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..
May 23, 2008

Half the Sky Earthquake Update - May 23

Dear Friends,

Today we were starting the process of wrapping up the major portion of our orphanage relief efforts. With your help, we had purchased and delivered or were in the process of delivering huge amounts of medicines and medical supplies, tents, cribs, cots, bedding, baby formula, diapers, kids clothing and shoes, rice, noodles, cooking oil, water, powdered milk, bowls, cups, towels, mosquito repellent and much, much more. As we finalized plans to ship two giant tents to house hundreds of newly orphaned children and bring in engineers to erect them, we got an emergency call from the Aba Civil Affairs Bureau.

The Aba Civil Affairs Bureau is caring for approximately 1,000 orphaned and displaced children, most of whom are 7-12 years old. There are over 100 infants. They had been placing the children in local shelters but had just received news that 70 more children are on the way. There are no more tents and no more beds for them. Further, they urgently need powdered milk and diapers. And they need foods that don’t require cooking because most of their cooking stoves and supplies have been destroyed. They need so much they can’t even give us an estimate.

The roads to Aba are dangerous but the need is tremendous. We obtained the necessary road pass and organized a convoy of three trucks. Our senior preschool field supervisor, Yang Lei, will lead the effort, along with Aba drivers who are familiar with the dangers. It’s a 3 day round-trip. However, we have reluctantly postponed the relief mission because all reports—including from the directors of the Aba and Chengu orphanages--are that it's just too dangerous and too unsure to take such a risk while there are so many mudslides. “This is a very difficult decision for us to make, but we simply can't risk life to save life,” the orphanage directors told us. The convoy will take off as soon as we get clearance.

We have not yet really begun the second critical phase of our operation in Sichuan: training caregivers and volunteers to care for and address the non-material needs of displaced and newly-orphaned children. There are billions being donated for rebuilding, but we need help putting young lives back together.

Here’s a note from Ma Lang, who was at a relief shelter today talking to newly-orphaned children:

I talked to a junior high school girl. Here is part of our conversation: Lang: Do you know there are psychologists and counselors there to help people? Girl: Yes. Lang: Would you be willing to talk to a psychologist? Girl: Yes. Lang: What would you like to talk about with the psychologist? Girl: Things that make me happy. Like happy stories and movies. Lang: What do not you want the psychologist to ask? Girl: [pause] Do not ask me where my families are!

And then

“I met Lei in the “inner circle” at Jiuzhou Stadium. He was a cute and curious second grader who’d lost his parents in the quake. He approached me and asked me what I was doing when I was organizing the pictures I took. We looked at the pictures together, and chatted a little bit. He told me that after the earthquake, there come aftershocks, and then comes the epidemic. He said epidemic means you die if you do not wash hands before and after meals. When I asked him what an earthquake is, he said if you talk loud, earthquakes happen. I lowered my voice and asked him if our voices were loud. He said, I do not know.”

Half the Sky is finalizing plans to work in consultation with an important international resource for children traumatized by crisis. I want to thank all of you who have worked to help us locate Mandarin-speaking child trauma specialists. I think we are assembling an outstanding team. I will share more details in the next few days. What I hope I can communicate to you all is that our work is really just beginning. We need more help!

Thank you for all you’ve already done for these children – and for what you will do.

With love, Jenny

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May 22, 2008

Half the Sky Earthquake Update - May 21-22

Chengdu: As aftershocks continue, the orphanage decided to take
Chengdu: As aftershocks continue, the orphanage decided to take

Dear Friends,

Our work in Sichuan is in full swing now and it’s becoming harder to find time to write. Yet I know how deeply concerned you are about the children, so will continue to grab all the moments I can to tell you what we've learned.

Since earthquake statistics are so readily available now, I will no longer include them.

You will see below that there are preparations being made in many institutions to receive newly orphaned and displaced children. There have been numerous media reports about the thousands of new orphans; we have received dozens of adoption inquiries here at Half the Sky (which has no involvement in adoption!)

I really want to stress that many, many of these children you're hearing about will be reunited with family – if not parents, then living relatives. In rural China, especially, workers often leave their children with grandparents so that they can support their families by working in more prosperous areas. Many of the children do have parents – parents who are desperately trying to find their children. The government is keenly aware of this and, while there are many, many media reports of adoption programs and applications submitted for domestic adoption of the children, we don’t believe that any adoption procedures will be put into place before every means has been exhausted to find parents or other living relatives.

We, along with Ministry officials, are meeting with the provincial Civil Affairs Bureau on Monday and may have more information about the plans for transitional care of orphaned and displaced children. We are exploring how we can, working with other NGOs, best help care for the children in the interim and assist the government in its efforts to provide for their future.

Here is the current situation:

Chengdu CWI has been notified to prepare to receive 100 children; they expect that more may follow. At the same time, the orphanage has moved the children out-of-doors out of concern for safety. (photos on our website http://www.halfthesky.org/work/earthquake08.php) Half the Sky is working with local government and erecting a giant tent that can serve as shelter for orphaned and displaced children for as long as necessary.

More news on this early next week.

Chengdu 2nd SWI - 35 senior citizens and 10 preschool-age orphans have been transferred there from Dujiangyan City. 40~50 more orphans will be arriving soon. They are in need of 50 beds, sets of bedding, as well as the same number of clothes for children between 5 and 7 years old. Before the arrival of those 45, the institution had 100+ children and 500+ elderly people already. During aftershocks, they stayed in tents; but now, they have all moved back to the buildings.

Chengdu 3rd SWI – Caring for 30 children, all fine, not expecting new arrivals.

Wenjiang District SWI, Chengdu – Caring for only 4 children, all fine, not expecting new arrivals

Dujiangyan SWI – All of the children are under good care and there is no shortage of food or any daily necessity. 12 new children were recently brought in, but they’ve been having much success in locating surviving family members and have high hopes for these children as well.

Luojiang County SWI, Deyang City – The children are being cared for in a shelter, including 6 new arrivals. They are expecting a 2 year-old and have asked for a crib as well as diapers, powdered milk and rice.

Deyang SWI – Has prepared to receive new children per instructions.

Nanchong 2nd SWI – They are caring for 27 children and are expecting another 20. They are sleeping in tents due to concerns about aftershocks.

They ask for 10 tents, tarps and beds.

Cangxi SWI, Guangyuan City – They have some building damage. They have been advised that they may be receiving children from Qingchuan but this has not yet been confirmed by the provincial Civil Affairs Bureau.

I told you that 13 of the 24 children brought to the Zitong SWI had been reunited with family. Today I was told there were 12. Two signs hang at the institution. One says "There are only 20 children from Xiao Ba Primary School in An'Xian in our institution. There are no children from Beichuan. If you are looking for those from Beichuan, please go to (name) Hotel. If you are looking to adopt, please come in 3 months." The other, poignantly says, "Yan: only her mother was home; XianLin & LiGang are brothers: only their father was home: Cheng: her father is working in Xinjiang; Dan: her parents are working in Zhejiang; Jun: about 2 years old, parents whereabouts unknown; Zhou: about 1 year old, parents whereabouts unknown. Needs: Books to read; stable place to live. Emotional needs: their family...their relatives."

Mianyang – The Jiuzhou Stadium that houses 20,000 refugees is now, considering the situation, well-organized and, beyond trash bags and disposable gloves, there seem to be no unmet material needs. While there were, at first, about 1,700 children staying in the "inner circle" of the stadium (on the first floor inside the building), most of those children have either been reunited with family or transferred to smaller shelters in Mianyang. There are only about 130 children remaining. There are volunteer counselors and psychologists for these children. The "inner circle" is strictly guarded by police, soldiers, and volunteers. Mr. Liang JianHua, a volunteer leader and veteran, has been supervising care of the children in the "inner circle" from the very beginning, with the help of about a dozen volunteers. According to Ma Lang, he seems to be an extremely competent, kind, and devoted person.

Meanwhile, for children less well-served, Half the Sky is moving goods like crazy and working hard to initiate the next, and most important phase of our efforts – trauma counseling and care for displaced and orphaned children.

Thanks to help from dozens of volunteers, we’ve delivered about 100 of the promised tents, cases of blankets, tarps, clothes, diapers, food and medicines to several institutions. There will be many more arrivals and deliveries over the coming days. We have received permits to enter and provide aid to one of the more inaccesible hard-hit areas tomorrow (Aba County) and are working on helping in Li and Mao counties, also hard-hit.

We have begun the process of distributing to temporary children’s shelters. We give special thanks to the Sichuan employees of Silk Road Telecommunications, many of whom helped us load and unload trucks and have offered to aid in distribution and logistics all around the province.

I’ve got lots more to report but have run out of steam and time. I’ll be back tomorrow with more, I promise.

Once again, THANK YOU, all of you, who are making this work possible!

With love, Jenny

Chengdu CWI
Chengdu CWI
Children who have not been claimed by searching parents or relat
Children who have not been claimed by searching parents or relat
May 20, 2008

Half the Sky Earthquake Update - May 18-19

Qingyang Sports Center, which has been converted to a refugee ca
Qingyang Sports Center, which has been converted to a refugee ca

Dear Friends,

It’s Monday afternoon here in China. As I write this, the entire country just held 3 minutes of silence to commence a 3 day period of national mourning. It began at 2:28 pm, marking the very moment the massive quake struck in Wenchuan County, Sichuan. Flags flew at half-staff, the people wore white flowers and, heads bowed, held hands. Across the country, horns and sirens wailed in grief.

There are 32,477 people confirmed dead, more than 35,000 still missing.

Sadly and predictably, we are getting more information about children newly orphaned. We are now bringing together people and resources to prepare and train caregivers to help children through the next difficult phase of recovery. Unlike emergency relief (not our specialty but we're learning fast!), this is an area where HTS does have great expertise to offer. We will give all we can to these children who have many hard days ahead of them. I will be sharing our plans as they evolve.

Meanwhile, we continue to focus our attention on the most urgent needs of affected children – children in institutions and children orphaned or displaced by the disaster.

I’ve posted a few photos on our website: http://halfthesky.org/work/earthquake08.php and will update as more arrive.

There are so many heartbreaking stories, including this one from Hongbai Primary School in Shifang, which saw many of its schools destroyed and hundreds of children and their teachers buried:

“‘We found him!’ Teacher Zhang Huibing’s body was finally discovered, frozen in a posture of pushing against the door frame. According to the students saved by him, when the earthquake happened, Teacher Zhang was on the platform of the classroom on the second floor, which was very near the door. He yelled to the students, ‘Run outside! Hurry!’ And he somehow held the door frame up with both arms as the children ran out, one by one. Just as all the students were safely evacuated, the building collapsed on him. Teacher Zhang, who was only 30 years-old, had a four-year-old child of his own.”

About 30 children, from Yingxiu and Dujiangyang, were taken to a Chengdu city park, the Qingyang Sports Center, which has been converted to a refugee camp. Some children have been united with family members. We’re told that some from the media are actively trying to reunite families. Most of the children in this camp who survived were in their teens. They told us that many younger children in their town did not survive because those in the primary schools and kindergartens were napping when the quake hit and could not run.

The youngest camp resident was 16 days-old. The military police made a special effort to bring her and her very young mother down to the camp from Yingxiu. The baby was only 11 days-old when her daddy perished in the earthquake.

Perhaps today's most heartbreaking story was about some of the 70 injured children who’d been carried down from the affected areas to Huaxi Hospital. Most of the children were reunited with parents or relatives; some were even well enough to leave the hospital after treatment. But a few children remained alone and unclaimed.

They were required to sign their own consent forms so that the doctors could amputate their limbs to save their lives.

Half the Sky spent much of the weekend purchasing requested supplies and shelter, organizing distribution and continuing to assess needs.

As you can imagine, many requested items are getting harder and harder to come by. Just today we doubled our refugee tent order to 200 – all that was available immediately – and already have requests for more. Shoppers in Chengdu have begun filling a no-longer-habitable room at the Chengdu CWI (Children’s Welfare Institution) with everyday goods destined for hard-hit areas. Others around China are working on fulfilling our giant shopping list. Some are flying in to Chengdu, hand-carrying items from our medical wish-list. Our wonderful friends at Gung-Ho Films, a Beijing-based film production services company, are offering logistics support, including shopping, shipping and door-to-tent delivery!

Today 3 more HTS Beijing staffers and 2 Gung-Ho staff traveled to Chengdu to help facilitate our relief efforts. We all feel privileged to be able to help.

I can’t really express how moved we are by your generosity and your trust in Half the Sky to ensure that the children benefit from your gifts. Thank you so much for your kindness and concern.

With love, Jenny

Qingyang Sports Center
Qingyang Sports Center
Qingyang Sports Center
Qingyang Sports Center


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