: Michael: Hey Rachel! Thanks for joining me for this conversation. We know each other but the rest of our readers don’t. Could you tell me a little about yourself? Rachel: My name is Rachel. I currently live in Madison, Wisconsin

R: Everyone at camp was adopted, including all of the counselors

and I’m 15. I was adopted from Fujian, China when I was 3 years

and staff. I was able to relate to them, because they went through

old. I live with my adoptive mom.

the process of adoption like I did. They inspired me to always be a

M: Cool, can you tell me about some of the things you like to do for fun? R: In my spare time, I take Chinese and World Fusion dance, Kung Fu, and I also like to play soccer.

I want to do when I grow up. Before, I wanted to be a soccer player, but now I think it would be cool to work in adoption services and help people like me. M: Wow, that's really cool, Rachel. Congratulations on the new

M: Awesome! Those sound like some cool activities. So, you went

idea! Tell me what you thought were the most fun activities at

to camp this year, right? Was it your first time at camp or had you


been before?

R: I really enjoyed the daily sessions about adoption. I also like the

R: It was my first time at camp. I was nervous that I wouldn't meet

classes we would do at night. You could choose from a variety of

new friends. I was happy that I did make friends and also saw

things such as self-defense, fishing and Korean pop music.

some people I knew. M: Can you tell me a little about what Holt Camp was like? What kind of environment was it?

M: Cool - those are fun parts of camp. Tell me if you'd recommend camp to any or all adoptees. And why or why not? R: I would recommend Holt Camp to adoptees, because it is a

R: When I first arrived to Holt Camp, there was a mob of people

great way to find out more about yourself. You get to share your

who came to greet me. Everyone was very energetic and happy

­adoption story. It is also a good way to meet people like you.

to be with each other. After being at camp for a couple days, I H olt I nt e r n at i on a l / W int e r 2012

good person. Since I went to Holt camp, it changed my idea of what

began to connect to everyone because they all had something in common with me. They were all adopted. We also had daily talks

M: Well, thanks for sharing all of this, Rachel! Do you have ­anything else you’d like to add for our readers?

about adoption with the counselors and campers, which was very

R: I think that if you go to Holt Camp, you will never regret that


you went. When it was time to go home, I was sad to leave all the

M: Awesome! Thanks for sharing about that. It sounds like a really fun, exciting environment. You mentioned that everyone at camp

friends I had met. I think everyone should be able to experience Holt camp because it changes your perception on adoption!

was adopted — does that include the adult counselors and staff? Were they all adopted? And was that important to you?


Rachel Penewell | Madison, Wisconsin

adoptees today It’s Never Too


te to Change Tough conversations ab out adoption lead to un derstanding and peace for one adul t adoptee I'm always du mbfounded w hen people sa it to be such a y, "I can't chan cop out. I belie ge; that's just ve people are how I am." I fin are grow ing an al ways capable d d lear ning an of change. In d changing al fact, I hope th choose not to l the time. I be ey change. For th lieve it’s a choi em, I can only ce, and some life ex perienc feel sy mpathy. people es — defining They are missi moments that ng out on so m alter the way any I've lear ned a we feel about lot from this and view life. pa st w ee been afraid or k. I talked to my parent's ab not encourag ed to ask. But out topics I've if my parent's I realized that always were going to if I was going lear n anyt hing to lear n anyt hi — ng — I ne ed ed to ask. My dad is an amazing man . He ha s always been times I have tr ied to ex pr a mentor to m ess my issues e. As a child, "Just be proud on adoption, the few of who you ar he would liste e." n, and alway I gu es s he didn't re ­ident ity was s say: alize that I ha a mystery at d no idea who that age. I felt family and no I w lik as e . My I w as in limbo, not t really know ing what bein really belong felt c g Asian was. ing to my ­ ompletely di I looked one w fferent on the ay on the outs inside. ide, but I asked him if he ever though t ab ou t the reality of He said he ne ver thought ab adopting a ch out it. I didn't ild of a differe is that possib understand. nt race. le?’ Well, he ‘You never th sa id ought about it? he w as ­not hing else m so thankful an How attered. From d excited abou the moment I t adopting m or not. I was a w e, as that pu t into his ar ms, part of his fam I was his daug ily and that's ht er al , bl l th ood at mattered. Now, for a m inute, I stood ba ck and thought, ­all-white fam how ig norant ily, in a small . I am being suburban tow raised in an think I would n, w ith little have issues w to no diversity ith — and you w th at ? But I have to understood m ouldn't say for the fir y dad. I got it. st time ever, It was hard to I could see hi I he ac ar tually , fr om s perspect ive. my perspect iv e, but for the first time, As an adult, I might disagree w ith their thin loved. I had a king, but I have great childho to say, I know od , an d yes it was m I was racist commen ar red w ith ig no ts, but my fam rant incident s ily al w ays stuck by m and they tr ied to e. They could raise me and never relate, bu love me the be thankful and t st w ay they knew ho grateful that w. So I can on now, after wha ly w ith ot her ad be t I'v e le ar ned from th optees at Holt is summer wor camp, it's neve king my issues, an r too late to ch d we can — fo ange. My dad r th recognizes e fir st time — ha only be thankf ve conversatio ul that, good ns about it. I or bad, ever yt define the pe can hing that has rson I am toda happened to m y. e has helped

Tracy Novak | Boston, Massachus


ABOVE: Tracy and her dad, James Foley BELOW: Tracy with her h­ usband, Ryan.

updates Hunter’s Story – Our Gift

Are You Ready for Winter Jam 2012?

...Hunter’s depth of understanding of the life he left and the family he joined became apparent in January, 2010, when his first grade teacher asked him to finish the sentence “I have a dream… ,” for Martin Luther King, Jr. day. Hunter wrote, “I had a dream that evere VN boy and gerl had a hom.”

In January, Grammy nominated Christian music group Skillet took the stage with other popular a­ rtists to kick off Winter Jam 2012. Throughout April, Winter Jam will rock the hearts and minds of Christian music fans in over 45 cities across the South, Midwest and the East Coast! For seven years running, Holt has teamed up with music group NewSong to bring Christian music fans a fun-filled night of music, worship, and the opportunity to help children overseas through Holt child sponsorship!

An Excerpt by Mari Li Creasy {Hunter’s Mom}

A dream that every Vietnamese boy and girl had a home. This year, the PTA of Hunter’s elementary school held an essay contest for students in grades 2-6. The kids were asked to submit an essay completing the statement, “If I had $100, the charity I would give it to is…” Hunter chose Holt and wrote: I pick Holt International Children’s Agency. They helped my family adopt me from Vietnam and my sister from China. They help kids around the world. They need animals to help poor children with no food. They need clothes and medicine for kids. They help kids find forever families. They build houses and schools. I would ask them to send the $100 to my orphanage in Vietnam to buy toys, books and crayons for the kids who still wait for families of their own. Please pick Holt. They rock!

Last year, over 18,000 Winter Jam concertogers said “YES" to sponsoring a child! For 2012, we’ve set our sights even higher!…. Check out Winter Jam dates and artists at and "LIKE" us on Facebook for updates!

Events The upcoming Omaha Gala and Dinner Auction on April 21st will raise money for children in Thailand. Visit for more information and to RSVP or contact Sandi Mehl at ­

A winner was chosen from each class and given a $100 check from the PTA for their charity. Out of hundreds of essays submitted, Hunter won for the second grade! The winners were asked to read their essays at a “Gift of Giving” assembly at school right before Thanksgiving. Hunter practiced reading his essay for days and was the last speaker of the night. There was not a dry eye in the house! Find more stories in our “Children Who Give” series on Holt’s blog: blog/2012/01/children-who-give-hunters-story-our-gift

neighborhood calendar



for a­ doptee bins—Holt Adoptee Camp July 29-August 2, 2012, Dob August 1) 9-16 years old (Day Camp is


H olt I nt e r n at i on a l / W int e r 2012

pte Holt Adoptee Camp for ado July 23-27, 2012, Hampton— 26) p is July 9-16 years old (Day Cam




p for utoma—Holt Adoptee Cam July 29-August 2, 2012, Wa 1) ust y Camp is Aug ­adoptees 9-16 years old (Da



ptees Holt Adoptee Camp for ado July 22-26, 2012, Okoboji— 25) July p is 9-16 years old (Day Cam

Tessier at rmation contac t: Michael For Holt Adoptee Camp info to go or .org michaelt@holtinternational amp ww


benefit ­children ala and Dinner Auc tion to April 21, 2012, Omaha—G a. 5:30 PM Vist La – tes Embassy Sui in Holt’s care in Thailand.


p for a­ dop ht, PA—Holt Adoptee Cam August 5-10, 2012, Starlig 9) ust Aug 9-16 years old (Day Camp is


efit ­children in Dinner and Auc tion to ben 5:30 PM February 4, Eugene —Gala . The Eugene Hilton Hotel. Holt’s care in Southeast Asia rs old yea 6 9-1 es pte ado for Adoptee Camp July 15-19, Corbet t—Holt (Day Camp is July 18)


tac t: Sandi Mehl at For Events information con rg sandim@holtinternational.o rmation contac t: For Holt Heritage Tour info sarahiggins@holtinternatio rs: Sara Higgins for China tou .org nal atio ern tint hol rs: kat yb@ Kat y Bogart for Korea tou e tour: thany Korea Adult Adopte t-Be Hol for er Rad i rtn Kou .org kourtnir@holtinternational

w a it ing c h il d re n Kiera

Bor n: 8/10/0 0, SE Asia



SCot t

These and other children need adoptive families Scott

Kiera is said to be a “sweet soul.” She has seen children come into her foster home and go home with fam ilies soon after; she would like to be adopted too. She enjoys play ing with her ­ medical set and wants to be a d ­ octor when she grows up. Her favorite ­subject is ­science. She also enjoys English and ­read ing, and gets upset when she has to miss a class. Kiera has beautiful ­ handwrit ing and likes to draw. On her 10th birt hday, Kiera c ­ reated a tribute to her birt h parents. She needs a family who not only has acce ss to ­medical resources but is also ­ experienced with adoption and has the ability to s­ upport her through her grief.

Scot t is described as smart, ­clever and creative. His birt h parents are i­ mpr isoned and wer e not able to care for him . Scot t entered Children’s Hom e in 2002, and then foster care a year later. He is ­ developmentally on target and enjoys r unn ing and climbing , play ­ ing soccer and riding his bike. Scot t says that he would love to have a family adopt him. Described as a leader, he nee ds a f­amily who can accommodate this trait and who u ndersta nds the behavioral ­ impact of grief and loss. Experience pare nting past Scot t’s age is also preferred.

Shen Ying & Shen Jia

Bor n: 08/1/01 & 03/03/02, Chi na


Bor n: 11/5/0 0, Chi na

These charming, intelligent boy s are currently living with a foster family. They are not biological brot hers but have grow n up as brot hers since infancy, and should be placed together or with fam ilies in very close prox imit y. Upon adm ission, they were both found to have bila teral clef t lip and palate, which have been s­urgically repaired. Shen Ying (left) enjo ys s­ inging and dancing, and play ing with Legos. He does well in class and is an e ­ nthusiastic lear ner. Shen Jia enjoys ­ performing for others and telling stor ies. His t­eachers report that he is polite and athl etic. Their family should prov ide them with access to a craniofacial team for follo w-up with speech therapy and surgeries. Their f­ amily should also have experience with ­adoption and parenting past their ages . ­ w /a-dynamic-duo-still-waiting

“I want to grow up happily like other kids,” says Lean n, when asked about i nter nationa l adoption. ­ This graceful young girl with bright eyes was found ­outside of a child welfare cent er in 2009. She is extrover ted, polite and kind and c urrently living with a fost ­ er f­ a mily. Leann’s foster family reports that she has lear ning disabilit ies and poo r ­ memory. She always greets people whe n she sees them and likes to help with housework. Althoug h her memory is con sidered poor, Lean n rememb ers the names of her f­oster family and her ­ neighborhood friends. Leann has average grades and gets along well with her classmates. When asked abo ut ­i nte r nat iona l adoption, she says she's ­ QR code for agreeable to the idea and the is eager to have parents of her own. Leann needs a loving f­ami ly who has acce ss to academic and dev elopmental resource s. ww blog /2011/11/just-like-otherQR codekids for Leann video *Scan here to see a video of Leann

Shen Ying & Shen Jia

Bor n: 8/5/00, SE Asia

dynamic duo video

*Scan here to see (and share!) a video of Shen Ying!

For more inform ation on adopting these and other waitin g childre n, contac t Erin Mower at ­e rinm@ holtinternatio www. holtin terna tional .org/w aiting child/photo listing

Post Office Box 2880 Eugene, OR 97402

Change Ser vice Reques ted

Make a Difference in 2012



e for the sponsorship ad back cover or call 888.355.HOLT

Winter Issue 2012  

My Peace, I Give To You • In 2009, Holt’s China program began sending children in need of medical care to the Ping An ­Medical Foster Home –...

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