In December 2015, a team of Holt adoptive families, sponsors and supporters from all around the United States traveled on our annual Korea Gift Team to deliver special Christmas gifts to children in our partner’s care in South Korea. Holt Development Associate and Korean adoptee Courtney Young traveled on this year’s team, and below she shares about her experience and why it was so meaningful.
Courtney, as Mrs. Claus, gets ready to hand out gifts to children at the care center.
If Christmas spirit is contagious, then I must catch it every year the day after Thanksgiving. It is my favorite holiday! I love the twinkling lights, the trees, the hope for snow and baking up a storm to give holiday treats to all of my friends and family. I’m like a real-life Buddy the Elf.
This year was extra special because I got to travel with a team of wonderful people on the Holt Christmas Gift Team to Korea.
During the trip, we traveled south of Seoul to visit the Jeonju Babies Home and then to Daejeon to visit the Holt Morning Garden Mother and Child Shelter. While the whole trip was indescribably life changing, there were a couple of days that were particularly special. The first of these days was at the Jeonju Babies Home.
The children who live in this care center are neither orphaned nor abandoned — they have birth families that visit them regularly, but are for one reason or another unable to support them. The children are sponsored and live in the home until their birth families are able to permanently care for them.
image3The children got yummy treats as part of the Christmas celebration!
When we first arrived at the home, we were greeted with a special performance from the children. After the performance, the kids came running up to us and jumped into our laps for hugs and snuggles while Mr. and Mrs. Claus (aka: me!) passed out presents to the children. I don’t know what the kids enjoyed more — the toys and candy, or 16 new playmates for the day! Before we got to the home, we stopped at a local toy store to pick up some additional gifts for the children. Our team went above and beyond for these kids. Some of the team members sponsor children who live at the home, so they were able to pick out a gift especially for their sponsored child.
Each year, these kids wait in anticipation for our group to arrive and celebrate Christmas with them. For most of us, Christmas is a season full of festivities. But for these children, the celebration was just one day — just one afternoon of Christmas, brought to them by people they’d never met. Yet they were thrilled by this one afternoon of undivided love and affection from 15 people from around the U.S. These kids will forever be a part of our hearts.
The next day we traveled to Daejeon to visit the Holt Morning Garden Mother and Child Shelter, a single mother’s program that provides assistance and support to women who are raising their children on their own, something that is very stigmatized in Korea.
IMG_7434Gift Team members during the dol celebration.
This year was especially meaningful because we had the opportunity to attend the “dol” of three children whose mothers are in the program. In Korea, there are three milestones in a person’s life: the first birthday, the wedding day and the 60th birthday. The dol is the first birthday celebration, during which a child will choose an item that is said to predict what his path will be in life. It is said that the item can predict whether the child will have a life of prosperity or if they will be an artist, a government official, a doctor or anything else when they grow up. For the group, it was an honor to celebrate this day with these three women — all wonderful mothers who have bright futures.
For the adoptees on the trip, visiting the Jeonju Babies Home and Morning Garden was a glimpse of what could have been, or perhaps what once was, our life. Overall, it was just an incredible two days. For me, it really completed my Christmas season. Perhaps the best part of the trip was traveling with such an amazing team of folks from around the U.S. There really is no stronger bond than one built through sharing a life-changing experience like the Korea Gift Team.
Courtney Young | Holt Development Associate