Half the Sky Foundation

Half the Sky was created in order to enrich the lives of orphaned children in China. We provide model programs and caregiver training designed to offer loving, family-like care to children of all ages and abilities. It is our goal to ensure that every orphaned child has a caring adult in her life and a chance at a bright future..
Jun 8, 2010

Irresistibly Cute NiNi

JiaNi (“NiNi”) is much loved by our staff – no one can resist her chubby and rosy cheeks. We especially treasure her every smile because we all know how much she has had to struggle in her short life.

When NiNi arrived at The China Care Home from Xinjiang Province five months ago, she was a tiny, two-month-old, very sick baby who barely responded to external stimulation. Right from the start we showered her with love, but when her nannies held her in their arms they had to do so gingerly because she was born with spina bifida and had a fluid-filled sac on her spine. NiNi’s nannies took care to avoid pressing or even touching the sac, which was so transparent that it looked as if it were about to leak.

NiNi’s doctors soon discovered that she also had hydrocephalus (excess cerebrospinal fluid accumulating in the head) and Chiari malformation (abnormal formation of the brain where the brain and spine meet). In addition to all of these life-threatening medical conditions, we also discovered when bathing her that she had club feet.

Almost immediately, NiNi had surgery to correct her spina bifida and Chiari malformation, and was discharged from the hospital ten days later. With the help of intensive nurture and care from her nannies, NiNi’s surgical wounds healed quickly, in only 17 days.

Then NiNi went back to the hospital again, this time for surgery for hydrocephalus. That surgery was also successful and NiNi returned again to the Home.

Meanwhile, despite all the medical treatment, NiNi was becoming the happy baby she is today. By the time she was four months old, she had started babbling and communicating with her special nanny. She could play happily by herself as long as her nanny was in her sight. Otherwise, she would cry loudly, with tears streaming down her face. Her nanny would reassure her: “Mama is coming, NiNi. Wait a moment.” Hearing her nanny’s voice and seeing her bottle of milk, NiNi would smile through her tears.

When NiNi came back, her nannies carefully observed her head to watch out for any intracranial infection, especially where her shunt was placed by hersurgeon. Again NiNi proved to be a tough, resilient little baby – she recovered well.

Now NiNi is our staff’s alarm clock. She wakes up exactly at 5:30 AM and loudly shouts “mama,” breaking the silence of the dawn. When she is happy or needs something, she will also call “mama.” Then her nanny holds her in her arms and gives her a kiss.

Whenever NiNi hears music, she stretches out her arms and waves them like the wings of a bird, giggling all the while. NiNi loves to play on the gym mat and especially loves the toy tiger and playing peek-a-boo. She covers her nanny’s face with a handkerchief and then pulls it off. When she sees her nanny’s face, she giggles and then repeats the game over and over. When she feels hungry, she throws away the toys she’s playing with, becomes anxious, and lies down, crying loudly or even kicking hard. She always has a good appetite and sleeps well at night. She has gained some weight.

After NiNi went through her operations, we arranged an examination for her club feet. The doctor recommended that NiNi have tenotomy surgery, a relatively minor procedure given all that she had already endured, and then wear braces for three to six years.

NiNi had the surgery at the end of last year and is now wearing braces. She will have a followup checkup in a few months so doctors can evaluate how she has recovered from the spina bifida, Chiari malformation and hydrocephalus surgeries. Based on her current development and health condition, we believe that our loving and beloved NiNi will recover fully.

Feb 10, 2010

Mr. Congeniality

Two-year-old YanCun (nickname CunCun), a handsome little boy with dark black, curly hair, is a real delight at the Family Housing Unit in our China Care Home in Beijing. Most toddlers draw back and hide behind their nannies when there are visitors. But CunCun welcomes visitors, allowing anyone to give him a hug or kiss, and he loves to pose when they take pictures. Effortlessly verbal, CunCun will also answer all the visitors' questions: "How old are you?" "Which is your crib?" "What's the name of that child?" "Have you had your breakfast?" When the visitors leave, he blows them a kiss and waves his hand.

Because CunCun has urethral stenosis, he has a catheter and has to carry around a urine bag, but they don't affect his activity level at all. CunCun is agile, walks fast, climbs on the slide in the outdoor playground easily, and never cries when he falls.

However, it is painful for such a small child to get his catheter replaced by a new one every two weeks. Whenever his foster mom, Zhao CaiYin, takes him to the nurse's room, CunCun knows what is waiting for him and wants to run away. CaiYin always stays beside him, holds his hands tightly, encourages him, and tells him to be brave. Seeing CunCun in pain when CunCun goes through the procedure, CaiYin's eyes fill with tears. After the catheter is replaced, CunCun stops crying, holds his mama's hand, and goes back to his room. Because he has spent so much time with his mama day and night for several months, CunCun has established a deep emotional attachment with her, which is crucial for his growth and CaiYun has bonded deeply with him as well. CaiYun, who was unaware that there are so many young children struggling with so many medical conditions before she starting working at the China Care home says she treats the three children in her care "like my own" and is gratified by every tiny developmental milestones she sees; "I have resolved to help these children live a better life."

CunCun is developing by leaps and bounds both physically and emotionally. CunCun likes to help CaiYun do some housework. For example, when the care supervisor stands at the door and distributes daily necessities to the moms, CunCun takes small things like a roll of toilet paper or a bag of formula and puts them away in the correct part of the supply closet.

CunCun can now also feed himself, using a spoon, though sometimes, he gets distracted and begins to play before he finishes. CaiYun patiently reminds him to eat, and if the food turns cold, she reheats it in the microwave. After his meal, when CunCun sees CaiYun squatting to feed another child, he fetches a stool for her. CaiYun praises him explaining: "I am so moved that with all the medical care CunCun has to deal with that he is also so sensitive to my needs."

CaiYun has become a boasting mom, often telling others how smart and funny CunCun is. When CaiYun asks him to recite the simple, ancient poems she has taught him, CunCun has no performance anxiety: he speaks fluently and always gets a lot of applause from his audience of other nannies, children, or guests. CaiYun knows that CunCun may have to have a catheter for the rest of his life, but she also knows that he will grow up to be a "smart and kind person": "Our CunCun will definitely be knowledgeable when he grows up. I believe he can make some contribution to society and have a bright future."

May 12, 2009

China One Year Later

One year after a devastating 8.0 earthquake destroyed so many lives in Sichuan, China, the world is solemnly remembering thousands of victims who lost their lives. Even as we at Half the Sky Foundation mark this anniversary with sadness, we are also marking it with hope and with thanks to Global Giving’s donors, who opened their hearts to the children of Sichuan. Your generous support or our Children’s Earthquake fund has enabled us to make great strides helping the children most traumatized by the quake—children who lost parents, schoolmates, friends, homes, and even the desire to smile--move on with their lives.

In the last year Half the Sky established six Big Top Children’s Centers in Dujiangyan, a small town near the quake’s epicenter that houses 100,000 refugees in temporary camp communities established in the months following the earthquake.

The primary purpose of our Big Tops is to create a safe space, a gathering place for children where they can find refuge from the disaster, express their fears and anxieties, and begin to heal. Our partners at the National Center for School Trauma and Bereavement tell us that these opportunities are critical for the children. The children do receive counseling at the BigTop, but it feels incidental – they come to play and to have a place that is their own and to feel safe.

Our giant “Big Top” tents have proved hugely popular with children and the entire community. The BigTops offer preschools, after-school music, art and sports (ping pong, badminton, martial arts, basketball) and other therapeutic activities for school-age children. Most sites have 6 teachers, two caregivers, two supervisors and security guards, and serve between 500 and 1000 children. The centers offer preschool in the mornings, as well as after school activities, including art, dance, sports, English, games, library, etc.

When we established our Big Tops, we planned on running them until permanent housing was built for the area’s earthquake refugees. We were so excited to learn recently that we may be able to close the Big Tops early because construction of housing for refugees is ahead of schedule. If we are able to close the Big Tops ahead of schedule, we will use the money we would have used to operate the Big Tops to provide additional services for the children most impacted by the quake. We have started working on a plan to ensure that children who lost both parents in the quake (most of whom are living with their grandparents) continue to receive support, and a plan to provide services at newly built schools near the epicenter.

When there is a disaster of such a large scale, there is a moment in time when the world comes together to assist those stricken. There is moment-by-moment media coverage. There is a tremendous outpouring of love and concern and donations of every kind. What we most appreciate about Global Giving’s donors is that they responded so generously to our project that is helping the children long after the world’s attention has moved on to the next story.

We closed Half the Sky’s Children’s Earthquake Fund after we met our fundraising goal, but we are actively fundraising for other projects for orphaned children in China.

We are continuing its work providing permanent foster care for children with special needs who will not be adopted: http://www.globalgiving.com/pr/1500/proj1448a.html

And we are embarking on a new project to provide medical care for orphaned children in China who need specialized treatment: We hope you will be able to help us with our ongoing work to bring the love of family to children who have lost theirs.

Once again, huge, heartfelt thanks to Global Giving’s donors, who have helped so many children in Sichuan learn to play and smile again.

With love and thanks,

Jenny Bowen Executive Director Half the Sky Foundation

An anonymous donor will match all new monthly recurring donations, but only if 75% of donors upgrade to a recurring donation today.
Terms and conditions apply.
Make a monthly recurring donation on your credit card. You can cancel at any time.
Make a donation in honor or memory of:
What kind of card would you like to send?
How much would you like to donate?
gift Make this donation a gift, in honor of, or in memory of someone?

Reviews of Half the Sky Foundation

Great Nonprofits
Read and write reviews about Half the Sky Foundation on GreatNonProfits.org.