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..
Sep 4, 2010

Mama Is the Best Person in the World

ZhuangWei is a boy from Jiangsu Province who had retinoblastoma, a type of eye cancer that takes a long time to cure and needs several rounds of chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is grueling for adults never mind little ZhuangWei, who started treatment when he was only 16 months old.

During one round of chemotherapy, ZhuangWei began to cough, his face turned blue, and red spots appeared on his skin. I recognized the danger and informed the nurse, who came immediately, and stopped chemotherapy. ZhuangWei’s doctor then gave him emergency treatment; after a few minutes, he calmed down. But when he was on the drip again, the same symptoms occurred. This time I stopped the chemotherapy drip right away and informed the nurse and the doctor prescribed an oral dose of anti-allergic medicine, which allowed ZhuangWei to sleep. Later, when he was on the drip for the third time, he had no immediate reaction. I was relieved and watched over ZhuangWei until midnight when his treatment was completely finished.

During ZhuangWei’s second hospitalization, he had surgery to remove his right eyeball. After the surgery, the first moment I saw him crying and with his right eye wrapped in a gauze patch, I just couldn’t control my emotions -- my tears kept falling and I held him in my arms tightly. When ZhuangWei saw me crying, he wiped his tears away and told me with his expression, “I am brave. I won’t cry.”

After the anesthesia wore off, ZhuangWei was in a lot of pain. I held him in my arms, cuddled him, and tried every means to ease his pain and stop his crying. I started thinking how much bad luck he had had and how fortunate it would be if he had a mom to call his own. So I sang his favorite nursery rhyme, “Mama is the best person in the world.” When he heard me singing, he stopped crying and stared at my face. I kept singing it again and again and felt I was truly his mom. ZhuangWei listened carefully and soon he hummed along with me.

ZhuangWei was quite popular in the hospital ward. When his doctors came, he would give them a big smile and greet them. When his nurses came to give him the intravenous injections he hated, he would not smile. But when his nurses dropped by just to say “hi,” he would smile because he knew they weren’t going to give him a shot, and would wave goodbye when they left.

One morning, I took ZhuangWei to buy breakfast in the hospital cafeteria. There were many people lining up for breakfast, but ZhuangWei didn’t understand we had to wait in line. He saw his favorite steamed egg custard and shouted at the waitress, “Mama, mama…” In addition, he pushed people in front of us as if he were telling them, “Let me get the food first. I’m hungry. I want to eat.” The people around him said, “How cute this child is! Don’t let him go hungry. You first, please.” When the waitress gave food to me, ZhuangWei smiled happily at her and others to express his gratitude.

ZhuangWei finished his sixth round of chemotherapy in January and an examination showed that his is cancer-free! ZhuangWei, who turns 2 at the end of April, will need regular examinations to make sure there are no cancer cells, but he is expected to make a full recovery and grow up healthy.

As I got to know ZhuangWei better I was happy to be able to support him better during his treatments. His favorite fruit is banana and I prepared a lot of bananas whenever we went to the hospital--I loved to see him eat bananas. After eating bananas, he felt quite satisfied and kissed me on my cheek. I also was satisfied seeing ZhuangWei eating heartily! For me there is no job more gratifying than providing some comfort for brave, little ZhuangWei.

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."

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